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The Dow Falls 274 Points As ‘Eclipse Fever’ Hits The Financial Markets

Have we now entered a time of major financial shaking?  On Thursday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 274 points.  The was the largest decline for the Dow since May, and high yield bonds were down dramatically as well.  Many are blaming the terror attack in Barcelona and “instability in the White House” for the downturn, but could “eclipse fever” also be a factor?  The closer that we get to the solar eclipse on August 21st, the weirder people seem to be getting.  You will see what I am talking about below.

But first let’s talk about the financial markets.  I have been warning that stocks are massively overvalued for quite a while now, and it turns out that the Federal Reserve very much agrees with me

“Since the April assessment, vulnerabilities associated with asset valuation pressures had edged up from notable to elevated, as asset prices remained high or climbed further, risk spreads narrowed, and expected and actual volatility remained muted in a range of financial markets.”

Even the Fed is warning that we are in a bubble, and it is just a matter of time until that bubble bursts.

And anyone that is paying attention should be able to see the red flags all around us.  In fact, we have just witnessed the most “Hindenburg Omens” that we have seen since November 2007.  The technical indicators are absolutely screaming that a major downturn is dead ahead, and John P. Hussman is encouraging everyone to be cautious and to “consider watching from a safe location”…

Given obscene valuations, lopsided bullishness, and (importantly) clearly deteriorating internals, consider watching from a safe location.

We shall see what happens, but I tend to very much agree with Hussman.

Meanwhile, the closer that we get to August 21st, the crazier people seem to be getting.  The following comes from USA Today

As citizen scientists collectively nerd-out ahead of Monday’s total solar eclipse, rogue observers of the spooky and weird are generating theories that the celestial event could usher in aliens, boost sightings of “interdimensional” creatures and perhaps even plunge us toward world destruction.

None of those things are going to happen, but there are some very odd things about this eclipse that are definitely worth noting.

In a previous article, I noted that the first major city in the United States that the eclipse will cross is named Salem.  Well, it turns out that the eclipse will actually cross a total of seven cities named Salem, and of course “Salem” is short for “Jerusalem”.

I also find it very interesting how much the number “33” is associated with this eclipse.  The following are just a few examples

This solar eclipse is highly unusual for so many reasons and it occurs just 33 days before what may very well be the Great Sign.  It begins in the 33rd state, ends at the 33rd parallel, and occurs on the 233rd day of the year, which is 33 weeks and 2 days into 2017.  The eclipse will take 1 hour and 33 minutes to cross the country and occurs 133 days (inclusive) before the end of 2017.

And of course this solar eclipse begins a period of 40 days which will end with Yom Kippur on September 30th.  The following is an excerpt from a Charisma News article authored by Ron Allen which I think has some really good insights…

Teshuvah, the 40-day Jewish season of repentance, literally means to return to the presence of God, and is a time of introspection and a reminder of judgment. It begins on the first day of the sixth month known an Elul, and the solar eclipses that occur on Teshuvah add to the meaning of Teshuvah. The Teshuvah eclipses are signs of coming judgment, like the Trumpets eclipses, but they are also signs of unity in the presence of God. Thus, the Teshuvah eclipses are both an invitation to return to God and a warning of judgment.

During the totality of the eclipse, the sky will become dark and the stars will become visible. Right next to the eclipse, only 1.5 degrees away, the brightest star in the judgment constellation Leo (the lion), Regulus (treading under foot) reminds us that Christ, the lion of Judah, will put His enemies under His feet (1 Cor. 15:25). Southeast of the eclipse, the planet Mercury, the morning star laid low symbolic of Satan, will appear under the feet of Leo, adding to the warning of judgment.

So is this solar eclipse actually a warning that America should repent?

Many Christian leaders all over the nation believe that this is the case.  In fact, Billy Graham’s own daughter, Anne Graham Lotz, is one of them

In light of Ezekiel 33:1-6 that commands a watchman to be faithful to warn others of the danger coming against the land, I feel compelled to issue the warning once again. The warning is triggered by the total solar eclipse of Aug. 21, 2017, nicknamed “America’s Eclipse.” For the first time in almost 100 years, a total solar eclipse will be seen from coast to coast in our nation. People are preparing to mark this significant event with viewing parties at exclusive prime sites. The celebratory nature regarding the eclipse brings to my mind the Babylonian King Belshazzar, who threw a drunken feast the night the Medes and Persians crept under the city gate. While Belshazzar and his friends partied, they were oblivious to the impending danger. Belshazzar wound up dead the next day, and the Babylonian empire was destroyed.

I do not know what will happen before, during or after the eclipse, but I do know that America is in very deep trouble.

If we continue on the path that we are currently on, there is no future for our nation.

Unfortunately, most Americans aren’t listening to the warnings.  Most people simply assume that America is far too powerful to ever fall, and they see absolutely no reason why we need to change our ways.

Hopefully we can get America to wake up, because time is rapidly running out.

Michael Snyder is a Republican candidate for Congress in Idaho’s First Congressional District, and you can learn how you can get involved in the campaign on his official website. His new book entitled “Living A Life That Really Matters” is available in paperback and for the Kindle on Amazon.com.

The Dow Closes At A Record High For The 9th Straight Time But Experts Warn That A Stock Market Crash Could Be Imminent

The bigger they come, the harder they fall.  On Monday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed at a record high for the ninth straight session.  It has been a remarkable run, but many experts are pointing out that big trouble is brewing under the surface.  As you will see below, 79 components of the S&P 500 have already dropped more than 20 percent below their 52-week highs, and it is mostly just a handful of high flying tech stocks that are still propping up the market at this point.  Over the past several weeks, I have been documenting so many of the prominent voices that are loudly warning about an imminent stock market crash, and in this article you will hear some more of these warnings.  There is no way that stock prices can keep going up like this, and when the inevitable correction does arrive it is going to be exceedingly painful for millions of investors.

When the market is about to turn in a major way, one of the key things to watch is market breadth, and according to Brad Lamensdorf market breadth has now turned “exceedingly negative”

Market breadth, a measure of how many stocks are rising versus the number that are dropping, has turned “exceedingly negative,” according to Brad Lamensdorf, a portfolio manager at Ranger Alternative Management. Lamensdorf writes the Lamensdorf Market Timing Report newsletter and runs the AdvisorShares Ranger Equity Bear ETF HDGE, -0.70% an exchange-traded fund that “shorts” stocks, or bets that they will fall.

“As the indexes continue to produce a series of higher highs, subsurface conditions are painting an entirely different picture,” Lamensdorf wrote in the latest edition of the newsletter.

When Lamensdorf uses the phrase “exceedingly negative”, he is not exaggerating at all.  As I mentioned above, 79 components of the S&P 500 are already in a bear market

According to an analysis of FactSet data, 79 components of the S&P 500 are trading at least 20% below their 52-week high; a bear market is typically defined as a 20% drop from a peak.

Another key measure that I like to keep my eye on is Robert Shiller’s cyclically adjusted price-to-earnings ratio.  At this point, it is roughly at the same level as it was just before the stock market crash of 1929, and the only time it has been higher was during the peak of the dotcom bubble.

This is why so many investors are making extremely large bets that a major correction is imminent.  History tells us that stocks are likely to only go down from here.  And when stocks do start falling, the price action could become quite violent.  In fact, Barry James is comparing this current market to the Yellowstone supervolcano

Warning: A correction in the market is “inevitable” and there are three key factors that could spark chaos on Wall Street, according to James Advantage Fund president Barry James.

The investor likened the market to Yellowstone National Park’s famous supervolcano, which many believe is close to eruption.

Of course not everyone agrees with James.  Michael Wilson of Morgan Stanley insists that everything is just fine and that “there continues to be a level of skepticism that seems out of whack with what is actually happening”.

In the end, we will see how the coming months play out.

Over the past several years, there have been two primary trends that have been relentlessly driving up stock prices.  One of these trends has been an unprecedented level of stock buybacks.  And so far this year, hundreds of billions of dollars worth of stock buybacks have already been announced

Through May, some $390 billion in buybacks have been announced this year, $13 billion more than at this time in 2016, according to figures compiled by Jeffrey Yale Rubin at Birinyi Associates, a stock market research firm.

June 28 was the biggest single buyback announcement day in history. That was when 26 banks disclosed buybacks worth $92.8 billion, largely a response to having just passed the stress tests administered by the Federal Reserve Board. That figure blew past the previous record of $56.4 billion announced on July 20, 2006.

Secondly, central banks have been pumping trillions upon trillions of dollars into the global financial system, and this has perhaps been the biggest reason for the surge in stock prices.  But now central banks are starting to pull back, and that could mean big trouble very soon.  The following comes from Matt King

With asset prices displaying a high degree of correlation with central bank liquidity additions in recent years, that feedback loop makes the economy, upon which both corporate profitability and bank net interest margins depend, more reliant on central banks holding markets together than almost ever before. That delicate balance may well be sustained for the time being. But with central banks beginning to move, however gingerly, towards an exit, is it really worth chasing the last few bp of spread from here?

Throughout our history we have seen financial bubbles come and go, but we never seen to learn from our mistakes.  Right now, Warren Buffett is sitting on nearly 100 billion dollars in cash in anticipation of being able to buy up financial assets for a song after a crash happens, but meanwhile multitudes of ordinary Americans continue to pour vast quantities of money into stocks even at such absurd valuations.

Despite all of the warnings, many will be caught unprepared when the music stops playing.  Just like all of the other financial manias in our history, this one will come to a bitter end too.  The following comes from the New York Times

In the late 1960s the mania was for the “nifty 50” American companies like Disney and McDonald’s, which had been the “go-go” stocks of that decade. In the late 1970s it was for natural resources, from gold to oil. In the late 1980s it was stocks in Japan, and in the late 1990s it was the dot-com boom. Last decade, investors flocked to mortgage-backed securities and big emerging markets from Brazil to Russia. In every case, many partygoers were still in the market when the crash came.

In life, timing is everything, and those that got out of the market in time are going to end up being very happy that they did so.

But those that stay in too long are going to see their “paper wealth” disappear in a blinding flash, and there won’t be any way to get it back once it is gone.

Michael Snyder is a Republican candidate for Congress in Idaho’s First Congressional District, and you can learn how you can get involved in the campaign on his official website. His new book entitled “Living A Life That Really Matters” is available in paperback and for the Kindle on Amazon.com.

Remember This Milestone: The Dow Jones Industrial Average Hits 22,000 For The First Time In U.S. History

The Dow hit the 22,000 mark for the first time ever on Wednesday, and investors all over the world greatly celebrated.  And without a doubt this is an exceedingly important moment, because I think that this is a milestone that we will be remembering for a very long time.  So far this year the Dow is up over 11 percent, and it has now tripled in value since hitting a low in March 2009.  It has been quite a ride, and if you would have told me a couple of years ago that the Dow would be hitting 22,000 in August 2017 I probably would have laughed at you.  The central bankers have been able to keep this ridiculous stock market bubble going for longer than most experts dreamed possible, and for that they should be congratulated.  But of course the long-term outlook for our financial markets has not changed one bit.

Every other stock market bubble of this magnitude in our history has ended with a crash, and this current bubble is going to suffer the same fate.

But many in the mainstream media are still encouraging people to jump into the market at this late hour.  For example, the following comes from a USA Today article that was published on Wednesday…

“It’s still not too late to get in,” says Jeff Kleintop, chief global investment strategist at Charles Schwab, based in San Francisco. “The gains are firmly rooted in business fundamentals, not false hopes.”

I honestly don’t know how anyone could say such a thing with a straight face.  We have essentially been in a “no growth economy” for the past decade, and signs of a new economic slowdown are all around us.

But even though price/earnings ratios and price/sales ratios are at some of the highest levels in history, some analysts insist that the stock market still has more room to go up

On the flip side, investors with time to ride out any short-term market storm should not rule out getting in the market now. Economies around the globe are improving and are boosting the profitability of corporations in the U.S. and abroad, says Chris Zaccarelli, chief investment officer at Cornerstone Financial Partners in Charlotte, N.C.

Zaccarelli won’t even rule out Dow 25,000 by the end of 2018.

Personally, I believe that it is far more likely that we would see Dow 15,000 by the end of 2018, but over the past couple of years the bulls have been right over and over again.

But the only reason why the bulls have been right is because of unprecedented intervention by global central banks.

Today, the Swiss National Bank owns more than a billion dollars worth of stock in each of the following companies: Apple, Alphabet, Microsoft, Amazon, Exxon Mobil, Johnson & Johnson and Facebook.

So where does a central bank like the Swiss National Bank get the money to purchase all of these equities?

It’s easy – they just print the money out of thin air.  As Robert Wenzel has noted, they simply “print the francs, exchange them for dollars and make the purchases”.

If I could create as much money as I wanted out of thin air and use it to buy stocks I could relentlessly drive up stock prices too.

Our financial markets have become a giant charade, and central bank intervention is the biggest reason why FAANG stocks have vastly outperformed the rest of the market.  The following comes from David Stockman

Needless to say, the drastic market narrowing of the last 30 months has been accompanied by soaring price/earnings (PE) multiples among the handful of big winners. In the case of the so-called FAANGs + M (Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix, Google and Microsoft), the group’s weighted average PE multiple has increased by some 50%.

The degree to which the casino’s speculative mania has been concentrated in the FAANGs + M can also be seen by contrasting them with the other 494 stocks in the S&P 500. The market cap of the index as a whole rose from $17.7 trillion in January 2015 to some $21.2 trillion at present, meaning that the FAANGs + M account for about 40% of the entire gain.

Stated differently, the market cap of the other 494 stocks rose from $16.0 trillion to $18.1 trillion during that 30-month period. That is, 13% versus the 82% gain of the six super-momentum stocks.

If global central banks continue to buy millions of shares with money created out of thin air, they may be able to keep this absurd bubble going for a while longer.

But if the Fed and other central banks start pulling back, we could see a market tantrum of epic proportions.  In fact, almost every single time throughout history when the Federal Reserve has attempted a balance sheet reduction it has resulted in a recession

The Fed has embarked on six such reduction efforts in the past — in 1921-1922, 1928-1930, 1937, 1941, 1948-1950 and 2000.

Of those episodes, five ended in recession, according to research from Michael Darda, chief economist and market strategist at MKM Partners. The balance sheet trend mirrors what has happened much of the time when the Fed has tried to raise rates over a prolonged period of time, with 10 of the last 13 tightening cycles ending in recession.

“Moreover, outside of the 1920s and 1930s, there is no precedent for double-digit annual declines in the balance sheet/base that will likely begin to occur late next year,” Darda said in a note.

President Trump is going to get a lot of credit if the stock market keeps going up and he is going to get a lot of blame if it starts going down.

But the truth is that he actually has very little to do with what is really going on.

This stock market bubble was created by the central banks, and they also have the power to kill it if they desire to do so.

And once this bubble bursts, we may be looking at a crisis that makes 2008 look like a Sunday picnic.

Goldman Sachs and others are already warning that this stock market rally is on borrowed time.  Let’s hope that it can continue at least for a little while longer, but in the end there is no possible way that this story is going to end well.

Michael Snyder is a Republican candidate for Congress in Idaho’s First Congressional District, and you can learn how you can get involved in the campaign on his official website. His new book entitled “Living A Life That Really Matters” is available in paperback and for the Kindle on Amazon.com.

Goldman Sachs Says That There Is A 99 Percent Chance That Stock Prices Will Not Keep Going Up Like This

Analysts at Goldman Sachs are saying that it is next to impossible for stock prices to keep going up like they have been recently.  Ever since Donald Trump’s surprise election victory in November, stocks have been on a tremendous run, but this surge has not been matched by a turnaround in the real economy.  We have essentially had a “no growth” economy for most of the past decade, and ominous signs pointing to big trouble ahead are all around us.  The only reason why stocks have been able to perform so well is due to unprecedented intervention by global central banks, but they are not going to be able to keep inflating this bubble forever.  At some point this absolutely enormous bubble will burst and investors will lose trillions of dollars.

The only other times we have seen stock valuations at these levels were just before the stock market crash of 1929 and just before the dotcom bubble burst in 2000.  For those that think that they can jump into the markets now and make a lot of money from rapidly rising stock prices, I think that it would be wise to consider what analysts at Goldman Sachs are telling us.  The following is from a CNBC article that was published on Monday…

Investors may be in for disappointing market returns in the decade to come with valuations at levels this high, if history is any indication.

Analysts at Goldman Sachs pointed out that annualized returns on the S&P 500 10 years out were in the single digits or negative 99 percent of the time when starting with valuations at current levels.

Do you really want to try to fight those odds?

Unfortunately, it appears that is precisely what a lot of investors are planning to do.  In fact, Schwab says that they are opening new accounts “at levels we have not seen since the Internet boom of the late 1990s”

New accounts are at levels we have not seen since the Internet boom of the late 1990s, up 34% over the first half of last year. But maybe more important for the long-term growth of the organization is not so much new accounts, but new-to-firm households, and our new-to-firm retail households were up 50% over that same period from 2016.

And a different survey found that Millennial investors in particular are eager to pour money into the stock market

Furthermore, according to a June survey from Legg Mason, nearly 80% of millennial investors plan to take on more risk this year, with 66% of them expressing an interest in equities. About 45% plan to take on “much more risk” in their portfolios.

One of the fundamental tenets of investing is to buy low and sell high.  Those that are getting in at the peak of the market are going to get absolutely slaughtered.  Trillions of dollars of paper wealth will be completely wiped out by the coming crash, and I wish that I could get more people to understand what is about to happen.

I recently wrote about how some really big investors are betting millions upon millions of dollars that a major stock market crash is going to happen in the very near future.  The financial markets are far more primed for a crash than they were in 2008, and there are certainly a lot of potential “black swan events” that could push us over the edge.  In his most recent article, Simon Black listed some of the things that he is currently watching…

– North Korea is threatening to nuke the US
– Donald Trump is firing his entire cabinet
– The Federal Reserve has dropped interest rates to record lows and drowned the world in trillions of dollars of cash
– Debt levels are at record highs
– Entire banking systems, especially in Europe, are in need of massive bailouts
– The US government will run out of money in less than 90-days and hit the debt ceiling once again

You only make money in the stock market if you get out in time.  And since just before the crisis of 2008 I have never seen so many prominent names in the financial community warn about a coming stock market crash as I have over the last 90 days.  For example, legendary investor Jim Rogers is warning that there will almost certainly be a crash “this year or the next”, and that it will be “the worst in your lifetime and my lifetime”

The best-selling author expects the next financial crisis to be the “worst” he has ever seen.

“We’ve had economic problems in the U.S. or in North America every four to eight years since the beginning of the Republic so to say that we’re going to have a problem is not unusual,” he told Kitco News from the Freedom Fest conference in Las Vegas.

“I would expect it to start this year or the next…and it’s going to be the worst in your lifetime and my lifetime.”

What goes up must come down, and markets tend to go down a whole lot faster than they go up.

And in the environment that we are in today, caution is a very good thing.  I really like how billionaire Howard Marks put this the other day…

I think it’s better to turn cautious too soon (and thus perhaps underperform for a while) rather than too late, after the downslide has begun, making it hard to trim risk, achieve exits and cut losses.

Perhaps this will be the first giant financial bubble in our history to end smoothly, but I wouldn’t count on it.

In the end, I expect this one to end just like all of the others.  And I anticipate that the coming crisis will ultimately be worse than anything we have ever faced before because this current bubble has been artificially inflated for so long.

Hopefully stock prices will go up again tomorrow, but it would be exceedingly foolish to ignore all of the warnings.  Goldman Sachs says that there is a 99 percent chance that stocks cannot continue surging like this, and in this case I believe that Goldman Sachs is entirely correct.

Michael Snyder is a Republican candidate for Congress in Idaho’s First Congressional District, and you can learn how you can get involved in the campaign on his official website. His new book entitled “Living A Life That Really Matters” is available in paperback and for the Kindle on Amazon.com.

Major Problems Announced At One Of The Largest Too Big To Fail Banks In The United States

Wells FargoDo you remember when our politicians promised to do something about the “too big to fail” banks?  Well, they didn’t, and now the chickens are coming home to roost.  On Thursday, it was announced that one of those “too big to fail” banks, Wells Fargo, has been slapped with 185 million dollars in penalties.  It turns out that for years their employees had been opening millions of bank and credit card accounts for customers without even telling them.  The goal was to meet sales goals, and customers were hit by surprise fees that they never intended to pay.  Some employees actually created false email addresses and false PIN numbers to sign customers up for accounts.  It was fraud on a scale that is hard to imagine, and now Wells Fargo finds itself embroiled in a major crisis.

There are six banks in America that basically dwarf all of the other banks – JPMorgan Chase, Citibank, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs.  If a single one of those banks were to fail, it would be a catastrophe of unprecedented proportions for our financial system.  So we need these banks to be healthy and running well.  That is why what we just learned about Wells Fargo is so concerning…

Employees of Wells Fargo (WFC) boosted sales figures by covertly opening the accounts and funding them by transferring money from customers’ authorized accounts without permission, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and Los Angeles city officials said.

An analysis by the San Francisco-headquartered bank found that its employees opened more than two million deposit and credit card accounts that may not have been authorized by consumers, the officials said. Many of the transfers ran up fees or other charges for the customers, even as they helped employees make incentive goals.

Wells Fargo says that 5,300 employees have been fired as a result of this conduct, and they are promising to clean things up.

Hopefully they will keep their word.

It is interesting to note that the largest shareholder in Wells Fargo is Berkshire Hathaway, and Berkshire Hathaway is run by Warren Buffett.  There has been a lot of debate about whether or not this penalty on Wells Fargo was severe enough, and it will be very interesting to hear what he has to say about this in the coming days…

Wells Fargo is the most valuable bank in America, worth just north of $250 billion. Berkshire Hathaway (BRKA), the investment firm run legendary investor Warren Buffett, is the company’s biggest shareholder.

“One wonders whether a penalty of $100 million is enough,” said David Vladeck, a Georgetown University law professor and former director of the Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “It sounds like a big number, but for a bank the size of Wells Fargo, it isn’t really.”

After the last crisis, we were told that we would never be put in a position again where the health of a single “too big to fail” institution could threaten to bring down our entire financial system.

But our politicians didn’t fix the “too big to fail” problem.

Instead it has gotten much, much worse.

Back in 2007, the five largest banks held 35 percent of all bank assets.  Today, that number is up to 44 percent

Since 1992, the total assets held by the five largest U.S. banks has increased by nearly fifteen times! Back then, the five largest banks held just 10 percent of the banking industry total. Today, JP Morgan alone holds over 12 percent of the industry total, a greater share than the five biggest banks put together in 1992.

Even in the midst of the global financial crisis, the largest U.S. banks managed to increase their hold on total bank industry assets. The assets held by the five largest banks in 2007 – $4.6 trillion – increased by more than 150 percent over the past 8 years. These five banks went from holding 35 percent of industry assets in 2007 to 44 percent today.

Meanwhile, nearly 2,000 smaller institutions have disappeared from our financial system since the beginning of the last crisis.

So the problem of “too big to fail” is now larger than ever.

Considering how reckless these big banks have been, it is inevitable that one or more of them will fail at some point.  When that takes place, it will make the collapse of Lehman Brothers look like a Sunday picnic.

And with each passing day, the rumblings of a new financial crisis grow louder.  For example, this week we learned that commercial bankruptcy filings in the United States in August were up a whopping 29 percent compared to the same period a year ago…

In August, US commercial bankruptcy filings jumped 29% from a year ago to 3,199, the 10th month in a row of year-over-year increases, the American Bankruptcy Institute, in partnership with Epiq Systems, reported today.

There’s money to be made. While stockholders and some creditors get raked over the coals, lawyers make a killing on fees. And some folks on the inside track, hedge funds, and private equity firms can make a killing picking up assets for cents on the dollar.

Companies are going bankrupt at a rate that we haven’t seen since the last financial crisis, but nobody seems concerned.

Back in 2007 and early 2008, Federal Reserve Chair Ben Bernanke, President Bush and a whole host of “experts” assured us that everything was going to be just fine and that a recession was not coming.

Today, Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen, Barack Obama and a whole host of “experts” are assuring us that everything is going to be just fine and that a recession is not coming.

I hope that they are right.

I really do.

But there is a reason why so many firms are filing for bankruptcy, and there is a reason why so many Americans are getting behind on their auto loans.

Our giant debt bubble is beginning to burst, and this is going to cause a tremendous amount of financial chaos.

Let us just hope that the “too big to fail” banks can handle the stress this time around.

Global Crisis: Goldman Sachs Says That Brazil Has Plunged Into ‘An Outright Depression’

Global RecessionOne of the most important banks in the western world says that the 7th largest economy on the entire planet has entered a full-blown economic depression.  Brazil’s economy has now contracted for three quarters in a row, and many analysts believe that things are going to get far worse before they have a chance to get any better.  Earlier this year, I warned about “the South American financial crisis of 2015“, and now it is in full swing.  The surging U.S. dollar is absolutely crushing emerging markets such as Brazil, and if the Fed raises interest rates this month that is going to make the pain even worse.  The global financial system is more interconnected than ever before, and the decisions made by the Federal Reserve truly do have global consequences.  So much of the “hot money” that was created by the Fed poured into emerging markets such as Brazil during the good times, but now the process is starting to reverse itself.  At this point, it is hard to see how much of South America is going to avoid a complete and total economic disaster.

It is one thing for Michael Snyder from the Economic Collapse Blog to say that the Brazilian economy has entered a “depression”, but it is another thing entirely when Goldman Sachs comes out and publicly says it.  The following comes from a Bloomberg article that was just posted entitled “Goldman Warns of Brazil Depression After GDP Plunges Again“…

Latin America’s largest economy shrank more than analysts forecast, as rising unemployment and higher inflation sapped domestic demand, pulling the nation deeper into what Goldman Sachs now calls “an outright depression.”

Gross domestic product in Brazil contracted 1.7 percent in the three months ended in September, after a revised 2.1 percent drop the previous quarter, the national statistics institute said in Rio de Janeiro. That’s worse than all but three estimates from 44 economists surveyed by Bloomberg, whose median forecast was for a 1.2 percent decline. It also marks the first three-quarter contraction since the institute’s series began in 1996, and a seasonally adjusted annual drop of 6.7 percent.

And when you look deeper into the numbers they become even more disturbing.

Unemployment is rising, consumer spending is way down, and investment spending is absolutely collapsing.  Here is some of the data that Goldman Sachs just released that comes via Zero Hedge

Private consumption has now declined for three consecutive quarters (at an average quarterly rate of -8.5% qoq sa, annualized), and investment spending for nine consecutive quarters (at an average rate of -10.0% qoq sa, annualized). Overall, gross fixed investment declined by a cumulative 21% from 2Q2013. The declining capital stock of the economy (declining capital-labor ratio) hurts productivity growth and limits even further potential GDP. The sharp contraction of real activity during 3Q was broad-based: both on the supply and final demand side. Final domestic demand weakened sharply during 3Q2015 (-1.7% qoq sa and -6.0% yoy) with private consumption down 1.5% qoq sa (-4.5% yoy) and gross fixed investment down 4.0% qoq sa (-15.0% yoy). Finally, on the supply side, we highlight that the large labor intensive services sector retrenched again at the margin (-1.0% qoq sa; -2.9% yoy).

The term “economic depression” is not something that should be used lightly, because it conjures up images of the Great Depression of the 1930s.  And the Brazilian economy is very important to the global economic system.  As I mentioned above, there are only six countries in the entire world that have a larger economy, and Brazil accounts for more than 242 billion dollars worth of exports every year.

So if Brazil is feeling pain, it is going to affect all of us.

Up to this point, everyone had been calling what has been going on in Brazil a “recession”, but now Goldman Sachs is the first major bank to label it “an outright economic depression”

“What started as a recession driven by the adjustment needs of an economy that accumulated large macro imbalances is now mutating into an outright economic depression given the deep contraction of domestic demand,” Alberto Ramos, chief Latin America economist at Goldman Sachs Group Inc., wrote in a report Tuesday.

Of course Brazil is far from alone.  The third largest economy on the globe, Japan, has also now slipped into recession territory.  So has Russia.  And just today we learned that Canadian GDP is plunging

Who could have seen that coming? It appears, for America’s northern brethren, low oil prices are unequivocally terrible. Against expectations of a flat 0.0% unchanged September, Canadian GDP plunged 0.5% – its largest MoM drop since March 2009 and the biggest miss since Dec 2008.

It is just a matter of time before this global economic downturn catches up with us here in the U.S. too.

In fact, there is evidence that this is already happening.

According to brand new numbers that just came out, manufacturing activity in the U.S. is contracting at the fastest pace that we have seen since the last recession

Manufacturing in the U.S. unexpectedly contracted in November at the fastest pace since the last recession as elevated inventories led to cutbacks in orders and production.

The Institute for Supply Management’s index dropped to 48.6, the lowest level since June 2009, from 50.1 in October, a report from the Tempe, Arizona-based group showed Tuesday. The November figure was weaker than the most pessimistic forecast in a Bloomberg survey. Readings less than 50 indicate contraction.

Another indicator that I am watching is the velocity of money.

When an economy is healthy, money tends to flow fairly freely.  I buy something from you, and then you buy something from someone else, etc.

But when economic conditions start to get tough, people start to hold on to their money.  That means that money doesn’t change hands as quickly and the velocity of money goes down.  As you can see below, the velocity of money has declined during every single recession since 1960…

Velocity Of Money M2

When a recession ends, the velocity of money normally starts going back up.

But a funny thing happened when the last recession ended.  The velocity of money ticked up slightly, but then it started going down steadily.  In fact, it has kept on declining ever since and it has now hit a brand new all-time record low.

This is not normal.  Yes, Wall Street is temporarily flying high for the moment, but the underlying economic fundamentals are all screaming that something is horribly wrong.

A global crisis has begun, and the U.S. will not be immune from it.  I truly believe that we are heading toward the worst economic downturn that any of us have ever experienced.

But there are many out there that insist that nothing is the matter and that happy times are ahead.

So who is right and who is wrong?

We will just have to wait and see…

The Six Too Big To Fail Banks In The U.S. Have 278 TRILLION Dollars Of Exposure To Derivatives

Bankers - Public DomainThe very same people that caused the last economic crisis have created a 278 TRILLION dollar derivatives time bomb that could go off at any moment.  When this absolutely colossal bubble does implode, we are going to be faced with the worst economic crash in the history of the United States.  During the last financial crisis, our politicians promised us that they would make sure that “too big to fail” would never be a problem again.  Instead, as you will see below, those banks have actually gotten far larger since then.  So now we really can’t afford for them to fail.  The six banks that I am talking about are JPMorgan Chase, Citibank, Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, Morgan Stanley and Wells Fargo.  When you add up all of their exposure to derivatives, it comes to a grand total of more than 278 trillion dollars.  But when you add up all of the assets of all six banks combined, it only comes to a grand total of about 9.8 trillion dollars.  In other words, these “too big to fail” banks have exposure to derivatives that is more than 28 times greater than their total assets.  This is complete and utter insanity, and yet nobody seems too alarmed about it.  For the moment, those banks are still making lots of money and funding the campaigns of our most prominent politicians.  Right now there is no incentive for them to stop their incredibly reckless gambling so they are just going to keep on doing it.

So precisely what are “derivatives”?  Well, they can be immensely complicated, but I like to simplify things.  On a very basic level, a “derivative” is not an investment in anything.  When you buy a stock, you are purchasing an ownership interest in a company.  When you buy a bond, you are purchasing the debt of a company.  But a derivative is quite different.  In essence, most derivatives are simply bets about what will or will not happen in the future.  The big banks have transformed Wall Street into the biggest casino in the history of the planet, and when things are running smoothly they usually make a whole lot of money.

But there is a fundamental flaw in the system, and I described this in a previous article

The big banks use very sophisticated algorithms that are supposed to help them be on the winning side of these bets the vast majority of the time, but these algorithms are not perfect.  The reason these algorithms are not perfect is because they are based on assumptions, and those assumptions come from people.  They might be really smart people, but they are still just people.

Today, the “too big to fail” banks are being even more reckless than they were just prior to the financial crash of 2008.

As long as they keep winning, everyone is going to be okay.  But when the time comes that their bets start going against them, it is going to be a nightmare for all of us.  Our entire economic system is based on the flow of credit, and those banks are at the very heart of that system.

In fact, the five largest banks account for approximately 42 percent of all loans in the United States, and the six largest banks account for approximately 67 percent of all assets in our financial system.

So that is why they are called “too big to fail”.  We simply cannot afford for them to go out of business.

As I mentioned above, our politicians promised that something would be done about this.  But instead, the four largest banks in the country have gotten nearly 40 percent larger since the last time around.  The following numbers come from an article in the Los Angeles Times

Just before the financial crisis hit, Wells Fargo & Co. had $609 billion in assets. Now it has $1.4 trillion. Bank of America Corp. had $1.7 trillion in assets. That’s up to $2.1 trillion.

And the assets of JPMorgan Chase & Co., the nation’s biggest bank, have ballooned to $2.4 trillion from $1.8 trillion.

During this same time period, 1,400 smaller banks have completely disappeared from the banking industry.

So our economic system is now more dependent on the “too big to fail” banks than ever.

To illustrate how reckless the “too big to fail” banks have become, I want to share with you some brand new numbers which come directly from the OCC’s most recent quarterly report (see Table 2)

JPMorgan Chase

Total Assets: $2,573,126,000,000 (about 2.6 trillion dollars)

Total Exposure To Derivatives: $63,600,246,000,000 (more than 63 trillion dollars)

Citibank

Total Assets: $1,842,530,000,000 (more than 1.8 trillion dollars)

Total Exposure To Derivatives: $59,951,603,000,000 (more than 59 trillion dollars)

Goldman Sachs

Total Assets: $856,301,000,000 (less than a trillion dollars)

Total Exposure To Derivatives: $57,312,558,000,000 (more than 57 trillion dollars)

Bank Of America

Total Assets: $2,106,796,000,000 (a little bit more than 2.1 trillion dollars)

Total Exposure To Derivatives: $54,224,084,000,000 (more than 54 trillion dollars)

Morgan Stanley

Total Assets: $801,382,000,000 (less than a trillion dollars)

Total Exposure To Derivatives: $38,546,879,000,000 (more than 38 trillion dollars)

Wells Fargo

Total Assets: $1,687,155,000,000 (about 1.7 trillion dollars)

Total Exposure To Derivatives: $5,302,422,000,000 (more than 5 trillion dollars)

Compared to the rest of them, Wells Fargo looks extremely prudent and rational.

But of course that is not true at all.  Wells Fargo is being very reckless, but the others are being so reckless that it makes everyone else pale in comparison.

And these banks are not exactly in good shape for the next financial crisis that is rapidly approaching.  The following is an excerpt from a recent Business Insider article

The New York Times isn’t so sure about the results from the Federal Reserve’s latest round of stress tests.

In an editorial published over the weekend, The Times cites data from Thomas Hoenig, vice chairman of the FDIC, who, in contrast to the Federal Reserve, found that capital ratios at the eight largest banks in the US averaged 4.97% at the end of 2014, far lower than the 12.9% found by the Fed’s stress test.

That doesn’t sound good.

So what is up with the discrepancy in the numbers?  The New York Times explains…

The discrepancy is due mainly to differing views of the risk posed by the banks’ vast holdings of derivative contracts used for hedging and speculation. The Fed, in keeping with American accounting rules and central bank accords, assumes that gains and losses on derivatives generally net out. As a result, most derivatives do not show up as assets on banks’ balance sheets, an omission that bolsters the ratio of capital to assets.

Mr. Hoenig uses stricter international accounting rules to value the derivatives. Those rules do not assume that gains and losses reliably net out. As a result, large derivative holdings are shown as assets on the balance sheet, an addition that reduces the ratio of capital to assets to the low levels reported in Mr. Hoenig’s analysis.

Derivatives, eh?

Very interesting.

And you know what?

The guys running these big banks can see what is coming.

Just consider the words that JPMorgan Chase chairman and CEO Jamie Dimon wrote to his shareholders not too long ago

Some things never change — there will be another crisis, and its impact will be felt by the financial market.

The trigger to the next crisis will not be the same as the trigger to the last one – but there will be another crisis. Triggering events could be geopolitical (the 1973 Middle East crisis), a recession where the Fed rapidly increases interest rates (the 1980-1982 recession), a commodities price collapse (oil in the late 1980s), the commercial real estate crisis (in the early 1990s), the Asian crisis (in 1997), so-called “bubbles” (the 2000 Internet bubble and the 2008 mortgage/housing bubble), etc. While the past crises had different roots (you could spend a lot of time arguing the degree to which geopolitical, economic or purely financial factors caused each crisis), they generally had a strong effect across the financial markets

In the same letter, Dimon mentioned “derivatives moved by enormous players and rapid computerized trades” as part of the reason why our system is so vulnerable to another crisis.

If this is what he truly believes, why is his firm being so incredibly reckless?

Perhaps someone should ask him that.

Interestingly, Dimon also discussed the possibility of a Greek exit from the eurozone

“We must be prepared for a potential exit,”  J. P. Morgan Chief Executive Officer Jamie Dimon said. in his annual letter to shareholders. “We continually stress test our company for possible repercussions resulting from such an event.”

This is something that I have been warning about for a long time.

And of course Dimon is not the only prominent banker warning of big problems ahead.  German banking giant Deutsche Bank is also sounding the alarm

With a U.S. profit recession expected in the first half of 2015 and investors unlikely to pay up for stocks, the risk of a stock market drop of 5% to 10% is rising, Deutsche  Bank says.

That’s the warning Deutsche Bank market strategist David Bianco zapped out to clients today before the opening bell on Wall Street.

Bianco expects earnings for the broad Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index to contract in the first half of 2015 — the first time that’s happened since 2009 during the financial crisis. And the combination of soft earnings and his belief that investors won’t pay top dollar for stocks in a market that is already trading at above-average valuations is a recipe for a short-term pullback on Wall Street.

The truth is that we are in the midst of a historic stock market bubble, and we are witnessing all sorts of patterns in the financial markets which also emerged back in 2008 right before the financial crash in the fall of that year.

When some of the most prominent bankers at some of the biggest banks on the entire planet start issuing ominous warnings, that is a clear sign that time is running out.  The period of relative stability that we have been enjoying has been fun, and hopefully it will last just a little while longer.  But at some point it will end, and then the pain will begin.

 

Smoking Gun Evidence That The New York Fed Serves The Interests Of Goldman Sachs

Goldman Sachs And The New York Fed - Public DomainFor years, many people have suspected that the New York Fed is more or less controlled by the “too big to fail” banks.  Well, now we have smoking gun evidence that this is indeed the case.  A very brave lawyer named Carmen Segarra made a series of audio recordings while she was working for the New York Fed.  The 46 hours of meetings and conversations that she recorded are being called “the Ray Rice video for the financial sector” because of the explosive content that they contain.  What these recordings reveal are regulators that are deeply afraid to do anything that may harm or embarrass Goldman Sachs.  And it is quite understandable why Segarra’s colleagues at the New York Fed would feel this way.  As a recent Bloomberg article explained, it has become “common practice” for regulators to leave “their government jobs for much higher paying jobs at the very banks they were once meant to regulate.”  If you think that there is going to be a cushy, high paying banking job for you at the end of the rainbow, you are unlikely to do anything that will mess that up.

To say that the culture at the New York Fed is “deferential” to big banks such as Goldman Sachs would be a massive understatement.

When Carmen Segarra was first embedded at Goldman Sachs, she was absolutely horrified by what she was seeing and hearing.  But her superiors were so obsessed with covering up for Goldman that they actually pressured her to alter the notes that she took during meetings

The job right from the start seems to have been different from what she had imagined: In meetings, Fed employees would defer to the Goldman people; if one of the Goldman people said something revealing or even alarming, the other Fed employees in the meeting would either ignore or downplay it. For instance, in one meeting a Goldman employee expressed the view that “once clients are wealthy enough certain consumer laws don’t apply to them.” After that meeting, Segarra turned to a fellow Fed regulator and said how surprised she was by that statement — to which the regulator replied, “You didn’t hear that.”

This sort of thing occurred often enough — Fed regulators denying what had been said in meetings, Fed managers asking her to alter minutes of meetings after the fact — that Segarra decided she needed to record what actually had been said.

Needless to say, someone like Segarra that did not “go along with the program” was not going to last long at the New York Fed.

After only seven months, she was fired

In 2012, Goldman was rebuked by a Delaware judge for its behaviour during a corporate acquisition. Goldman had advised one energy company, El Paso Corp., as it sold itself to another energy company, Kinder Morgan, in which Goldman actually owned a $4-billion stake. Segarrra asked questions and was told by a Goldman executive that the bank did not have a conflict of interest policy. The Fed found some divisions of the bank did have a policy, though not a comprehensive one. The Fed pressured Segarra not to mention the inadequate conflict of interest policy at Goldman in her reports and, she alleges, fired her after she refused to recant.

If Segarra had not made the recordings that she did, we would have probably never heard much from her ever again.

After all, who is going to believe her over Goldman Sachs and the New York Fed?  A minority would, of course, but the general public would have probably dismissed her accusations as the bitter ramblings of an ex-employee.

But she did make those recordings, and they are causing chaos on Wall Street right now.

The following is how Michael Lewis summarized the importance of this audio…

But once you have listened to it — as when you were faced with the newly unignorable truth of what actually happened to that NFL running back’s fiancee in that elevator — consider the following:

1. You sort of knew that the regulators were more or less controlled by the banks. Now you know.

2. The only reason you know is that one woman, Carmen Segarra, has been brave enough to fight the system. She has paid a great price to inform us all of the obvious. She has lost her job, undermined her career, and will no doubt also endure a lifetime of lawsuits and slander.

The New York Fed says that it “categorically rejects” all of the allegations made by Carmen Segarra.

Of course they do.

But what is there to deny?  The evidence is right there in the audio recordings.

The New York Fed has been caught red-handed serving the interests of Goldman Sachs, and no number of strongly-worded denials is going to change that.

Sadly, this is not likely to change any time soon.  Employees of the New York Fed are going to continue to want to get hired by the big banks, and the big banks are going to continue to hire them.  So the incestuous relationship between the New York Fed and Goldman Sachs is probably not going to change in any meaningful way despite this bad publicity.

What this means is that Goldman Sachs is going to continue to do pretty much whatever it wants to do, and nobody is going to stop them.

But someone should be doing something.

As I wrote about the other day, Goldman Sachs has less than a trillion dollars in total assets, but it has more than 54 trillion dollars in exposure to derivatives.

When the derivatives crisis strikes, some of these “too big to fail” banks are going to go down very hard.

Goldman might be one of them.

And when Wall Street starts collapsing, it is going to plunge the entire U.S. economy into a complete and utter nightmare.

Much of this could have been avoided if we had good rules in place and we had regulators that were honestly trying to enforce those good rules.

But instead, the wolves are guarding the hen house and the big banks are going absolutely wild.

Ultimately, this is all going to end very, very badly.

Why Is Goldman Sachs Warning That The Stock Market Could Decline By 10 Percent Or More?

Time Is Running OutWhy has Goldman Sachs chosen this moment to publicly declare that stocks are overpriced?  Why has Goldman Sachs suddenly decided to warn all of us that the stock market could decline by 10 percent or more in the coming months?  Goldman Sachs has to know that when they release a report like this that it will move the market.  And that is precisely what happened on Monday.  U.S. stocks dropped precipitously.  So is Goldman Sachs just honestly trying to warn their clients that stocks may have become overvalued at this point, or is another agenda at work here?  To be fair, the truth is that all of the big banks should be warning their clients about the stock market bubble.  Personally, I have stated that the stock market has officially entered “crazytown territory“.  So it would be hard to blame Goldman Sachs for trying to tell the truth.  But Goldman Sachs also had to know that a warning that the stock market could potentially fall by more than 10 percent would rattle nerves on Wall Street.

This report that has just been released by Goldman Sachs has gotten a lot of attention.  In fact, an article about this report was featured at the top of the CNBC website for quite a while on Monday.  Needless to say, news of this report spread on Wall Street like wildfire.  The following is a short excerpt from the CNBC article

A stock market correction is approaching the level of near certainty as Wall Street faces a major paradigm shift in how to achieve price gains, according to a Goldman Sachs analysis.

In a market outlook that garnered significant attention from traders Monday, the firm’s strategists called the S&P 500 valuation “lofty by almost any measure” and attached a 67 percent probability to the chance that the market would fall by 10 percent or more, which is the technical yardstick for a correction.

Of course Goldman Sachs is quite correct to be warning about an imminent stock market correction.  Right now stocks are overvalued according to just about any measure that you could imagine

The current valuation of the S&P 500 is lofty by almost any measure, both for the aggregate market as well as the median stock: (1) The P/E ratio; (2) the current P/E expansion cycle; (3) EV/Sales; (4) EV/EBITDA; (5) Free Cash Flow yield; (6) Price/Book as well as the ROE and P/B relationship; and compared with the levels of (6) inflation; (7) nominal 10-year Treasury yields; and (8) real interest rates. Furthermore, the cyclically-adjusted P/E ratio suggests the S&P 500 is currently 30% overvalued in terms of (9) Operating EPS and (10) about 45% overvalued using As Reported earnings.

There is a lot of technical jargon in the paragraph above, but essentially what it is saying is that stock prices are unusually high right now according to a whole host of key indicators.

And in case you were wondering, stocks did fall dramatically on Monday.  The Dow fell by 179 points, which was the biggest decline of the year by far.

So is Goldman Sachs correct about what could be coming?

Well, the truth is that there are many other analysts that are far more pessimistic than Goldman Sachs is.  For example, David Stockman, the Director of the Office of Management and Budget under President Reagan, believes that the U.S. stock market is heading for “a pretty rude day of awakening”

“This (2014) is the year of the end game. The party is over. We are now just at the point where they are rounding up the Wall Street drunks who are swilling on the fifth consecutive seasonally maladjusted phony recovery. That will become evident in the weeks and months ahead. Then I think the markets are going to have a pretty rude day of awakening.”

For many more forecasts that are similar to this, please see my previous article entitled “Dent, Faber, Celente, Maloney, Rogers – What Do They Say Is Coming In 2014?

There are also some other signs that we are rapidly heading toward a major “turning point” in the financial world in 2014.  One of those signs is the continual decline of Comex gold inventories.  Someone out there (China?) is voraciously gobbling up physical gold.  The following is a short excerpt from a recent article by Steve St. Angelo

After a brief pause in the decline of Comex Gold inventories, it looks like it has continued once again as there were several big withdrawals over the past few days. Not only was there a large removal of gold from the Comex today, the Registered (Dealer) inventories are now at a new record low.

And of course the overall economy continues to get even weaker.  The Baltic Dry Index (a very important indicator of global economic activity) has fallen by more than 40 percent over the past couple of weeks

We noted Friday that the much-heralded Baltic Dry Index has seen the worst start to the year in over 30 years. Today it got worse. At 1,395, the the Baltic Dry index, which reflects the daily charter rate for vessels carrying cargoes such as iron ore, coal and grain, is now down 18% in the last 2 days alone (biggest drop in 6 years), back at 4-month lows. The shipping index has utterly collapsed over 40% in the last 2 weeks.

So does this mean that tough times are just around the corner?

Maybe.

Or perhaps things will stabilize again and this little bubble of false prosperity that we have been enjoying will be extended for a little while longer.

The important thing is to not get too caught up in the short-term numbers.

If you look at our long-term national “balance sheet numbers” and the long-term trends that are systematically destroying our economy, it becomes abundantly clear that a massive economic collapse is on the way.  Our national debt is on pace to more than double during the Obama years, our “too big to fail” banks are now much bigger and much more reckless than they were before the financial crash of 2008, and the middle class in America is steadily shrinking.  In other words, our long-term national “balance sheet numbers” are worse than ever.

We consume far more wealth than we produce, and our entire nation is drowning in a massive ocean of red ink that stretches from sea to shining sea.

This is not sustainable, and it is inevitable that the stock market will catch up with economic reality at some point.

It is just a matter of time.

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