The Beginning Of The End
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Why Is The Smart Money Suddenly Getting Out Of Stocks And Real Estate?

Exit Sign - Photo by SheDreamsInRedIf wonderful times are ahead for U.S. financial markets, then why is so much of the smart money heading for the exits?  Does it make sense for insiders to be getting out of stocks and real estate if prices are just going to continue to go up?  The Dow is up about 17 percent so far this year, and it just keeps setting new record high after new record high.  U.S. home prices have risen about 11 percent from a year ago, and some analysts are projecting that we are on the verge of a brand new housing boom.  Why would the smart money want to leave the party when it is just getting started?  Well, of course the truth is that the “smart money” is regarded as being smart because they usually make better decisions than other people do.  And right now the smart money is screaming that it is time to get out of the markets.  For example, the SentimenTrader Smart/Dumb Money Index is now the lowest that it has been in more than two years.  The smart money is busy selling even as the dumb money is busy buying.  So precisely what does the smart money expect to happen?  Are they anticipating a market “correction” or something bigger than that?

Those are very good questions.  Unfortunately, the smart money rarely divulges their secrets, so we can only watch what they do.  And right now a lot of insiders are making some very interesting moves.

For example, George Soros has been dumping almost all of his financial stocks.  The following is from a recent article by Becket Adams

Everyone’s favorite billionaire investor is back in the spotlight, and this time he has a few people wondering what he’s up to.

George Soros has dumped his position with several major banks including JPMorgan Chase, Capitol One, SunTrust, and Morgan Stanley. He has reduced his exposure to Citigroup and decreased his stake in AIG by two-thirds.

In fact, Soros’ financial stock holdings are down by roughly 80 percent, a massive drop from his position just three months ago, according to SNL Financial.

So exactly what is going on?

Why is Soros doing this?

Well, there is certainly a lot to criticize when it comes to Soros, but you can’t really blame him if he is just taking his profits and running.  Financial stocks have been on a tremendous run and that run is going to end at some point.  Smart investors lock in their profits while they still can.

And without a doubt, stocks have become completely divorced from economic reality in recent months.  For example, there is usually a very close relationship between corporate earnings and stock prices.  But as CNBC recently reported, that relationship has totally broken down lately…

That trend disrupted a formerly symbiotic relationship between earnings and stock prices and is indicating that the bluechip average is in for a substantial pullback, according to Tom Kee, who runs the StockTradersDaily investor web site.

“They’ve been moving in tandem since 2009, until recently. Earnings per share for the Dow Jones industrial average have flatlined and the price has taken off,” Kee said. “There is something happening here that defines a bubble.”

At some point there will be a correction.  If the relationship between earnings and stock prices was where it should be, the Dow would be  around 13,500 right now.  That would be a fall of nearly 2,000 points from where it is at the moment.

And we appear to be entering a time when revenues at many corporate giants are actually declining.  As I noted in a previous article, corporate revenues are falling at Wal-Mart, Proctor and Gamble, Starbucks, AT&T, Safeway, American Express and IBM.

Of course a stock market “correction” can turn into a crash very easily.  Financial markets in Japan are already crashing, and many fear that the escalating problems in the third largest economy on the planet will soon spill over into Europe and North America.

And things in Europe just continue to get steadily worse.  In fact, the New York Times is reporting that the European Central Bank is warning that the risk of a “renewed banking crisis” in Europe is rising…

The European Central Bank warned on Wednesday that the euro zone’s slumping economy and a surge in problem loans were raising the risk of a renewed banking crisis, even as overall stress in the region’s financial markets had receded.

In a sober assessment of the state of the zone’s financial system, the E.C.B. said that a prolonged recession had made it harder for many borrowers to repay their loans, burdening banks that had still not finished repairing the damage caused by the 2008 financial crisis.

And there are many financial analysts out there that are warning that their cyclical indicators have peaked and that we are on the verge of a fresh global downturn

“We see building evidence of a cyclical downturn,” said Fredrik Nerbrand, HSBC’s global asset guru. “We find it highly troubling that the eurozone is still marred in a recession at the same time as our cyclical indicators appear to have peaked.”

In the United States, a lot of the smart money has also decided that it is time to bail out of the housing market before this latest housing bubble bursts.  The following is one example of this phenomenon that was discussed in a recent Businessweek article

Hedge fund manager Bruce Rose was among the first investors to coax institutional money into the mom and pop business of single-family home rentals, raising $450 million last year from Oaktree Capital Group LLC.

Now, with house prices climbing at the fastest pace in seven years and investors swamping the rental market, Rose says it no longer makes sense to be a buyer.

“We just don’t see the returns there that are adequate to incentivize us to continue to invest,” Rose, 55, chief executive officer of Carrington Holding Co. LLC, said in an interview at his Aliso Viejo, California office. “There’s a lot of — bluntly — stupid money that jumped into the trade without any infrastructure, without any real capabilities and a kind of build-it-as-you-go mentality that we think is somewhat irresponsible.”

So what does all of this mean?

Is there a reason why the smart money is suddenly getting out of stocks and real estate?

It could just be that the insiders are simply responding to market dynamics and that many of them are just seeking to lock in their profits.

Or it could be something much more than that.

What do you think?

Why are so many insiders heading for the exits right now?

Feel free to post a comment with your thoughts below…

 

20 Signs That The U.S. Economy Is Heading For Big Trouble In The Months Ahead

20 Signs That The U.S. Economy Is Heading For Big Trouble In The Months Ahead - Photo by Frank KovalchekIs the U.S. economy about to experience a major downturn?  Unfortunately, there are a whole bunch of signs that economic activity in the United States is really slowing down right now.  Freight volumes and freight expenditures are way down, consumer confidence has declined sharply, major retail chains all over America are closing hundreds of stores, and the “sequester” threatens to give the American people their first significant opportunity to experience what “austerity” tastes like.  Gas prices are going up rapidly, corporate insiders are dumping massive amounts of stock and there are high profile corporate bankruptcies in the news almost every single day now.  In many ways, what we are going through right now feels very similar to 2008 before the crash happened.  Back then the warning signs of economic trouble were very obvious, but our politicians and the mainstream media insisted that everything was just fine, and the stock market was very much detached from reality.  When the stock market did finally catch up with reality, it happened very, very rapidly.  Sadly, most people do not appear to have learned any lessons from the crisis of 2008.  Americans continue to rack up staggering amounts of debt, and Wall Street is more reckless than ever.  As a society, we seem to have concluded that 2008 was just a temporary malfunction rather than an indication that our entire system was fundamentally flawed.  In the end, we will pay a great price for our overconfidence and our recklessness.

So what will the rest of 2013 bring?

Hopefully the economy will remain stable for as long as possible, but right now things do not look particularly promising.

The following are 20 signs that the U.S. economy is heading for big trouble in the months ahead…

#1 Freight shipment volumes have hit their lowest level in two years, and freight expenditures have gone negative for the first time since the last recession.

#2 The average price of a gallon of gasoline has risen by more than 50 cents over the past two months.  This is making things tougher on our economy, because nearly every form of economic activity involves moving people or goods around.

#3 Reader’s Digest, once one of the most popular magazines in the world, has filed for bankruptcy.

#4 Atlantic City’s newest casino, Revel, has just filed for bankruptcy.  It had been hoped that Revel would help lead a turnaround for Atlantic City.

#5 A state-appointed review board has determined that there is “no satisfactory plan” to solve Detroit’s financial emergency, and many believe that bankruptcy is imminent.  If Detroit does declare bankruptcy, it will be the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history.

#6 David Gallagher, the CEO of Town Sports International, recently said that his company is struggling right now because consumers simply do not have as much disposable income anymore…

“As we moved into January membership trends were tracking to expectations in the first half of the month, but fell off track and did not meet our expectations in the second half of the month. We believe the driver of this was the rapid decline in consumer sentiment that has been reported and is connected to the reduction in net pay consumers earn given the changes in tax rates that went into effect in January.

#7 According to the Conference Board, consumer confidence in the U.S. has hit its lowest level in more than a year.

#8 Sales of the Apple iPhone have been slower than projected, and as a result Chinese manufacturing giant FoxConn has instituted a hiring freeze.  The following is from a CNET report that was posted on Wednesday…

The Financial Times noted that it was the first time since a 2009 downturn that the company opted to halt hiring in all of its facilities across the country. The publication talked to multiple recruiters.

The actions taken by Foxconn fuel the concern over the perceived weakened demand for the iPhone 5 and slumping sentiment around Apple in general, with production activity a leading indicator of interest in the product.

#9 In 2012, global cell phone sales posted their first decline since the end of the last recession.

#10 We appear to be in the midst of a “retail apocalypse“.  It is being projected that Sears, J.C. Penney, Best Buy and RadioShack will also close hundreds of stores by the end of 2013.

#11 An internal memo authored by a Wal-Mart executive that was recently leaked to the press said that February sales were a “total disaster” and that the beginning of February was the “worst start to a month I have seen in my ~7 years with the company.”

#12 If Congress does not do anything and “sequestration” goes into effect on March 1st, the Pentagon says that approximately 800,000 civilian employees will be facing mandatory furloughs.

#13 Barack Obama is admitting that the “sequester” could have a crippling impact on the U.S. economy.  The following is from a recent CNBC article

Obama cautioned that if the $85 billion in immediate cuts — known as the sequester — occur, the full range of government would feel the effects. Among those he listed: furloughed FBI agents, reductions in spending for communities to pay police and fire personnel and teachers, and decreased ability to respond to threats around the world.

He said the consequences would be felt across the economy.

“People will lose their jobs,” he said. “The unemployment rate might tick up again.”

#14 If the “sequester” is allowed to go into effect, the CBO is projecting that it will cause U.S. GDP growth to go down by at least 0.6 percent and that it will “reduce job growth by 750,000 jobs“.

#15 According to a recent Gallup survey, 65 percent of all Americans believe that 2013 will be a year of “economic difficulty“, and 50 percent of all Americans believe that the “best days” of America are now in the past.

#16 U.S. GDP actually contracted at an annual rate of 0.1 percent during the fourth quarter of 2012.  This was the first GDP contraction that the official numbers have shown in more than three years.

#17 For the entire year of 2012, U.S. GDP growth was only about 1.5 percent.  According to Art Cashin, every time GDP growth has fallen this low for an entire year, the U.S. economy has always ended up going into a recession.

#18 The global economy overall is really starting to slow down

The world’s richest countries saw their economies contract for the first time in almost four years during the final three months of 2012, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development said.

The Paris-based thinktank said gross domestic product across its 34 member states fell by 0.2% – breaking a period of rising activity stretching back to a 2.3% slump in output in the first quarter of 2009.

All the major economies of the OECD – the US, Japan, Germany, France, Italy and the UK – have already reported falls in output at the end of 2012, with the thinktank noting that the steepest declines had been seen in the European Union, where GDP fell by 0.5%. Canada is the only member of the G7 currently on course to register an increase in national output.

#19 Corporate insiders are dumping enormous amounts of stock right now.  Do they know something that we don’t?

#20 Even some of the biggest names on Wall Street are warning that we are heading for an economic collapse.  For example, Seth Klarman, one of the most respected investors on Wall Street, said in his year-end letter that the collapse of the U.S. financial system could happen at any time

“Investing today may well be harder than it has been at any time in our three decades of existence,” writes Seth Klarman in his year-end letter. The Fed’s “relentless interventions and manipulations” have left few purchase targets for Baupost, he laments. “(The) underpinnings of our economy and financial system are so precarious that the un-abating risks of collapse dwarf all other factors.”

So what do you think is going to happen to the U.S. economy in the months ahead?

Please feel free to express your opinion by leaving a comment below…

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Do Wall Street Insiders Expect Something Really BIG To Happen Very Soon?

Do Wall Street Insiders Expect Something Really BIG To Happen Very Soon? - Photo by nosha on flickrWhy are corporate insiders dumping huge numbers of shares in their own companies right now?  Why are some very large investors suddenly making gigantic bets that the stock market will crash at some point in the next 60 days?  Do Wall Street insiders expect something really BIG to happen very soon?  Do they know something that we do not know? What you are about to read below is startling.  Every time that the market has fallen in recent years, insiders have been able to get out ahead of time.  David Coleman of the Vickers Weekly Insider report recently noted that Wall Street insiders have shown “a remarkable ability of late to identify both market peaks and troughs”.  That is why it is so alarming that corporate insiders are selling nine times as many shares as they are buying right now.  In addition, some extraordinarily large bets have just been made that will only pay off if the financial markets in the U.S. crash by the end of April.  So what does all of this mean?  Well, it could mean absolutely nothing or it could mean that there are people out there that actually have insider knowledge that a market crash is coming.  Evaluate the evidence below and decide for yourself…

For some reason, corporate insiders have chosen this moment to unload huge amounts of stock.  According to a CNN article, corporate insiders are now selling nine times more of their own shares than they are buying…

Corporate insiders have one word for investors: sell.

Insiders were nine times more likely to sell shares of their companies than buy new ones last week, according to the Vickers Weekly Insider report by Argus Research.

What makes this so alarming is that corporate insiders have been exceedingly good at “timing the market” in recent years.  The following comes from a recent CNBC article entitled “Sucker Alert? Insider Selling Surges After Dow 14,000“…

“In almost perfect coordination with an equity market that was rushing toward new all-time highs, insider sentiment has weakened sharply — falling to its lowest level since late March 2012,” wrote David Coleman of the Vickers Weekly Insider report, one of the longest researchers of executive buying and selling on Wall Street. “Insiders are waving the cautionary flag in an increasingly aggressive manner.”

There have been more than nine insider sales for every one buy over the past week among NYSE stocks, according to Vickers. The last time executives sold their company’s stock this aggressively was in early 2012, just before the S&P 500 went on to correct by 10 percent to its low for the year.

“Insiders know more than the vast majority of market participants,” said Enis Taner, global macro editor for RiskReversal.com. “And they’re usually right over a long period of time.”

There are other indications that the stock market may be headed for a significant tumble in the months ahead.  For example, as a Zero Hedge article recently pointed out, the last time that the financial markets in the U.S. were as “euphoric” as they are now was right before the financial crisis of 2008.

And as I mentioned above, some people out there have recently made some absolutely jaw-dropping bets against stocks which will only pay off if there is a financial crash at some point in the next few months.

According to Business Insider, the recent purchase of 100,000 put options by a mystery investor has a lot of people on Wall Street talking…

According to Barron’s columnist Steven Sears, someone made a big bet against the financials ETF yesterday (ticker symbol XLF), and it has everybody buzzing.

The trader bought 100,000 put options on the ETF (a put option increases in value when the price of the underlying asset, in this case, the ETF, goes down).

To put that number in perspective, Sears writes, “Few investors ever trade more than 500 contracts, so a 100,000 order tends to stop traffic and prompt all sorts of speculation about what’s motivating the trade.” According to Sears, the trade “has sparked conversations across the market.”

Reportedly, those put options expire in April.

And as Art Cashin of UBS has noted, there was also another extremely large bet that was placed recently that is banking on a financial crash within the next two months…

A Very Big Bet In A Somewhat Unlikely Instrument – My friend, Jim Brown, the ever-alert consummate professional over at Option Investor pointed us to a rather unusual trade. Here’s what he wrote in last night’s edition of his valuable newsletter:

In past years I have reported on trades that were so large it appeared someone had inside knowledge of a pending event. Sometimes those were massive put positions on the S&P. A new trade just appeared that suggests there will be a market event in the near future. Last week somebody put on a call spread on the VIX using the April 20 and 25 puts. They bought 150,000 contracts for a net of $75 per contract. That is an $11,250,000 bet that the VIX will move over 20 over the next 60 days. You would have to be VERY confident in your outlook to risk $11 million on a directional position with the VIX at five year lows and the markets trying to break out to new highs.

So does all of this guarantee that the stock market is going to move a certain way?

Of course not.

But when you step back and look at the bigger picture, it does appear that Wall Street insiders are preparing for something.

Meanwhile, the government continues to assure us that happy days are here again for the U.S. economy and that we don’t have anything to worry about.

The Congressional Budget Office has just released a report that contains their outlook for the next decade.  The report is entitled “The Budget and Economic Outlook: Fiscal Years 2013 to 2023″, and if you want a good laugh you should read it.

Here are some of the things that the CBO believes will happen…

-The CBO believes that government revenues will more than double by 2023.

-The CBO believes that government revenue as a percentage of GDP will rise from 15.8 percent today to 19.1 percent in 2023.

-The CBO believes that the unemployment rate will continually fall over the next decade.

-The CBO believes that the federal budget deficit will fall to just 2.4% of GDP in fiscal year 2015.

-The CBO believes that the federal budget deficit will only be $430 billion in 2015.

-The CBO believes that we will not have a single recession over the next decade.

-The CBO believes that inflation will stay at about 2 percent for the next decade.

-The CBO believes that U.S. GDP will grow by a total of 67 percent by 2023.

Wow, all of that sounds great until you go back and take a look at how CBO projections have fared in the past.

In fact, Bruce Krasting has gone back and looked at the numbers from the Congressional Budget Office’s Budget and Economic Outlook 2003.  I think that you will find the differences between the CBO projections and what really happened to be very humorous…

Estimated 10-year budget surplus = $5.6T.

Reality = $6.6T deficit. A 200+% miss.

 

Estimate for 2012 Debt Held by Public = $1.2T (5% of GDP).

Reality = Debt Held by Public = $11.6T. A 1000% miss.

 

Estimated fiscal 2012 GDP = $17.4T.

Reality = $15.8T. A $1.6T (10%) miss.

So should we trust what the CBO is telling us now?

Of course not.

Instead, perhaps we should listen to some of the men that successfully warned us about the last financial crisis…

-“Dr. Doom” Marc Faber recently stated that he “loves the high odds of a ‘big-time’ market crash“.

-Economist Nouriel Roubini says that we should “prepare for a perfect storm“.

-Pimco’s Bill Gross says that we are heading for a “credit supernova“.

-Nomura’s Bob Janjuah believes that the financial markets will experience one more huge spike before collapsing by up to 50%

I continue to believe that the S&P500 can trade up towards the 1575/1550 area, where we have, so far, a grand double top. I would not be surprised to see the S&P trade marginally through the 2007 all-time nominal high (the real high was of course seen over a decade ago – so much for equities as a long-term vehicle for wealth creation!). A weekly close at a new all-time high would I think lead to the final parabolic spike up which creates the kind of positioning extreme and leverage extreme needed to create the conditions for a 25% to 50% collapse in equities over the rest of 2013 and 2014, driven by real economy reality hitting home, and by policymaker failure/loss of faith in “their system”.

The truth is that no matter how much money printing the Federal Reserve does, it is only a matter of time before the financial markets catch up with economic reality.

The U.S. economy has been in decline for a very long time, and things just continue to get even worse.  Here are just a few numbers…

-The percentage of the civilian labor force that is employed has fallen every single year since 2006.

-According to John Williams of shadowstats.com, truly accurate numbers would show that U.S. GDP growth has actually been continuously negative all the way back to 2005.

-U.S. families that have a head of household that is under the age of 30 have a poverty rate of 37 percent.

-One recent survey found that nearly half of all Americans are living on the edge of financial ruin.

-According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are more than 146 million Americans that are considered to be either “poor” or “low income” at this point.

For many more statistics that demonstrate that the U.S. economy has continued to decline in recent years, please see this article: “37 Statistics Which Show How Four Years Of Obama Have Wrecked The U.S. Economy“.

So where is all of this headed?

Well, after the next major financial crisis in America things are going to get very tough.

We can get a hint for how things are going to be by taking a look at what is going on over in Europe right now.

Can you imagine people trampling each other for food?  That is what is happening in Greece.  Just check out this excerpt from a Reuters article

Hundreds of people jostled for free vegetables handed out by farmers in a symbolic protest earlier on Wednesday, trampling one man and prompting an outcry over the growing desperation created by economic crisis.

Images of people struggling to seize bags of tomatoes and leeks thrown from a truck dominated television, triggering a bout of soul-searching over the new depths of poverty in the debt-laden country.

The suffering that the Greeks are experiencing right now will come to this country soon enough.

So enjoy this false bubble of debt-fueled prosperity while you can.  It is going to end way too soon, and after that there will be a whole lot of pain.

Wall Street - Photo by Andrés Nieto Porras

Four Reasons To Be Even Less Optimistic About The Global Financial System Than You Were Last Month

The cracks in the ice are getting bigger.  At this point it is really hard to have much confidence in the global financial system at all.  They told us that MF Global was an isolated incident.  Well, the horrific financial scandal over at PFGBest is essentially MF Global all over again.  They told us that we would not see a huge wave of municipal bankruptcies in the United States.  Well, three California cities have declared bankruptcy in less than a month.  They told us that we could have faith in the integrity of the global financial system.  Well, now we are finding out that global interest rates have been fixed by insiders for years.  They told us that Greece was an isolated problem and that none of the larger European nations would experience anything remotely similar.  Well, what is happening in Spain right now looks like an instant replay of exactly what happened in Greece.  So who are we supposed to believe?  Why does it seem like nearly everything that “the authorities” tell us turns out to be a lie?   What else haven’t they been telling us?

The following are four reasons to be even less optimistic about the global financial system than you were last month….

#1 PFGBest Is MF Global All Over Again

Do you remember that whole MF Global thing?

Do you remember how hundreds of millions of dollars of customer funds were “missing” due to “accounting irregularities”?

Well, it is happening again.

PFGBest is a brokerage firm in Cedar Falls, Iowa that mostly handles agricultural futures.

All hell broke loose when the National Futures Association discovered that a bank account that was supposed to be holding 225 million dollars of customer funds was only holding about 5 million dollars instead.

So where is the other 220 million dollars?

That is a very good question.

Of course it is not a promising sign that the head of PFGBest tried to commit suicide when this news came out.

A lot of PFGBest clients are going to be absolutely devastated by this scandal.  The following is from a recent Reuters article….

Farmers on Tuesday fumed at the prospect of financial losses, or at a minimum a lengthy wait for the return of frozen funds, due to alleged mismanagement at brokerage PFGBest, and some said they had been burned for the last time.

The U.S. futures industry reeled as regulators accused Iowa-based PFGBest of misappropriating more than $200 million in customer funds for more than two years, a new blow to trader trust just months after MF Global’s collapse.

Centered in the heart of farm belt, the firm handled agricultural futures accounts for a number of clients who grow corn, soybeans and cotton.

But it is not just PFGBest clients that are going to feel the pain of this scandal.

The truth is that this is going to deeply shake confidence in the entire global financial system.

Many dismissed what happened at MF Global as an “isolated incident”.

But now it is happening again.

Fool me once, shame on you.

Fool me twice, shame on me.

#2 A Third California City Goes Bankrupt In Less Than A Month

First it was Stockton.

Then it was Mammoth Lakes.

Now it is San Bernardino’s turn.

On Tuesday, the city council of San Bernardino, California voted to file for bankruptcy.

An article in the Los Angeles Times detailed the issues at the heart of San Bernardino’s financial problems….

The city’s fiscal crisis has been years in the making, compounded by the nation’s crushing recession and exacerbated by escalating pension costs, lucrative labor agreements, Sacramento’s raid on redevelopment funds and a city reserve that is tapped out, officials said.

While it would be easy to dump on the state of California (and that is something I have done quite often), the truth is that we are seeing municipal debt problems erupting all over the United States.

For example, the city of Scranton, Pennsylvania has such severe financial problems that the mayor of Scranton has ordered that all city employees be paid minimum wage until a solution to the crisis is found.

If this was television, Dwight Schrute would find a way to save the day for Scranton.

Unfortunately, this is real life and Dwight Schrute does not exist in real life.

#3 The Liborgate Scandal Keeps Getting Worse

We have been taught that we should all have faith in the integrity of the global financial system.

What a bunch of baloney that turned out to be.

It turns out that banksters have been colluding to fix global interest rates for years.

“Liborgate” is being called the biggest financial scandal in history.  Libor is important because it is one of the key benchmarks used to set prices for hundreds of trillions of dollars of loans, securities and derivatives.

British banking giant Barclays has already admitted that they were involved in manipulating Libor.

Barclays has already agreed to pay $453 million in fines to British and U.S. authorities.

But the truth is that it would have been totally impossible for Barclays to have manipulated Libor by themselves.

So who else was involved?

That was a question that was discussed in a recent article in The Economist….

Over the past week damning evidence has emerged, in documents detailing a settlement between Barclays and regulators in America and Britain, that employees at the bank and at several other unnamed banks tried to rig the number time and again over a period of at least five years. And worse is likely to emerge. Investigations by regulators in several countries, including Canada, America, Japan, the EU, Switzerland and Britain, are looking into allegations that LIBOR and similar rates were rigged by large numbers of banks. Corporations and lawyers, too, are examining whether they can sue Barclays or other banks for harm they have suffered. That could cost the banking industry tens of billions of dollars. “This is the banking industry’s tobacco moment,” says the chief executive of a multinational bank, referring to the lawsuits and settlements that cost America’s tobacco industry more than $200 billion in 1998. “It’s that big,” he says.

As many as 20 big banks have been named in various investigations or lawsuits alleging that LIBOR was rigged. The scandal also corrodes further what little remains of public trust in banks and those who run them.

So what does all of this mean?

The Wall Street Journal says that the credibility of the entire global financial system is at stake….

At stake is both the integrity of the world’s financial system and the credibility of the U.K. authorities to police it. Long before the current scandal, many European policy makers had concluded that London during the boom was the Wild West, whose loose standards are a threat to European financial stability. The Libor scandal suggests U.S. regulators have reached similar conclusions. The Commodities Futures Trading Commission, the U.S. regulatory body that first started investigating rate-fixing, left little doubt how seriously it regards the abuses it uncovered.

Once faith is shattered, it is incredibly difficult to rebuild.

And right now it is really hard to come up with a decent argument why anyone should trust their money to such a corrupt system.

#4 Spain Is Turning Into Greece

A central government drowning in debt?

Check.

A banking system on the verge of collapse?

Check.

Politicians pushing a forced austerity program that includes much higher taxes, much lower government spending and greatly reduced pay for government workers?

Check.

Wild rioting in the streets by protesters?

Check.

Let’s see….where have we seen this before?

Can anyone still possibly deny that Spain is going down the exact same road that Greece has gone?

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy is proposing a huge slate of tough austerity measures including a 3 point increase in the Value Added Tax on goods and services.  If that 3 point hike is implemented, the Value Added Tax will rise to 21 percent.

Could you imagine going to the store and paying a 21 percent sales tax?

Ouch.

Rajoy is promising that these measures will get Spain back on the right track.

Of course we have already seen how well such austerity measures have worked in Greece.

The unemployment rate in Spain is already up to 24.4 percent, and now these austerity measures will slow the economy down even more.

No wonder there is rioting in the streets.  You can see high quality footage of the rioting that has been going on in Spain this week right here.  At one point police were seen firing rubber bullets at the protesters.

But of course the citizens of Spain could not live way above their means forever.  At some point every debt bubble ends, and when that happens the results are often incredibly painful.

This is a lesson that the United States has not learned either.  When we stop racking up more than a trillion dollars of additional government debt every year our “adjustment” will be exceedingly painful as well.

A little over a week ago, I wrote an article entitled “17 Reasons To Be EXTREMELY Concerned About The Second Half Of 2012“. I never imagined that things would get so much worse in just a week.

Everything seems to be accelerating these days.

That includes the decay that is happening in society.  A few days ago I made a list of 25 signs that society is falling apart, but then another story came along after I had finished my article that topped all of the examples in my list.  The following is how one man in West Virginia has been treating his wife….

During the conversation, according to the criminal complaint, Lizon’s wife told the woman that her husband had kept her chained up with metal padlocks and chains for about 10 years. The woman noticed scar tissue on the victim’s hands and ankles. Lizon’s wife told the woman that the scars were from the chains tearing into her skin.

Lizon’s wife told the woman that she and her husband were originally from Czechoslovakia, and that they live in Leroy, W.Va.

According to the complaint, the woman told investigators that the feet of Lizon’s wife were “mutilated and swollen,” one of which was missing a considerable amount of skin. Lizon’s wife told the woman that her husband smashed her foot with a bucket or scoop attachment of a farm tractor.

Lizon’s wife also told the woman Lizon called her his “slave,” and that whenever her husband entered the room she had to kneel down before him, according to the complaint.

Can you imagine anyone doing that?

Can you imagine any husband chaining his wife up for 10 years?

That is so sick that it is beyond words to describe it.

Unfortunately, that is not just one isolated incident of depravity in a world filled with goodness.

The truth is that the entire world system is saturated with depravity and corruption.

If anyone is willing to stand up for “the integrity of the global financial system”, I challenge you to leave a comment below explaining to the rest of us why we should still have blind faith in the system after everything that has happened.

I don’t imagine that too many people will even attempt to take me up on that challenge.

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