Stocks Plunge, Consumer Pessimism Grows And U.S. Home Sales Just Hit Their Lowest Level In 3 Years

It appears to be more likely than ever that the U.S. economy is heading for a recession.  On Tuesday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 301 points as investors were rattled by several very important pieces of news.  Back in 2008, home sales began to fall precipitously just prior to the financial crisis in the second half of that year, and now it is happening again.  Of course home sales are always going up and down, but the numbers that we are seeing now are definitely very unusual.  According to the National Association of Realtors, existing home sales just hit their lowest level in 3 years

U.S. home sales tumbled to their lowest level in three years last month and house price increases slowed sharply, suggesting a further loss of momentum in the housing market.

The National Association of Realtors said on Tuesday existing home sales declined 6.4 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.99 million units last month — the lowest level since November 2015.

And when you compare December 2018 to December 2017, the numbers look even worse.  According to Wolf Richter, last month existing home sales were down 10.3 percent on a year over year basis…

Sales of “existing homes” — including single-family houses, townhouses, condos, and co-ops — in December, plunged 10.3% from a year earlier, to a seasonally adjusted annual rate (SAAR) of 4.99 million homes, according to the National Association of Realtors this morning. This was the biggest year-over-year drop since May 2011, during the throes of Housing Bust 1

Those are absolutely horrible numbers, but thanks to high interest rates they aren’t going to get much better any time soon.  Just like a decade ago, this is going to be a very tough time to be in the real estate industry.

During the “boom years”, the west was the hottest region for real estate in the entire nation, but now it is leading the way down.  And last month was just abysmal, with sales falling 15 percent in that portion of the country…

  • Northeast: -6.8%, to an annual rate of 690,000.
  • Midwest: -10.5%, to an annual rate of 1.19 million.
  • South: -5.4%, to an annual rate of 2.09 million.
  • West: -15.0%, to an annual rate of 1.02 million.

Unfortunately, these are exactly the kinds of numbers that we would expect to see if the U.S. economy was heading into a recession.

Investors were also rattled on Tuesday by news that trade talks between the U.S. and China seem to be breaking down

Stocks fell to their lows of the day after the Financial Times reported the U.S. canceled a trade meeting with Chinese officials. CNBC later confirmed the report through a source. White House economic advisor Larry Kudlow denied the reports, saying the meetings are not canceled, giving stocks a boost into the close. China and the U.S. are trying to strike a permanent trade deal with the U.S. Both countries have been in a trade war since last year, slapping tariffs on billions of dollars worth of their goods.

We’ll see what happens, but the Chinese appear to be dragging their feet, and it does not look like there will be a major trade agreement between the two sides any time soon.

And when you throw in the fact that we are in the midst of the longest government shutdown in all of U.S. history, it becomes exceedingly clear that the elements for a “perfect storm” are definitely coming together.

In fact, Peter Schiff is entirely convinced that the coming recession is already “a done deal”…

“And they think simply because the Federal Reserve is no longer hiking rates that they no longer have to worry about the Fed pushing the economy into a recession. Well, it’s too late for that. The rate hikes of the past have already guaranteed that the economy is headed for recession. It doesn’t matter whether they continue to raise rates in the future. The recession is a done deal. It’s just now you have that calm between the storm while investors are still clueless and haven’t yet connected those, what should be, very obvious dots.

When the next recession comes, you will know who to blame.  Every time the Federal Reserve has engaged in a rate hiking program since World War II, it has always ended in either a recession or a stock market crash.  The Fed is the reason why the U.S. economy has been on a roller coaster ride for decades, and now we are steamrolling directly toward the “bust” portion of this cycle.  If we ever want to end this madness, we need to abolish the Fed, and that means that we need to send people to Congress that are willing to take action on these things.

Sadly, it is probably going to take a major collapse before abolishing the Fed becomes a big political issue again.  Economic issues have been on the back burner for a while, but that may be about to change, because pessimism about the economy is growing.  According to Gallup, the percentage of Americans that believe economic conditions are worsening has risen by 12 points over the past two months…

Americans are not feeling very confident about the economy these days.

Almost half (48%) of Americans say economic conditions are worsening, up from 45% in December and 36% in November, according to a recent poll by Gallup, a Washington, D.C.-based research and consulting firm.

This is more evidence of the national psychological shift that I have been talking about.  People are starting to realize what is happening, and they are becoming deeply concerned about what the future holds.

Well, the truth is that things are going to get a lot tougher.  But instead of getting down in the dumps about it, we need to prepare for what is ahead, and we need to be ready to implement some positive solutions in the aftermath of the coming crisis.

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

 

Much Worse Than Expected: Experts Shocked As New Home Sales Plunge 8.9 Percent

The U.S. economy is definitely deviating from the script, and we just got more evidence that “Housing Bubble 2” is bursting.  Experts were expecting that new home sales in the U.S. would rise in October, but instead they plunged 8.9 percent.  That number is far worse than anyone was projecting, and many in the real estate industry are really starting to freak out.  And to be honest, things look like they are going to get even worse in 2019.  One survey found that the percentage of Americans that plan to buy a home over the next 12 months has fallen by about half during the past year.  Mortgage rates have steadily risen as the Federal Reserve has been hiking interest rates, and at this point most average Americans have been completely priced out of the market.  Home prices are going to have to come way down from where they are right now, and just as we witnessed in 2008, rapidly falling home prices can put an extraordinary amount of stress on the financial system.

It is hard for me to put into words just how bad this latest number is.  Even though I write about our growing economic problems on a daily basis, even I didn’t expect to see a number anywhere near this bad.  Sometimes a really bad number from one part of the U.S. can drag down the overall number, but that wasn’t the case this time.  According to Reuters, there were “sharp declines in all four regions”…

Sales of new U.S. single-family homes tumbled to a more than 2-1/2-year low in October amid sharp declines in all four regions, further evidence that higher mortgage rates were hurting the housing market.

The Commerce Department said on Wednesday new home sales dropped 8.9 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 544,000 units last month. That was the lowest level since March 2016. The percent drop was the biggest since December 2017.

But of course it isn’t as if this latest report is coming out of nowhere.  The truth is that new home sales have fallen in four of the last six months, and so a very clear trend is now developing.

Sadly, most mainstream economists still don’t seem to be understanding what is happening.  According to Reuters, the consensus estimate was that we would see new home sales rise 3.7 percent in October, and so an 8.9 percent plunge came as a real shock.

New home sales have now missed expectations for seven months in a row, and the similarities to 2008 are starting to become undeniable.

Sales of previously owned homes have been falling as well.  In fact, in October we witnessed the largest drop for previously owned home sales in four years

Sales of previously owned U.S. homes posted their largest annual decline since 2014 in October, as the housing market continues to sputter due to higher mortgage rates that are reducing home affordability.

If you want to blame someone for this mess, blame the Federal Reserve.

They created a “boom” in the housing market by pushing interest rates all the way to the floor during the Obama years, and now they are creating a “bust” by aggressively jacking up interest rates at a pace that our economy simply cannot handle.

If we had allowed the free market to be setting interest rates all this time, we would not be on such a roller coaster ride.

Just like during “Housing Bubble 1”, millions of Americans have been buying houses that they cannot afford, and that could mean another massive wave of mortgage defaults as this new economic downturn intensifies.  At this point, the debt to income ratio for mortgages insured by the FHA is at an all-time record high

One worrying indicator: The average debt-to-income ratio for mortgages insured by the Federal Housing Administration, which makes up about 22% of the housing market, is now at its highest level ever.

This is yet another indication that we are even more vulnerable than we were just prior to the subprime mortgage meltdown during the last financial crisis.

Let me try to shed some light on what is coming next.  Even if economic conditions remained stable, housing prices would need to start falling dramatically in order to attract buyers.  In fact, we are already starting to see this happen in southern California and other markets that were once extremely “hot”.  As housing prices fall, millions of Americans will suddenly find themselves “underwater” on their mortgages.  In other words, they will owe more on their homes than their homes are worth.  During the last recession, many “underwater” homeowners ultimately decided to walk away rather than continue to service ridiculously bloated mortgages.

But the truth is that economic conditions are not likely to remain stable.  In fact, many are projecting that the approaching downturn will be even worse than 2008.

In such a scenario, millions of Americans will lose their jobs, and that means that millions of Americans will suddenly not be able to make their mortgage payments.  As a result, mortgage defaults will skyrocket and home prices will drop like a rock.  Just like last time around, there could be people that wake up one day and realize that they owe two or three times as much money on their mortgages as their homes are currently worth, and the stampede of people walking away from “underwater” mortgages could become an avalanche.

Needless to say, millions of mortgages suddenly going bad is a scenario that our financial system is not equipped to handle.  What happened in 2008 was absolutely catastrophic for our large financial institutions, and what is coming is going to be even worse.

Of course the big financial institutions will want the federal government to bail them out, but there may not be much of an appetite for more corporate bailouts this time around.

And considering the fact that we are already 22 trillion dollars in debt, we can’t exactly afford to be throwing money around.

The Federal Reserve has set the stage for a giant mess, and it is going to shake the housing industry to the core.

We should have learned from the mistakes that we made in 2008, but we didn’t, and so now we are going to pay a very great price for our negligence.

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

 

In California, Home Sales Are Plunging Like It Is 2008 All Over Again

What goes up must eventually come down.  For years, the California housing market was on the cutting edge of “Housing Bubble 2” as we witnessed home prices in the state soar to absolutely absurd levels.  In fact, it got so bad that a burned down house in Silicon Valley sold for $900,000 earlier this year, and a condemned home in Fremont sold for $1.2 million.  But now things have changed in a major way.  The hottest real estate markets in the entire country led the way down during the collapse of “Housing Bubble 1”, and now it looks like the same thing is going to be true for the sequel.

According to CNBC, the number of new and existing homes sold in southern California was down 18 percent in September compared to a year ago…

The number of new and existing houses and condominiums sold during the month plummeted nearly 18 percent compared with September 2017, according to CoreLogic. That was the slowest September pace since 2007, when the national housing and mortgage crisis was hitting.

Sales have been falling on an annual basis for much of this year, but this was the biggest annual drop for any month in almost eight years. It was also more than twice the annual drop seen in August.

Those numbers are staggering.

And it is interesting to note that sales of new homes are being hit even harder than sales of existing homes…

Sales of newly built homes are suffering more than sales of existing homes, likely because fewer are being built compared with historical production levels. Newly built homes also come at a price premium. Sales of newly built homes were 47 percent below the September average dating back to 1988, while sales of existing homes were 22 percent below their long-term average.

At one time, San Diego County was a blazing hot real estate market, but now the market has turned completely around.

In fact, the county just registered the fewest number of home sales in a month since the last financial crisis

A combination of rapid mortgage rate increases and decreased affordability, San Diego County home sales collapsed 17.5% to the lowest level in 11 years last month, in the first meaningful sign that one of the country’s hottest real estate markets could be at a turning point, real estate tracker CoreLogic reported Tuesday.

In September, 2,942 homes were sold in the county, down from 3,568 sales last year. This was the lowest number of sales for the month since the start of the financial crisis when 2,152 sold in September 2007.

And it can be argued that things are plunging even more rapidly in northern California.

In the San Francisco Bay area, sales of new and existing homes were down 19 percent in September on a year over year basis…

Home sales in the San Francisco Bay area have been falling for months, but in September buyers pulled back in an even bigger way.

Sales of both new and existing homes plunged nearly 19 percent compared with September 2017, according to CoreLogic. It marked the slowest September sales pace since 2007 and twice the annual drop seen in August.

If a new real estate crisis is really happening, these are precisely the kinds of numbers that we would expect to see.  If you still need some more convincing, here are even more distressing numbers from the California real estate market that Mish Shedlock recently shared

  • The California housing market posted its largest year-over-year sales decline since March 2014 and remained below the 400,000-level sales benchmark for the second consecutive month in September, indicating that the market is slowing as many potential buyers put their homeownership plans on hold.
  • Existing, single-family home sales totaled 382,550 in September on a seasonally adjusted annualized rate, down 4.3 percent from August and down 12.4 percent from September 2017.
  • September’s statewide median home price was $578,850, down 2.9 percent from August but up 4.2 percent from September 2017.
  • Statewide active listings rose for the sixth consecutive month, increasing 20.4 percent from the previous year.
  • Inventory reached the highest level in 31 months, with the Unsold Inventory Index reaching 4.2 months in September.
  • September year-to-date sales were down 3.3 percent.

Of course a similar thing is happening on the east coast as well.  At this point, things have cooled off so much in New York City that it is being called “a buyer’s market”

New York City’s pricey real estate has become a “buyers market,” new data suggests, characterized by lowball offers and a rise in the number of properties staying on the market for longer.

The latest figures from Warburg Realty show that among higher-priced homes, New York City is in the throes of a “major shift” that reflects a cooling market, the likes of which hasn’t been seen in almost a decade.

“Offers 20 percent and 25 percent below asking prices began to flow in, a phenomenon last seen in 2009,” wrote Warburg Realty founder and CEO Frederick W. Peters in the report, which surveys real estate conditions around the city.

In the final analysis, it is no mystery how we got to this point.

During the Obama era, the Federal Reserve pushed interest rates all the way to the floor for years, and this caused “Housing Bubble 2” to become even larger than the original housing bubble.

Now the Federal Reserve has been aggressively raising interest rates, and this is now busting the bubble that they created in the first place.

So if you want to blame someone for this mess, blame the Federal Reserve.  The Federal Reserve has created huge “booms” and “busts” ever since it was created in 1913, and hopefully the American people will be outraged enough following this next “bust” to start calling for real change.

I have been calling for the abolition of the Federal Reserve for years, and there are many others out there that also want to return to a free market financial system.

History has shown that free markets work exceedingly well once you take the shackles off, and as a nation we desperately need to return to the values and principles that this nation was founded upon.

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

The Last Days Warrior Summit is the premier online event of 2018 for Christians, Conservatives and Patriots.  It is a premium members-only international event that will empower and equip you with the knowledge and tools that you need as global events begin to escalate dramatically.  The speaker list includes Michael Snyder, Mike Adams, Dave Daubenmire, Ray Gano, Dr. Daniel Daves, Gary Kah, Justus Knight, Doug Krieger, Lyn Leahz, Laura Maxwell and many more. Full summit access will begin on October 25th, and if you would like to register for this unprecedented event you can do so right here.

Evidence The Housing Bubble Is Bursting?: “Home Sellers Are Slashing Prices At The Highest Rate In At Least Eight Years”

The housing market indicated that a crisis was coming in 2008.  Is the same thing happening once again in 2018?  For several years, the housing market has been one of the bright spots for the U.S. economy.  Home prices, especially in the hottest markets on the east and west coasts, had been soaring.  But now that has completely changed, and home sellers are cutting prices at a pace that we have not seen since the last recession.  In case you are wondering, this is definitely a major red flag for the economy.  According to CNBC, home sellers are “slashing prices at the highest rate in at least eight years”…

After three years of soaring home prices, the heat is coming off the U.S. housing market. Home sellers are slashing prices at the highest rate in at least eight years, especially in the West, where the price gains were hottest.

It is quite interesting that prices are being cut fastest in the markets that were once the hottest, because that is exactly what happened during the subprime mortgage meltdown in 2008 too.

In a previous article, I documented the fact that experts were warning that “the U.S. housing market looks headed for its worst slowdown in years”, but even I was stunned by how bad these new numbers are.

According to Redfin, more than one out of every four homes for sale in America had a price drop within the most recent four week period…

In the four weeks ended Sept. 16, more than one-quarter of the homes listed for sale had a price drop, according to Redfin, a real estate brokerage. That is the highest level since the company began tracking the metric in 2010. Redfin defines a price drop as a reduction in the list price of more than 1 percent and less than 50 percent.

That is absolutely crazy.

I have never even heard of a number anywhere close to that in a 30 day period.

Of course the reason why prices are being dropped is because homes are not selling.  The supply of homes available for sale is shooting up, and that is good news for buyers but really bad news for sellers.

It could be argued that home prices needed to come down because they had gotten ridiculously high in recent months, and I don’t think that there are too many people that would argue with that.

But is this just an “adjustment”, or is this the beginning of another crisis for the housing market?

Just like a decade ago, millions of American families have really stretched themselves financially to get into homes that they really can’t afford.  If a new economic downturn results in large numbers of Americans losing their jobs, we are once again going to see mortgage defaults rise to stunning heights.

We live at a time when the middle class is shrinking and most families are barely making it from month to month.  The cost of living is steadily rising, but paychecks are not, and that is resulting in a huge middle class squeeze.  I really like how my good friend MN Gordon made this point in his most recent article

The general burden of the American worker is the daily task of squaring the difference between the booming economy reported by the government bureaus and the dreary economy reported in their biweekly paychecks. There is sound reason to believe that this task, this burden of the American worker, has been reduced to some sort of practical joke. An exhausting game of chase the wild goose.

How is it that the economy’s been growing for nearly a decade straight, but the average worker’s seen no meaningful increase in their income? Have workers really been sprinting in place this entire time? How did they end up in this ridiculous situation?

The fact is, for the American worker, America’s brand of a centrally planned economy doesn’t pay. The dual impediments of fake money and regulatory madness apply exactions which cannot be overcome. There are claims to the fruits of one’s labors long before they’ve been earned.

The economy, in other words, has been rigged. The value that workers produce flows to Washington and Wall Street, where it’s siphoned off and misallocated to the cadre of officials, cronies, and big bankers. What’s left is spent to merely keep the lights on, the car running, and food upon the table.

And unfortunately, things are likely to only go downhill from here.

The trade war is really starting to take a toll on the global economy, and it continues to escalate.  Back during the Great Depression we faced a similar scenario, and we would be wise to learn from history.  In a recent post, Robert Wenzel shared a quote from Dr. Benjamin M. Anderson that was pulled from his book entitled “Economics and the Public Welfare: A Financial and Economic History of the United States, 1914-1946”

[T]here came another folly of government intervention in 1930 transcending all the rest in significance. In a world staggering under a load of international debt which could be carried only if countries under pressure could produce goods and export them to their creditors, we, the great creditor nation of the world, with tariffs already far too high, raised our tariffs again. The Hawley-Smoot Tariff Act of June 1930 was the crowning folly of the who period from 1920 to 1933….

Protectionism ran wild all over the world.  Markets were cut off.  Trade lines were narrowed.  Unemployment in the export industries all over the world grew with great rapidity, and the prices of export commodities, notably farm commodities in the United States, dropped with ominous rapidity….

The dangers of this measure were so well understood in financial circles that, up to the very last, the New York financial district retained hope the President Hoover would veto the tariff bill.  But late on Sunday, June 15, it was announced that he would sign the bill. This was headline news Monday morning. The stock market broke twelve points in the New York Time averages that day and the industrials broke nearly twenty points. The market, not the President, was right.

Even though the stock market has been booming, everything else appears to indicate that the U.S. economy is slowing down.

If home prices continue to fall precipitously, that is going to put even more pressure on the system, and it won’t be too long before we reach a breaking point.

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

Housing Crash 2.0? Experts Warn That ‘The U.S. Housing Market Looks Headed For Its Worst Slowdown In Years’

Is the United States heading for another absolutely devastating housing crash?  It has been 10 years since the last one, and so many of the exact same signs that immediately preceded the last one are starting to appear once again.  Back in 2007, home prices were absolutely soaring and it seemed like the party would never end.  But interest rates went up, home sales slowed down substantially, and eventually prices began to crash.  Millions upon millions of Americans were suddenly “underwater” in their homes just as a crippling recession hit the economy, and we plunged into a foreclosure crisis unlike anything that we had ever seen before.  Well, now the cycle is happening again.  Home prices surged to unprecedented heights in 2017, and this was especially true in the hottest markets on the east and west coasts.  But now interest rates are going up and home sales are starting to slow down substantially.  We certainly aren’t too far away from the next crash and another horrible foreclosure crisis, and many experts are beginning to sound the alarm.

For example, the following very alarming numbers come from a recent Bloomberg article entitled “The U.S. Housing Market Looks Headed for Its Worst Slowdown in Years”

Existing-home sales dropped in June for a third straight month. Purchases of new homes are at their slowest pace in eight months. Inventory, which plunged for years, has begun to grow again as buyers move to the sidelines, sapping the fuel for surging home values. Prices for existing homes climbed 6.4 percent in May, the smallest year-over-year gain since early 2017, and have gained the least over three months since 2012, according to the Federal Housing Finance Agency.

Those are definitely troubling figures, but perhaps even more disturbing is the fact that mortgage applications are way down right now

Mortgage applications to purchase both new and existing homes have been falling steadily, and mortgage rates are rising again. Single-family home construction also fell and was lower than June 2017.

Of course economic numbers always go up and down, and just because we have had a few bad months does not necessarily mean that disaster is looming.

But when you step back and take a broader perspective on the housing market, it really does start to feel like early 2008 all over again.

In fact, Nobel Prize-winning author Robert Shiller says that this “could be the very beginning of a turning point”

“This could be the very beginning of a turning point,” said Robert Shiller, a Nobel Prize-winning economist who is famed for warning of the dot-com and housing bubbles, in an interview.

Just like last time, the slowdown is being felt the most in the markets that were once the hottest.  In southern California, home sales just fell to the lowest level in four years

Southern California home sales hit the brakes in June, falling to the lowest reading for the month in four years. Sales of both new and existing houses and condominiums dropped 11.8 percent year over year, as prices shot up to a record high, according to CoreLogic. The report covers Los Angeles, Riverside, San Diego, Ventura, San Bernardino and Orange counties.

And as I explained in a previous article, much of this drop is being fueled by a record decline in foreigners buying U.S. homes.

Meanwhile, red flags are popping up on the east coast as well.  New York foreclosure actions have skyrocketed to an 11 year high, and many analysts expect them to go much higher.

If you follow my economics website on a regular basis, then you already know that I have been warning about a downturn in the housing market for months.  As the Federal Reserve has raised interest rates, it was only a matter of time before the housing market really cooled off.  And if the Federal Reserve keeps raising rates, we are going to see home prices collapse, another massive foreclosure crisis, and enormous stress on our largest financial institutions.

This is one of the reasons why we must abolish the Federal Reserve.  By allowing a panel of central planners to determine our interest rates, it is inevitable that artificial “booms” and “busts” are created.

Yes, there are always “booms” and “busts” in a free market economy as well, but they would not be as severe.

In recent months, central banks all over the world have been tightening, and other global real estate markets are really starting to feel the pain as well.  For instance, home prices are really cooling off in Canada, and it appears that they are on the precipice of a full-blown market crash.

When a new recession didn’t hit in 2015 or 2016, a lot of Americans assumed that the threat had passed.  But just because a threat is delayed does not mean that it has been diminished.  In fact, the coming recession is probably going to be substantially worse than it would have been in 2015 or 2016 because of the central bank manipulation that delayed it until this time.

And the signs are all around us.  An indicator that tracks the vehicle buying plans of Americans just plunged to the lowest level in five years, and even USA Today is running articles with titles such as “Are you ready for the next recession? How to prepare now for a potential downturn”.

Yes, we just got good GDP data for the second quarter, but virtually everyone agrees that the number for the third quarter will be significantly lower.  And it would be foolish to ignore all of the harbingers that are emerging on an almost daily basis now.  Just recently, I explained that the U.S. economy has fallen into recession every single time that the yield curve has inverted since World War II, and now it is about to happen again.  We live at a time when there is great turmoil at home and abroad, and the elements for a “perfect storm” are definitely coming together.

It is only a matter of time before the next recession begins, and it looks like it could be a really, really bad one.

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

12 Reasons Why The Federal Reserve May Have Just Made The Biggest Economic Mistake Since The Last Financial Crisis

Wrong Way Signs - Public DomainHas the Federal Reserve gone completely insane?  On Wednesday, the Fed raised interest rates for the second time in three months, and it signaled that more rate hikes are coming in the months ahead.  When the Federal Reserve lowers interest rates, it becomes less expensive to borrow money and that tends to stimulate more economic activity.  But when the Federal Reserve raises rates , that makes it more expensive to borrow money and that tends to slow down economic activity.  So why in the world is the Fed raising rates when the U.S. economy is already showing signs of slowing down dramatically?  The following are 12 reasons why the Federal Reserve may have just made the biggest economic mistake since the last financial crisis…

#1 Just hours before the Fed announced this rate hike, the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta’s projection for U.S. GDP growth in the first quarter fell to just 0.9 percent.  If that projection turns out to be accurate, this will be the weakest quarter of economic growth during which rates were hiked in 37 years.

#2 The flow of credit is more critical to our economy than ever before, and higher rates will mean higher interest payments on adjustable rate mortgages, auto loans and credit card debt.  Needless to say, this is going to slow the economy down substantially

The Federal Reserve decision Wednesday to lift its benchmark short-term interest rate by a quarter percentage point is likely to have a domino effect across the economy as it gradually pushes up rates for everything from mortgages and credit card rates to small business loans.

Consumers with credit card debt, adjustable-rate mortgages and home equity lines of credit are the most likely to be affected by a rate hike, says Greg McBride, chief analyst at Bankrate.com. He says it’s the cumulative effect that’s important, especially since the Fed already raised rates in December 2015 and December 2016.

#3 Speaking of auto loans, the number of people that are defaulting on them had already been rising even before this rate hike by the Fed…

The number of Americans who have stopped paying their car loans appears to be increasing — a development that has the potential to send ripple effects through the US economy.

Losses on subprime auto loans have spiked in the last few months, according to Steven Ricchiuto, Mizuho’s chief US economist. They jumped to 9.1% in January, up from 7.9% in January 2016.

“Recoveries on subprime auto loans also fell to just 34.8%, the worst performance in over seven years,” he said in a note.

#4 Higher rates will likely accelerate the ongoing “retail apocalypse“, and we just recently learned that department store sales are crashing “by the most on record“.

#5 We also recently learned that the number of “distressed retailers” in the United States is now at the highest level that we have seen since the last recession.

#6 We have just been through “the worst financial recovery in 65 years“, and now the Fed’s actions threaten to plunge us into a brand new crisis.

#7 U.S. consumers certainly aren’t thriving, and so an economic slowdown will hit many of them extremely hard.  In fact, about half of all Americans could not even write a $500 check for an unexpected emergency expense if they had to do so right now.

#8 The bond market is already crashing.  Most casual observers only watch stocks, but the truth is that a bond crash almost always comes before a stock market crash.  Bonds have been falling like a rock since Donald Trump’s election victory, and we are not too far away from a full-blown crisis.  If you follow my work on a regular basis you know this is a hot button issue for me, and if bonds continue to plummet I will be writing quite a bit about this in the weeks ahead.

#9 On top of everything else, we could soon be facing a new debt ceiling crisis.  The suspension of the debt ceiling has ended, and Donald Trump could have a very hard time finding the votes that he needs to raise it.  The following comes from Bloomberg

In particular, the markets seem to be ignoring two vital numbers, which together could have profound consequences for global markets: 218 and $189 billion. In order to raise or suspend the debt ceiling (which will technically be reinstated on March 16), 218 votes are needed in the House of Representatives. The Treasury’s cash balance will need to last until this happens, or the U.S. will default.

The opening cash balance this month was $189 billion, and Treasury is burning an average of $2 billion per day – with the ability to issue new debt. Net redemptions of existing debt not held by the government are running north of $100 billion a month. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has acknowledged the coming deadline, encouraging Congress last week to raise the limit immediately.

If something is not done soon, the federal government could be out of cash around the beginning of the summer, and this could create a political crisis of unprecedented proportions.

#10 And even if the debt ceiling is raised, that does not mean that everything is okay.  It is being reported that U.S. government revenues just experienced their largest decline since the last financial crisis.

#11 What do corporate insiders know that the rest of us do not?  Stock purchases by corporate insiders are at the lowest level that we have seen in three decades

It’s usually a good sign when the CEO of a major company is buying shares; s/he is an insider and knows what’s going on, so their confidence is a positive sign.

Well, according to public data filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, insider buying is at its LOWEST level in THREE DECADES.

In other words, the people at the top of the corporate food chain who have privileged information about their businesses are NOT buying.

#12 A survey that was just released found that corporate executives are extremely concerned that Donald Trump’s policies could trigger a trade war

As business leaders are nearly split over the effectiveness of Washington’s new leadership, they are in unison when it comes to fears over trade and immigration. Nearly all CFOs surveyed are concerned that the Trump administration’s policies could trigger a trade war between the United States and China.

A decline in global trade could deepen the economic downturns that are already going on all over the planet.  For example, Brazil is already experiencing “its longest and deepest recession in recorded history“, and right next door people are literally starving in Venezuela.

After everything that you just read, would you say that the economy is “doing well”?

Of course not.

But after raising rates on Wednesday, that is precisely what Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen told the press

“The simple message is — the economy is doing well.” Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen said at a news conference. “The unemployment rate has moved way down and many more people are feeling more optimistic about their labor prospects.”

However, after she was challenged with some hard economic data by a reporter, Yellen seemed to change her tune somewhat

Well, look, our policy is not set in stone. It is data- dependent and we’re — we’re not locked into any particular policy path. Our — you know, as you said, the data have not notably strengthened. I — there’s noise always in the data from quarter to quarter. But we haven’t changed our view of the outlook. We think we’re on the same path, not — we haven’t boosted the outlook, projected faster growth. We think we’re moving along the same course we’ve been on, but it is one that involves gradual tightening in the labor market.

Just like in 2008, the Federal Reserve really doesn’t understand the economic environment.  At that time, Federal Reserve Chair Ben Bernanke assured everyone that there was not going to be a recession, but when he made that statement a recession was actually already underway.

And as I have said before, I wouldn’t be surprised in the least if it is ultimately announced that GDP growth for the first quarter of 2017 was negative.

Whether it happens now or a bit later, the truth is that the U.S. economy is heading for a new recession, and the Federal Reserve has just given us a major shove in that direction.

Is the Fed really so clueless about the true state of the economy, or could it be possible that they are raising rates just to hurt Donald Trump?

I don’t know the answer to that question, but clearly something very strange is going on…

How The Federal Reserve Is Setting Up Trump For A Recession, A Housing Crisis And A Stock Market Crash

Janet Yellen - Public DomainMost Americans do not understand this, but the truth is that the Federal Reserve has far more power over the U.S. economy than anyone else does, and that includes Donald Trump.  Politicians tend to get the credit or the blame for how the economy is performing, but in reality it is an unelected, unaccountable panel of central bankers that is running the show, and until something is done about the Fed our long-term economic problems will never be fixed.  For an extended analysis of this point, please see this article.  In this piece, I am going to explain why the Federal Reserve is currently setting the stage for a recession, a new housing crisis and a stock market crash, and if those things happen unfortunately it will be Donald Trump that will primarily get the blame.

On Wednesday, the Federal Reserve is expected to hike interest rates, and there is even the possibility that they will call for an acceleration of future rate hikes

Economists generally believe the central bank’s median estimate will continue to call for three quarter-point rate increases both this year and in 2018. But there’s some risk that gets pushed to four as inflation nears the Fed’s annual 2% target and business confidence keeps juicing markets in anticipation of President Trump’s plan to cut taxes and regulations.

During the Obama years, the Federal Reserve pushed interest rates all the way to the floor, and this artificially boosted the economy.  In a recent article, Gail Tverberg explained how this works…

With falling interest rates, monthly payments can be lower, even if prices of homes and cars rise. Thus, more people can afford homes and cars, and factories are less expensive to build. The whole economy is boosted by increased “demand” (really increased affordability) for high-priced goods, thanks to the lower monthly payments.

Asset prices, such as home prices and farm prices, can rise because the reduced interest rate for debt makes them more affordable to more buyers. Assets that people already own tend to inflate, making them feel richer. In fact, owners of assets such as homes can borrow part of the increased equity, giving them more spendable income for other things. This is part of what happened leading up to the financial crash of 2008.

But the opposite is also true.

When interest rates rise, borrowing money becomes more expensive and economic activity slows down.

For the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates right now is absolutely insane.  According to the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta’s most recent projection, GDP growth for the first quarter of 2017 is supposed to be an anemic 1.2 percent.  Personally, it wouldn’t surprise me at all if we actually ended up with a negative number for the first quarter.

As Donald Trump has explained in detail, the U.S. economy is a complete mess right now, and we are teetering on the brink of a new recession.

So why in the world would the Fed raise rates unless they wanted to hurt Donald Trump?

Raising rates also threatens to bring on a new housing crisis.  Interest rates were raised prior to the subprime mortgage meltdown in 2007 and 2008, and now we could see history repeat itself.  When rates go higher, it becomes significantly more difficult for families to afford mortgage payments

The rate on a 30-year fixed mortgage reached its all-time low in November 2012, at just 3.31%. As of this week, it was 4.21%, and by the end of 2018, it could go as high as 5.5%, forecasts Matthew Pointon, a property economist for Capital Economics.

He points out that for a homeowner with a $250,000 mortgage fixed at 3.8%, annual payments are $14,000. If that homeowner moved to a similarly-priced home but had a 5.5% rate, their annual payments would rise by $3,000 a year, to $17,000.

Of course stock investors do not like rising rates at all either.  Stocks tend to rise in low rate environments such as we have had for the past several years, and they tend to fall in high rate environments.

And according to CNBC, a “coming stock market correction” could be just around the corner…

Investors are in for a rude awakening about a coming stock market correction — most just don’t know it yet. No one knows when the crash will come or what will cause it — and no one can. But what’s worse for most investors is they have no clue how much they stand to lose when it inevitably happens.

“If you look at the market historically, we have had, on average, a crash about every eight to 10 years, and essentially the average loss is about 42 percent,” said Kendrick Wakeman, CEO of financial technology and investment analytics firm FinMason.

If stocks start to fall, how low could they ultimately go?

One technical analyst that has a stunning record of predicting short-term stock market declines in recent years is saying that the Dow could potentially drop “by more than 6,000 points to 14,800”

But if the technical stars collide, as one chartist predicts, the blue-chip gauge could soon plunge by more than 6,000 points to 14,800. That’s nearly 30% lower, based on Friday’s close.

Sandy Jadeja, chief market strategist at Master Trading Strategies, claims several predicted stock market crashes to his name — all of them called days, or even weeks, in advance. (He told CNBC viewers, for example, that the August 2015 “Flash Crash” was coming 18 days before it hit.) He’s also made prescient calls on gold and crude oil.

And he’s extremely concerned about what this year could bring for investors. “The timeline is rapidly approaching” for the next potential Dow meltdown, said Jadeja, who shares his techniques via workshops and seminars.

Most big stock market crashes tend to happen in the fall, and that is what I portray in my novel, but the truth is that they can literally happen at any time.  If you have not seen my recent rant about how ridiculously overvalued stocks are at this moment in history, you can find it right here.  Whether you want to call it a “crash”, a “correction”, or something else, the truth is that a major downturn is coming for stocks and the only question is when it will strike.

And when things start to get bad, most of the blame will be dumped on Trump, but it won’t primarily be his fault.

It was the Federal Reserve that created this massive financial bubble, and they will also be responsible for popping it.  Hopefully we can get the American people to understand how these things really work so that accountability for what is coming can be placed where it belongs.

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