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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.

12 Reasons Why The U.S. Housing Crash Is Far From Over

Over the past several months, many in the mainstream media have hailed the slight improvement in the U.S. real estate market as a “housing recovery”.  But the truth is that the small improvement in the numbers was primarily due to a significant number of Americans attempting to squeeze their home purchases in before the huge home buyer tax credit expired at the end of April.  Now that there is no more giant tax incentive, real estate professionals all over the United States are fearing the worst.  Mortgage defaults and foreclosures are still at record levels, and a giant “second wave” of adjustable rate mortgages is scheduled to reset in 2011 and 2012.  In addition, there are numerous indications that the U.S. economy as a whole is going to experience a dramatic downturn shortly, and if that happens it is going to be really bad news for the housing industry.  So are we about to see “Housing Crash Part 2”?

The reality is that it has taken unprecedented U.S. government intervention to even stabilize the U.S. housing market.  Now that the tax credit has expired, and as the U.S. economy continues to worsen, there is simply no way (except if we see hyperinflation at some point) that housing prices are going to return to the levels that we saw during the height of the housing bubble.

Banks and other lending institutions all across the U.S. have seriously tightened their lending standards and so it is now much more difficult to get approved for a mortgage.  That means that there are going to be less home buyers in the marketplace.

In addition, while mortgage rates are at record lows right now, the truth is that they will not stay there indefinitely.  When interest rates do start to rise that is going to suck even more home buyers out of the market.

Truthfully, the housing market is not going to be as good as it was during the first several months of 2010 for quite some time.  The entire U.S. economy is on the verge of collapse, and when it does the real estate industry is going to be one of the first to feel the pain.

The following are 12 reasons why the U.S. housing crash is far from over….

#1) Now that the huge home buyer tax credit (government bribe to purchase homes) has expired, the real estate industry is bracing for the worst.  The truth is that a significant percentage of those Americans that planned to buy a home in 2010 really tried to squeeze their purchases in before the April 30th deadline in order to take advantage of the tax incentive.  According to mortgage consultant Mark Hanson, “buyers were bidding on everything and sellers were accepting anything and everything before 4/30.”  Now that the tax credit is over, things could get really slow for the U.S. real estate market.

#2) A massive “second wave” of adjustable rate mortgages is scheduled to reset in 2011 and 2012.  In fact, there are many analysts that are openly speculating that this second wave could be even more brutal than the first wave that we experienced in 2007 and 2008.

#3) The number of home sale closings in May was down more than 5% compared to April.

#4) Newly signed home sale contracts dropped more than 10% in May.

#5) There has been an even more dramatic decline in mortgage applications.  In fact, home purchase applications are now almost 40 percent below the level of just four weeks ago.

#6) Internet searches on real estate websites are down 20 percent compared to this same time period in 2009.

#7) From all indications, a record number of foreclosures is going to continue to flood the market.  The Mortgage Bankers Association recently announced that more than 10 percent of all U.S. homeowners with a mortgage had missed at least one payment during the January to March time period.  That was a record high and up from 9.1 percent a year ago.

#8) U.S. banks repossessed nearly 258,000 homes nationwide in the first quarter of 2010, a whopping 35 percent increase from the first quarter of 2009.

#9) A staggering 24% of all homes with mortgages in the United States were underwater as of the end of 2009.

#10) People can’t buy houses if they are flat broke.  For the first time in U.S. history, more than 40 million Americans are on food stamps, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture projects that number will go up to 43 million Americans in 2011.

#11) The truth is that American consumers are stretched to the limit and are increasingly finding it very difficult to pay their bills.  During the first quarter of 2010, the total number of loans that are at least three months past due in the United States increased for the 16th consecutive quarter.

#12) The overall U.S. economy is in really bad shape and is rapidly getting worse.  If American workers cannot find good jobs and if they keep going bankrupt in record numbers they simply are not going to be able to buy homes in 2010 or any year thereafter.

Those who are projecting a robust housing recovery are living in some kind of fantasy world.  It is just not going to happen.  Let’s just hope that things don’t get as bad as the numbers seem to indicate that they might.  Another devastating housing crash would just suck the life right out of the U.S. economy.  So let us hope for the best but also let us be prepared for the worst.

The Beginning Of The End

The U.S. Economic Collapse Top 20 Countdown

So just how bad is the U.S. economy?  Well, the truth is that sometimes it is hard to put into words.  We have squandered the great wealth left to us by our forefathers, we have almost totally dismantled the world’s greatest manufacturing base, we have shipped millions of good jobs overseas and we have piled up the biggest mountain of debt in the history of mankind.  We have taken the greatest free enterprise economy that was ever created and have turned it into a gigantic house of cards delicately balanced on a never-ending spiral of paper money and debt.  For decades, all of this paper money and debt has enabled us to enjoy the greatest party in the history of the world, but now the bills are coming due and the party is nearly over.

In fact, things are already so bad that you can pick almost every number and find a corresponding statistic that shows just how bad the economy is getting.

You doubt it?

Well, check this out….

20 – Gallup’s measure of underemployment hit 20.0% on March 15th.  That was up from 19.7% two weeks earlier and 19.5% at the start of the year.

19 – According to RealtyTrac, foreclosure filings were reported on 367,056 properties in the month of March.  This was an increase of almost 19 percent from February, and it was the highest monthly total since RealtyTrac began issuing its report back in January 2005.

18 – According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in March the national rate of unemployment in the United States was 9.7%, but for Americans younger than 25 it was well above 18 percent.

17 – The FDIC’s list of problem banks recently hit a 17-year high.

16 – During the first quarter of 2010, the total number of loans that are at least three months past due in the United States increased for the 16th consecutive quarter.

15 – The Spanish government has just approved a 15 billion euro austerity plan.

14 – The U.S. Congress recently approved an increase in the debt cap of the U.S. government to over 14 trillion dollars.

13 – The FDIC is backing 8,000 banks that have a total of $13 trillion in assets with a deposit insurance fund that is basically flat broke.  In fact, the FDIC’s deposit insurance fund now has negative 20.7 billion dollars in it, which actually represents a slight improvement from the end of 2009.

12 – The U.S. national debt soared from the $12 trillion mark to the $13 trillion mark in a frighteningly short period of time.

11– It is being reported that a massive network of big banks and financial institutions have been involved in blatant bid-rigging fraud that cost taxpayers across the U.S. billions of dollars.  The U.S. Justice Department is charging that financial advisers to municipalities colluded with Bank of America, Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, Lehman Brothers, Wachovia and 11 other banks in a conspiracy to rig bids on municipal financial instruments.

10 – The Mortgage Bankers Association recently announced that more than 10 percent of all U.S. homeowners with a mortgage had missed at least one payment during the January-March time period.  That was a record high and up from 9.1 percent a year ago.

9 – The official U.S. unemployment number is 9.9%, although the truth is that many economists consider the true unemployment rate to be much, much higher than that.

8 – The French government says that its deficit will increase to 8 percent of GDP in 2010, but by implementing substantial budget cuts they hope that they can get it to within the European Union’s 3 percent limit by the year 2013.

7 – The biggest banks in the U.S. cut their collective small business lending balance by another $1 billion in November.  That drop was the seventh monthly decline in a row.

6The six biggest banks in the United States now possess assets equivalent to 60 percent of America’s gross national product.

5 – That is the number of U.S. banks that federal regulators closed on Friday.  That brings that total number of banks that have been shut down this year in the United States to a total of 78.

4 – According to a study published by Texas A&M University Press, the four biggest industries in the Gulf of Mexico region are oil, tourism, fishing and shipping.  Together, those four industries account for approximately $234 billion in economic activity each year.  Now those four industries have been absolutely decimated by the Gulf of Mexico oil spill and will probably not fully recover for years, if not decades.

3 – Decent three bedroom homes in the city of Detroit can be bought for $10,000, but no one wants to buy them.

2 – A massive “second wave” of adjustable rate mortgages is scheduled to reset over the next two to three years.  If this second wave is anything like the first wave, the U.S. housing market is about to be absolutely crushed.

1 – The bottom 40 percent of all income earners in the United States now collectively own less than 1 percent of the nation’s wealth.  But of course many on Wall Street and in the government would argue that there is nothing wrong with an economy where nearly half the people are dividing up 1 percent of the benefits.

The Beginning Of The End by Michael T. Snyder

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