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After Raising Rates Once During The Obama Years, The Fed Promises Constant Rate Hikes During The Trump Era

janet-yellen-public-domainNow that Donald Trump has won the election, the Federal Reserve has decided now would be a great time to start raising interest rates and slowing down the economy.  Over the past several decades, the U.S. economy has always slowed down whenever interest rates have been raised significantly, and on Wednesday the Federal Open Market Committee unanimously voted to raise rates by a quarter point.  Stocks immediately started falling, and by the end of the session it was their worst day since October 11th.

The funny thing is that the Federal Reserve could have been raising rates all throughout 2016, but they held off because they didn’t want to hurt Hillary Clinton’s chances of winning the election.

And during Barack Obama’s eight years, there has only been one rate increase the entire time up until this point.

But now that Donald Trump is headed for the White House, the Federal Reserve has decided that now would be a wonderful time to raise interest rates.  In addition to the rate hike on Wednesday, the Fed also announced that it is anticipating that rates will be raised three more times each year through the end of 2019

Fed policymakers are also forecasting three rate increases in 2017, up from two in September, and maintained their projection of three hikes each in 2018 and 2019, according to median estimates. They predict the fed funds rate will be 1.4% at the end of 2017, 2.1% at the end of 2018 and 2.9% at the end of 2019, up from forecasts of 1.1%, 1.9% and 2.6%, respectively, in September. Its long-run rate is expected to be 3%, up slightly from 2.9% previously. The Fed reiterated rate increases will be “gradual.”

So Barack Obama got to enjoy the benefit of having interest rates slammed to the floor throughout his presidency, and now Donald Trump is going to have to fight against the economic drag that constant interest rate hikes will cause.

How is that fair?

As rates rise, ordinary Americans are going to find that mortgage payments are going to go up, car payments are going to go up and credit card bills are going to become much more painful.  The following comes from CNN

Higher interest rates affect millions of Americans, especially if you have a credit card or savings account, or want to buy a home or a car. American savers have earned next to nothing at the bank for years. Now they could be a step closer to earning a little more interest on savings account deposits, even though one rate hike won’t change things overnight.

Rates on car loans and mortgages are also likely to be affected. Those are much more closely tied to the interest on a 10-year U.S. Treasury bond, which has risen rapidly since the election. With a Fed hike coming at a time when interest on the 10-year note is also rising, that won’t help borrowers.

The higher interest rates go, the more painful it will be for the economy.

If you recall, rising rates helped precipitate the financial crisis of 2008.  When interest rates rose it slammed people with adjustable rate mortgages, and suddenly Americans could not afford to buy homes at the same pace they were before.  We have already been watching the early stages of another housing crash start to erupt all over the nation, and rising rates will certainly not help matters.

But why does the Federal Reserve set our interest rates anyway?

We are supposed to be a free market capitalist economy.  So why not let the free market set interest rates?

Many Americans are expecting an economic miracle out of Trump, but the truth is that the Federal Reserve has far more power over the economy than anyone else does.  Trump can try to reduce taxes and tinker with regulations, but the Fed could end up destroying his entire economic program by constantly raising interest rates.

Of course we don’t actually need economic central planners.  The greatest era for economic growth in all of U.S. history came when there was no central bank, and in my article entitled “Why Donald Trump Must Shut Down The Federal Reserve And Start Issuing Debt-Free Money” I explained that Donald Trump must completely overhaul how our system works if he wants any chance of making the U.S. economy great again.

One way that Trump can start exerting influence over the Fed is by nominating the right people to the Federal Open Market Committee.  According to CNN, it looks like Trump will have the opportunity to appoint four people to that committee within his first 18 months…

Two spots on the Fed’s committee are currently open for Trump to nominate. Looking ahead, Fed Chair Janet Yellen’s term ends in January 2018, while Vice Chair Stanley Fischer is up for re-nomination in June 2018.

Within the first 18 months of his presidency, Trump could reappoint four of the 12 people on the Fed’s powerful committee — an unusual amount of influence for any president.

By endlessly manipulating the economy, the Fed has played a major role in creating economic booms and busts.  Since the Fed was created in 1913, there have been 18 distinct recessions or depressions, and now the Fed is setting the stage for another one.

And anyone that tries to claim that the Fed is not political is only fooling themselves.  Everyone knew that they were not going to raise rates during the months leading up to the election, and it was quite clear that this was going to benefit Hillary Clinton.

But now that Donald Trump has won the election, the Fed all of a sudden has decided that the time is perfect to begin a program of consistently raising rates.

If I was Donald Trump, I would be looking to shut down the Federal Reserve as quickly as I could.  The essential functions that the Fed performs could be performed by the Treasury Department, and we would be much better off if the free market determined interest rates instead of some bureaucrats.

Unfortunately, most Americans have come to accept that it is “normal” to have a bunch of unelected, unaccountable central planners running our economic system, and so it is unlikely that we will see any major changes before our economy plunges into yet another Fed-created crisis.

The Federal Reserve Just Made Another Huge Mistake

The Great Seal Of The United States - A Symbol Of Your Enslavement - Photo by IpankoninAs stocks continue to crash, you can blame the Federal Reserve, because the Fed is more responsible for creating the current financial bubble that we are living in than anyone else.  When the Federal Reserve pushed interest rates all the way to the floor and injected lots of hot money into the financial markets during their quantitative easing programs, this pushed stock prices to wildly artificial levels.  The only way that it would have been possible to keep stock prices at those wildly artificial levels would have been to keep interest rates ultra-low and to keep recklessly creating lots of new money.  But now the Federal Reserve has ended quantitative easing and has embarked on a program of very slowly raising interest rates.  This is going to have very severe consequences for the markets, but Janet Yellen doesn’t seem to care.

There is a reason why the financial world hangs on every single word that is issued by the Fed.  That is because the massively inflated stock prices that we see today were a creation of the Fed and are completely dependent on the Fed for their continued existence.

Right now, stock prices are still 30 to 40 percent above what the economic fundamentals say that they should be based on historical averages.  And if we are now plunging into a very deep recession as I contend, stock prices should probably fall by a total of more than 50 percent from where they are now.

The only way that stock prices could have ever gotten this disconnected from economic reality is with the help of the Federal Reserve.  And since the U.S. dollar is the primary reserve currency of the entire planet, the actions of the Fed over the past few years have created stock market bubbles all over the globe.

But the only way to keep the party going is to keep the hot money flowing.  Unfortunately for investors, Janet Yellen and her friends at the Fed have chosen to go the other direction.  Not only has quantitative easing ended, but the Fed has also decided to slowly raise interest rates.  The Fed left rates unchanged on Wednesday, but we were told that we are probably still on schedule for another rate hike in March.

So how did the markets respond to the Fed?

Well, after attempting to go green for much of the day, the Dow started plunging very rapidly and ended up down 222 points.

The markets understand the reality of what they are now facing.  They know that stock prices are artificially high and that if the Fed keeps tightening that it is inevitable that they will fall back to earth.

In a true free market system, stock prices would be far, far lower than they are right now.  Everyone knows this – including Jim Cramer.  Just check out what he told CNBC viewers earlier today…

Jim Cramer was tempted to resurface his “they know nothing” rant after hearing the Fed speak on Wednesday. He was hoping that a few boxes on his market bottom checklist might be checked off, but it seems that the bear market has not yet run its course.

The Fed’s wishy-washy statement on interest rates today left stocks sinking back into oblivion after a nice rally yesterday,” the “Mad Money” host said.

Without artificial help from the Fed, stocks will most definitely continue to sink into oblivion.

That is because these current stock prices are not based on anything real.

And so as this new financial crisis continues to unfold, the magnitude of the crash is going to be much worse than it otherwise would have been.

It has often been said that the higher you go the farther you have to fall.  Because the Federal Reserve has pumped up stock prices to ridiculously high levels, that just means that the pain on the way down is going to be that much worse.

It is also important to remember that stocks tend to fall much more rapidly than they rise.  And when we see a giant crash in the financial markets, that creates a tremendous amount of fear and panic.  The last time there was great fear and panic for an extended period of time was during the crisis of 2008 and 2009, and this created a tremendous credit crunch.

During a credit crunch, financial institutions because very hesitant to lend to one another or to anyone else.  And since our economy is extremely dependent on the flow of credit, economic activity slows down dramatically.

As this current financial crisis escalates, you are going to notice certain things begin to happen.  If you own a business or you work at a business, you may start to notice that fewer people are coming in, and those people that do come in are going have less money to spend.

As economic activity slows, employers will be forced to lay off workers, and many businesses will shut down completely.  And since 63 percent of all Americans are living paycheck to paycheck, many will suddenly find themselves unable to meet their monthly expenses.  Foreclosures will skyrocket, and large numbers of people will go from living a comfortable middle class lifestyle to being essentially out on the street very, very rapidly.

At this point, many experts believe that the economic outlook for the coming months is quite grim.  For example, just consider what Marc Faber is saying

It won’t come as a surprise to market watchers that “Dr. Doom” Marc Faber isn’t getting any more cheerful.

But the noted bear at least found a sense of humor on Wednesday into which he could channel his bleakness.

The publisher of the “Gloom, Boom & Doom Report” told attendees at the annual “Inside ETFs” conference that the medium-term economic outlook has become “so depressing” that he may as well fill a newly installed pool with beer instead of water.

If the Federal Reserve had left interest rates at more reasonable levels and had never done any quantitative easing, we would have been forced to address our fundamental economic problems more honestly and stock prices would be far, far lower today.

But now that the Fed has created this giant artificial financial bubble, the coming crash is going to be much worse than it otherwise would have been.  And the tremendous amount of panic that this crash will cause will paralyze much of the economy and will ultimately lead to a far deeper economic downturn than we witnessed last time around.

Once the Fed started wildly injecting money into the system, they had no other choice but to keep on doing it.

By removing the artificial support that they had been giving to the financial markets, they are making a huge mistake, and they are setting the stage for an economic tragedy that will affect the lives of every man, woman and child in America.

JP Morgan And Citigroup Agree That The U.S. Economy Is Steamrolling Toward A Recession

Locomotive - Public DomainAs we approach the end of 2015, researchers at both JP Morgan and Citigroup agree that the probability that the U.S. economy will soon plunge into recession is rising.  Just last week, a member of the U.S. House of Representatives asked Janet Yellen about Citigroup’s assessment that there is a 65 percent chance that the United States will experience an economic recession in 2016.  You can read her answer below.  And just a few days ago, JP Morgan economists Michael Feroli, Daniel Silver, Jesse Edgerton, and Robert Mellman released a report in which they declared that “the probability of recession within three years” has risen to “an eye-catching 76%”

“Our longer-run indicators, however, continue to suggest an elevated risk that the expansion is nearing its end, and our preferred model now puts the probability of recession within three years at an eye-catching 76%.”

The good news is that the economists at JP Morgan believe that a recession will probably not hit us within the next six months.  But due to steadily weakening economic conditions, they are convinced that one is almost certain to strike within the next few years

“When we first wrote, only manufacturing sentiment was signaling an above-average probability of imminent recession,” they said. “But recent weakening in the Richmond Fed services survey and the ISM nonmanufacturing index have now pushed the nonmanufacturing sentiment probability up somewhat as well.”

In the short term, the note says that the 6-month likelihood is only 5%, but within a year it stands at 23%, in two years 48%, and in three years the “eye-popping” 76%.

To be honest, I believe that this assessment is far too optimistic, and it appears that researchers at Citigroup agree with me.  According to them, there is a 65 percent chance that the U.S. economy will plunge into recession by the end of next year.  Last week, Janet Yellen was asked about this during testimony before Congress

In testimony before Congress’ Joint Economic Committee, Yellen was asked by Rep. Pat Tiberi about a piece of research released by Citigroup’s rates strategy team Monday.

Specifically, Tiberi, an Ohio Republican, wanted to know what Yellen made of Citi’s conclusion that there is a 65 percent chance of a U.S. recession in 2016.

“The economists said that they would assign about a 65 percent likelihood of a recession in the United States in 2016. Now, 65 percent sounds high to me, but I’m not an economist and I’m not the Fed chair. But zero risk might be too low as well. So what would you assign a risk level of a recession next year?” Tiberi asked.

So how did Yellen respond?

Her answer was about what you would expect

“I absolutely wouldn’t see it as anything approaching 65 percent,” the central banker said.

This reminds me so much of what former Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said when he was asked a similar question back in 2008

“The Federal Reserve is not currently forecasting a recession.”

Later on, when the official numbers finally came out and all the revisions were done, we learned that the U.S. economy was already in a recession when he made that statement.

And when it is all said and done this time around, I believe that history will show that a new global recession had already started when Janet Yellen made her statement.

But don’t just take my word for it.  British banking giant HSBC is the largest bank in the western world, and they recently announced that the global economy has already entered a “dollar recession“.  According to HSBC, total global trade has fallen 8.4 percent so far this year, and global GDP expressed in U.S. dollars is down 3.4 percent.

If their figures are correct, a new global recession has definitely begun.

And without a doubt, we have already seen a tremendous amount of global financial turmoil.  This is something that I highlighted in my recent article entitled “27 Major Global Stocks Markets That Have Already Crashed By Double Digit Percentages In 2015“.  When Zero Hedge republished my article, several excellent charts were added that really illustrate how bad things have gotten, and I wanted to share a couple of them with you.  Of the 93 largest stock market indexes in the world, an astounding 47 of them (more than half) are down at least 10 percent year to date.  This first chart shows which ones fall into that category…

47 Out Of 93

Another chart that was added to the article by Zero Hedge shows how decoupled U.S. stocks have become from global stocks overall.  As you can see, U.S. stocks are not too far from recent highs at the moment, but global stocks overall are solidly in bear market territory…

US Stocks And World Stocks

Since mid-2015, trillions of dollars of stock market wealth has been wiped out globally.

Let that sink in for a moment.

The debate is over.  The “major financial collapse” that so many warned was imminent has actually happened.

It is just that U.S. stocks have not gotten the memo yet.  Up to this point they have defied gravity, but at some point U.S. stocks and world stocks will converge once again.

And if you want to see many of the reasons why U.S. stocks will soon take a big tumble, just check out this article.  There is no way that U.S. stocks will be able to defy the underlying economic fundamentals that are pummeling other global markets for much longer.  Just like in 2008, a global stock market slide that starts elsewhere will eventually hit the United States.  It is just a matter of time.

But once again, even though U.S. stocks are doing okay for the moment, that doesn’t negate the fact that more than half of all major global stock indexes are down by double digit percentages year to date.

We have not seen numbers like this since the great stock market crash of 2008, and it seems abundantly clear to me that the great financial shaking that so many warned was coming in 2015 is already happening.

And if JP Morgan and Citigroup are correct, what we have seen so far is just a preview of some very troubling times ahead.

10 Charts Which Show We Are Much Worse Off Than Just Before The Last Economic Crisis

10 Charts Economic CrisisIf you believe that ignorance is bliss, you might not want to read this article.  I am going to dispel the notion that there has been any sort of “economic recovery”, and I am going to show that we are much worse off than we were just prior to the last economic crisis.  If you go back to 2007, people were feeling really good about things.  Houses were being flipped like crazy, the stock market was booming and unemployment was relatively low.  But then the financial crisis of 2008 struck, and for a while it felt like the world was coming to an end.  Of course it didn’t come to an end – it was just the first wave of our problems.  The waves that come next are going to be the ones that really wipe us out.  Unfortunately, because we have experienced a few years of relative stability, many Americans have become convinced that Barack Obama, Janet Yellen and the rest of the folks in Washington D.C. have fixed whatever problems caused the last crisis.  Even though all of the numbers are screaming otherwise, there are millions upon millions of people out there that truly believe that everything is going to be okay somehow.  We never seem to learn from the past, and when this next economic downturn strikes it is going to do an astonishing amount of damage because we are already in a significantly weakened state from the last one.

For each of the charts that I am about to share with you, I want you to focus on the last shaded gray bar on each chart which represents the last recession.  As you will see, our economic problems are significantly worse than they were just before the financial crisis of 2008.  That means that we are far less equipped to handle a major economic crisis than we were the last time.

#1 The National Debt

Just prior to the last recession, the U.S. national debt was a bit above 9 trillion dollars.  Since that time, it has nearly doubled.  So does that make us better off or worse off?  The answer, of course, is obvious.  And even though Barack Obama promises that “deficits are under control”, more than a trillion dollars was added to the national debt in fiscal year 2014.  What we are doing to future generations by burdening them with so much debt is beyond criminal.  And so what does Barack Obama want to do now?  He wants to ramp up government spending and increase the debt even faster.  This is something that I covered in my previous article entitled “Barack Obama Says That What America Really Needs Is Lots More Debt“.

Presentation National Debt

#2 Total Debt

Over the past 40 years, the total amount of debt in the United States has skyrocketed to astronomical heights.  We have become a “buy now, pay later” society with devastating consequences.  Back in 1975, our total debt level was sitting at about 2.5 trillion dollars.  Just prior to the last recession, it was sitting at about 50 trillion dollars, and today we are rapidly closing in on 60 trillion dollars.

Presentation Credit Market Instruments

#3 The Velocity Of Money

When an economy is healthy, money tends to change hands and circulate through the system quite rapidly.  So it makes sense that the velocity of money fell dramatically during the last recession.  But why has it kept going down since then?

Presentation Velocity Of M2

#4 The Homeownership Rate

Were you aware that the rate of homeownership in the United States has fallen to a 20 year low?  Traditionally, owning a home has been a sign that you belong to the middle class.  And the last recession was really rough on the middle class, so it makes sense that the rate of homeownership declined during that time frame.  But why has it continued to steadily decline ever since?

Presentation Homeownership Rate

#5 The Employment Rate

Barack Obama loves to tell us how the unemployment rate is “going down”.  But as I will explain later in this article, this decline is primarily based on accounting tricks.  Posted below is a chart of the civilian employment-population ratio.  Just prior to the last recession, approximately 63 percent of the working age population of the United States was employed.  During the recession, this ratio fell to below 59 percent and it stayed there for several years.  Just recently it has peeked back above 59 percent, but we are still very, very far from where we used to be, and now the next economic downturn is rapidly approaching.

Presentation Employment Population Ratio

#6 The Labor Force Participation Rate

So how can Obama get away with saying that the unemployment rate has gone down dramatically?  Well, each month the government takes thousands upon thousands of long-term unemployed workers and decides that they have been unemployed for so long that they no longer qualify as “part of the labor force”.  As a result, the “labor force participation rate” has fallen substantially since the end of the last recession…

Presentation Labor Force Participation Rate

#7 The Inactivity Rate For Men In Their Prime Working Years

If things are “getting better”, then why are so many men in their prime working years doing nothing at all?  Just prior to the last recession, the inactivity rate for men in their prime working years was about 9 percent.  Today it is just about 12 percent.

Presentation Inactivity Rate

#8 Real Median Household Income

Not only is a smaller percentage of Americans employed today than compared to just prior to the last recession, the quality of our jobs has gone down as well.  This is one of the factors which has resulted in a stunning decline of real median household income.

Presentation Real Median Household Income

I have shared these next numbers before, but they bear repeating.  In America today, most Americans do not make enough to support a middle class lifestyle on a single salary.  The following figures come directly from the Social Security Administration

-39 percent of American workers make less than $20,000 a year.

-52 percent of American workers make less than $30,000 a year.

-63 percent of American workers make less than $40,000 a year.

-72 percent of American workers make less than $50,000 a year.

We all know people that are working part-time jobs because that is all that they can find in this economy.  As the quality of our jobs continues to deteriorate, the numbers above are going to become even more dismal.

#9 Inflation

Even as our incomes have stagnated, the cost of living just continues to rise steadily.  For example, the cost of food and beverages has gone up nearly 50 percent just since the year 2000.

Presentation Food Inflation

#10 Government Dependence

As the middle class shrinks and the number of Americans that cannot independently take care of themselves soars, dependence on the government is reaching unprecedented heights.  For instance, the federal government is now spending about twice as much on food stamps as it was just prior to the last recession.  How in the world can anyone dare to call this an “economic recovery”?

Presentation Government Spending On Food Stamps

So you tell me – are things “getting better” or are they getting worse?

To me, it is crystal clear that we are in much worse condition than we were just prior to the last economic crisis.

And now things are setting up in textbook fashion for the next great economic crisis.  Unfortunately, most Americans are totally clueless about what is going on and the vast majority are completely and totally unprepared for what is coming.

Or could it be possible that I am wrong?  Whether you agree or disagree with me, please feel free to add to the discussion by posting a comment below…

Inflation? Only If You Look At Food, Water, Gas, Electricity And Everything Else

Wheelbarrow of MoneyHave you noticed that prices are going up rapidly?  If so, you are certainly not alone.  But Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen, the Obama administration and the mainstream media would have us believe that inflation is completely under control and exactly where it should be.  Perhaps if the highly manipulated numbers that they quote us were real, everything would be fine.  But of course the way that the inflation rate is calculated has been changed more than 20 times since the 1970s, and at this point it bears so little relation to reality that it is essentially meaningless.  Anyone that has to regularly pay for food, water, gas, electricity or anything else knows that inflation is too high.  In fact, if inflation was calculated the same way that it was back in 1980, the inflation rate would be close to 10 percent right now.

But you would never know that listening to Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen.  In the video posted below, you can listen to her telling the media that there is absolutely nothing to be concerned about…

And it is really hard to get too upset with Janet Yellen.

After all, she reminds many people of a sweet little grandmother.

But the reality of the matter is that she is simply not telling us the truth.  Everywhere we look, prices are aggressively moving higher.

Just the other day, the Bureau of Labor Statistics announced that the price index for meat, poultry, fish, and eggs has just soared to a new all-time high.

This is something that I have repeatedly warned would happen.  Just check out this article and this article.

And it isn’t just meat prices that are going up.  One of the largest coffee producers in the entire world just announced that it is going to be raising coffee prices by 9 percent

It took the Fed long enough but finally even it succumbed to the reality of surging food prices when, as we reported previously, it hiked cafeteria prices at ground zero: the cafeteria of the Chicago Fed, stating that “prices continue to rise between 3% and 33%.” So with input costs rising across the board not just for the Fed, but certainly for food manufacturers everywhere, it was only a matter of time before the latter also threw in the towel and followed in the Fed’s footsteps. Which is what happened earlier today when J.M. Smucker Co. said it raised the prices on most of its coffee products by an average of 9% to reflect higher green-coffee costs.

Not that coffee isn’t expensive enough already.  It absolutely stuns me that some people are willing to pay 3 dollars for a cup of coffee.

I still remember the days when you could get a cup of coffee for 25 cents.

Also, I can’t get over how expensive groceries are becoming these days.  Earlier this month I took my wife over to the grocery store to do some shopping.  We are really ramping up our food storage this summer, and so we grabbed as much stuff on sale as we could find.  When we got our cart to the register, I was expecting the bill to be large, but I didn’t expect it to be over 300 dollars.

And remember, this was just for a single shopping cart and we had consciously tried to grab things that were significantly reduced from regular price.

I almost felt like asking the cashier which organ I should donate to pay the bill.

Sadly, this is just the beginning.  Food prices are eventually going to go much, much higher than this.

Also, you should get ready to pay substantially more for water as well.

According to CNBC, one recent report warned that “your water bill will likely increase” in the coming months…

U.S. water utilities face a critical economic squeeze, according to a new report—and that will likely mean higher prices at the water tap for consumers.

A survey by water-engineering firm Black & Veatch of 368 water utility companies across the country shows that 66 percent of them are not generating enough revenue to cover their costs.

To make up for the financial shortfall, prices for water are heading upward, said Michael Orth, one of the co-authors of the report and senior vice president at Black & Veatch.

“People will have to pay more for water to make up the falling revenues,” he said. “And that’s likely to be more than the rate of inflation.”

Of even greater concern is what is happening to gas prices.

According to Bloomberg, the price of gasoline hasn’t been this high at this time of the year for six years…

Gasoline in the U.S. climbed this week, boosted by a surge in oil, and is expected to reach the highest level for this time of year since 2008.

The pump price averaged $3.686 a gallon yesterday, up 1.2 cents from a week earlier, data posted on the Energy Information Administration’s website late yesterday show. Oil, which accounts for two-thirds of the retail price of gasoline, gained $2.49 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange in the same period and $4.88 in the month ended yesterday.

The jump in crude, driven by concern that the crisis in Iraq will disrupt supplies, may boost pump prices by 10 cents a gallon at a time when they normally drop, according to forecasts including one from the EIA.

And the conflicts in Iraq, Ukraine and elsewhere could potentially send gas prices screaming far higher.

In fact, T. Boone Pickens recently told CNBC that if Baghdad falls to ISIS that the price of a barrel of oil could potentially hit $200.

Of course the big oil companies are not exactly complaining about this.  This week energy stocks are hitting record highs, and further escalation of the conflict in Iraq will probably send them even higher.

Meanwhile, a “bipartisan Senate proposal” (that means both Democrats and Republicans) would raise the gas tax by 12 cents a gallon over the next two years.

Our politicians have such good timing, don’t they?

Ugh.

And our electricity rates are going up too.  The electricity price index just set a brand new record high and there are no signs of relief on the horizon…

The electricity price index and the average price for a kilowatthour (KWH) of electricity both hit records for May, according to data released today by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The average price for a KWH hit 13.6 cents during the month, up about 3.8 percent from 13.1 cents in May 2013.

The seasonally adjusted electricity price index rose from 201.431 in May 2013 to 208.655 in May 2014—an increase of about 3.6 percent.

If our paychecks were increasing at the same rate as inflation, perhaps most families would be able to weather all of this.

Unfortunately, that is not the case at all.

As I wrote about recently, median household income in the U.S. is now about 7 percent lower than it was in the year 2000 after adjusting for inflation.

And if realistic inflation numbers were used instead of the government-manipulated ones, it would look a lot worse than that.

Inflation is a hidden tax that all of us pay, and it is systematically eviscerating the middle class.

So what are prices like in your neck of the woods?

Is your family feeling the pain of inflation?

Please feel free to share your thoughts by posting a comment below…

The Federal Reserve Seems Quite Serious About Tapering – So What Comes Next?

DollarsWill this be the year when the Fed’s quantitative easing program finally ends?  For a long time, many analysts were proclaiming that the Fed would never taper.  But then it started happening.  Then a lot of them started talking about how “the untaper” was right around the corner.  That hasn’t happened either.  It looks like that under Janet Yellen the Fed is quite determined to bring the quantitative easing program to a close by the end of this year.  Up until now, the financial markets have been slow to react because there has been a belief that the Fed would reverse course on tapering the moment that the U.S. economy started to slow down again.  But even though the U.S. middle class is in horrible shape, and even though there are lots of signs that we are heading into another recession, the Fed has continued tapering.

Of course it is important to note that the Fed is still absolutely flooding the financial system with money even after the announcement of more tapering on Wednesday.  When you are talking about $55,000,000,000 a month, you are talking about a massive amount of money.  So the Fed is not exactly being hawkish.

But when Yellen told the press that quantitative easing could end completely this fall and that the Fed could actually start raising interest rates about six months after that, it really spooked the markets.

The Dow was down 114 points on Wednesday, and the yield on 10 year U.S. Treasuries shot up to 2.77%.  The following is how CNBC described the reaction of the markets on Wednesday…

Despite a seemingly dovish tone, markets recoiled at remarks from Yellen, who said interest rate increases likely would start six months after the monthly bond-buying program ends. If the program winds down in the fall, that would put a rate hike in the spring of 2015, earlier than market expectations for the second half of the year.

Stocks tumbled as Yellen spoke at her initial post-meeting news conference, with the Dow industrials at one point sliding more than 200 points before shaving those losses nearly in half. Short-term interest rates rose appreciably, with the five-year note moving up 0.135 percentage points. The seven-year note tumbled more than one point in price.

But this is just the beginning.  When it finally starts sinking in, and investors finally start realizing that the Fed is 100% serious about ending the flow of easy money, that is when things will start getting really interesting.

Can the financial markets stand on their own without massive Fed intervention?

We shall see.  Even now there are lots of signs that a market crash could be coming up in the not too distant future.  For much more on this, please see my previous article entitled “Is ‘Dr. Copper’ Foreshadowing A Stock Market Crash Just Like It Did In 2008?

And what is going to happen to the market for U.S. Treasuries once the Fed stops gobbling them up?

Where is the demand going to come from?

In recent months, foreign demand for U.S. debt has really started to dry up.  Considering recent developments in Ukraine, it is quite certain that Russia will not be accumulating any more U.S. debt, and China has announced that it is “no longer in China’s favor to accumulate foreign-exchange reserves” and China actually dumped about 50 billion dollars of U.S. debt during the month of December alone.

Collectively, Russia and China account for about a quarter of all foreign-owned U.S. debt.  If you take them out of the equation, foreign demand for U.S. debt is not nearly as strong.

Will domestic sources be enough to pick up the slack?  Or will we see rates really start to rise once the Fed steps to the sidelines?

And of course rates on U.S. government debt should actually be much higher than they are right now.  It simply does not make sense to loan the U.S. government massive amounts of money at interest rates that are far below the real rate of inflation.

If free market forces are allowed to prevail, it is inevitable that interest rates on U.S. debt will go up substantially, and that will mean higher interest rates on mortgages, cars, and just about everything else.

Of course the central planners at the Federal Reserve could choose to reverse course at any time and start pumping again.  This is the kind of thing that can happen when you don’t have a true free market system.

The truth is that the Federal Reserve is at the very heart of the economic and financial problems of this country.  When the Fed intervenes and purposely distorts the operation of free markets, the Fed creates economic and financial bubbles which inevitably burst later on.  We saw this happen during the great financial crisis of 2008, and now it is happening again.

This is what happens when you allow an unelected, unaccountable group of central planners to have far more power over our economy than anyone else in our society does.

Most people don’t realize this, but the greatest period of economic growth in all of U.S. history was when there was no central bank.

We don’t need a Federal Reserve.  In fact, the performance of the Federal Reserve has been absolutely disastrous.

Since the Fed was created just over 100 years ago, the U.S. dollar has lost more than 96 percent of its value, and the size of the U.S. national debt has gotten more than 5000 times larger.  The Fed is at the very center of a debt-based financial system that has trapped us, our children and our grandchildren in an endless spiral of debt slavery.

And now we are on the verge of the greatest financial crisis that the United States has ever seen.  The economic and financial storm that is about to unfold is ultimately going to be even worse than the Great Depression of the 1930s.

Things did not have to turn out this way.

Congress could have shut down the Federal Reserve long ago.

But our “leaders” never seriously considered doing such a thing, and the mainstream media kept telling all of us how much we desperately needed central planners to run our financial system.

Well, now those central planners have brought us to the brink of utter ruin, and yet only a small minority of Americans are calling for change.

Soon, we will all get to pay a great price for this foolishness.  A great financial storm is fast approaching, and it is going to be exceedingly painful.

No Janet Yellen, The Economy Is NOT “Getting Better”

Janet YellenOn Tuesday, new Federal Reserve Chairman Janet Yellen went before Congress and confidently declared that “the economic recovery gained greater traction in the second half of last year” and that “substantial progress has been made in restoring the economy to health”.  This resulted in glowing headlines throughout the mainstream media such as this one from USA Today: “Yellen: Economy is improving at moderate pace“.  Sadly, tens of millions of Americans are going to believe what the mainstream media is telling them.  But it isn’t the truth.  As you will see below, there are all sorts of signs that the economy is taking a turn for the worse.  And when the next great economic crisis does strike, most Americans will be completely and totally unprepared because they trusted our “leaders” when they told us that everything would be just fine.

It is amazing how deceived people can be.  Just consider the case of 56-year-old Brian Perry.  He is a former law clerk that has applied for nearly 1,500 jobs since 2008 without any success.  But he says that he is “optimistic” that he will get another job soon because he believes that the economy is recovering

By his own count, Brian Perry has applied for nearly 1,500 jobs since being let go as a law clerk in 2008. The 56-year old Perry lives in Rhode Island, where the 9.1 percent unemployment rate is 2.5 percentage points above the national average.

Perry remains optimistic that a job is forthcoming. He thinks a more robust economy would create better opportunities for the long-term unemployed like him.

Let us certainly hope that Perry does find a new job soon.  But if he does, it won’t be because we are experiencing an “economic recovery”.  Just consider the following facts…

-In January, we were told that the U.S. economy “created” 113,000 new jobs.  But that figure was arrived at only after adding a massive seasonal adjustment.  In reality, the U.S. economy actually lost 2.87 million jobs in January.  During the past decade, the only time the U.S. economy has lost more jobs in January was during 2009.  At that time, the U.S. economy was suffering through the peak of the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.

-Prominent retailers are closing hundreds of stores all over the United States.  Things have gotten so bad that some are calling this a “retail apocalypse“…

  • JC Penney, which lost $586 million in three months in 2013, is planning to close 33 stores in 19 states and lay off 2,000 people. JC Penney’s stock has lost 84 percent of its value since February 2012.
  • Sears has decided to shut down its flagship store in Downtown Chicago, and it has closed 300 stores in the United States since 2010. Stock analyst Brian Sozzi noted that Sear’s inventory levels have fallen by 23.7 percent since 2006. He also noted that Sears had $4.4 billion in cash and equivalents in 2005 but $609 million in cash and equivalents in 2012. Sozzi, who calls himself a guerrilla analyst, has a blog full of disturbing pictures of empty Sears stores.
  • Macy’s, one of the few retail success stories, is planning to close five stores and eliminate 2,500 jobs.
  • Radio Shack is preparing to close 500 stores, according to The Wall Street Journal.
  • Best Buy recently closed 50 stores and eliminated 950 jobs at stores in Canada.
  • Target announced plans to eliminate 475 jobs and not fill 700 empty positions to reduce costs.
  • Aeropostale is planning to close 175 stores.
  • Blockbuster has closed down all of its stores.

-McDonald’s is reporting that sales at established U.S. locations were down 3.3 percent in January.

-In January, real disposable income in the U.S. experienced the largest year over year decline that we have seen since 1974.

-As I wrote about the other day, the number of “planned job cuts” in January was 12 percent higher than 12 months earlier, and it was actually 47 percent higher than in December.

-Only 35 percent of all Americans say that they are better off financially than they were a year ago.

-What is happening to the U.S. stock market right now very closely resembles what happened to the U.S. stock market just before the horrific stock market crash of 1929.  Just check out the chart in this article.

For dozens more statistics that show that the U.S. economy is not improving, please see this article and this article.

Meanwhile, things continue to unravel all around the rest of the globe as well.

In previous articles, I have detailed how the reckless money printing by the Federal Reserve has inflated massive financial bubbles in emerging markets all over the planet.  Now that the Fed is “tapering”, those bubbles are starting to burst and we are witnessing a tremendous amount of economic chaos.  Here are three more examples…

#1 Ghana:

Ghanaian Economist Dr. Theo Richardson says Ghana’s economy will crash by June this year if the Bank of Ghana continues with its kneejerk measures to rescue the cedi.

“The government is facing liquidity problems and if we don’t get the appropriate remedies to address the issues at hand the situation may worsen and by June the economy may crash,” Dr. Richardson said.

#2 Kazakhstan:

With only $24.5 billion left in FX reserves after valiantly defending major capital outflows since the Fed’s Taper announcement, the Kazakhstan central bank has devalued the currency (Tenge) by 19% – its largest adjustment since 2009. At 185 KZT to the USD, this is the weakest the currency has ever been as the central bank cites weakness in the Russian Ruble and “speculation” against its currency as drivers of the outflows (which will be “exhausted” by this devaluation according to the bank). The new level will improve the country’s competitiveness (they are potassium heavy) but one wonders whether, unless Yellen folds whether it will help the outflows at all.

#3 India:

In the wake of a global stock market sell-off driven by worries over slower growth in emerging markets, the head of India’s central bank, Raghuram Rajan, criticized the U.S. Federal Reserve as it pressed on with plans to dial back its monthly bond purchases: “International monetary co-operation has broken down,” said Rajan, who added that “the U.S. should worry about the effects of its polices on the rest of the world.”

We have reached a “turning point” for the global financial system.  Things are beginning to fall apart both in the United States and all around the world.

But at least the dogs at the White House are eating well.  Just consider the following photo that was recently tweeted by Michelle Obama

Dogs In The White House

The Federal Reserve Is Monetizing A Staggering Amount Of U.S. Government Debt

Federal Reserve Balance SheetThe Federal Reserve is creating hundreds of billions of dollars out of thin air and using that money to buy U.S. government debt and mortgage-backed securities and take them out of circulation.  Since the middle of 2008, these purchases have caused the Fed’s balance sheet to balloon from under a trillion dollars to nearly four trillion dollars.  This represents the greatest central bank intervention in the history of the planet, and Janet Yellen says that she does not anticipate that it will end any time soon because “the recovery is still fragile”.  Of course, as I showed the other day, the truth is that quantitative easing has done essentially nothing for the average person on the street.  But what QE has done is that it has sent stocks soaring to record highs.  Unfortunately, this stock market bubble is completely and totally divorced from economic reality, and when the easy money is taken away the bubble will collapse.  Just look at what happened a few months ago when Ben Bernanke suggested that the Fed may begin to “taper” the amount of quantitative easing that it was doing.  The mere suggestion that the flow of easy money would start to slow down a little bit was enough to send the market into deep convulsions.  This is why the Federal Reserve cannot stop monetizing debt.  The moment the Fed stops, it could throw our financial markets into a crisis even worse than what we saw back in 2008.

The problems that plagued our financial system back in 2008 have never been fixed.  They have just been papered over temporarily by trillions of easy dollars from the Federal Reserve.  All of this easy money is keeping stocks artificially high and interest rates artificially low.

Right now, the Federal Reserve is buying approximately 85 billion dollars worth of U.S. government debt and mortgage-backed securities each month.  We are told that the portion going to buy U.S. government debt each month is approximately 45 billion dollars, but who knows what the Fed is actually doing behind the scenes.  In any event, by creating money out of thin air and using it to remove U.S. Treasury securities out of circulation, the Federal Reserve is essentially monetizing U.S. government debt at a staggering rate.

But Federal Reserve officials continue to repeatedly deny that what they are doing is monetizing debt.   For instance, Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta President Dennis Lockhart strongly denied this back in April: “I object to the view that the Fed is monetizing the debt”.

How in the world can Fed officials possibly deny that they are monetizing the debt?

Well, because the Fed is promising that it is going to eventually sell back all of the securities that it is currently buying.

Since the Fed does not plan to keep all of this government debt on its balance sheet indefinitely, that means that they are not actually monetizing it according to their twisted logic.

Try not to laugh.

And of course that will never, ever happen.  There is no possible way that the Fed will ever be able to stop recklessly creating money and then turn around and sell off 3 trillion dollars worth of government debt and mortgage-backed securities that it has accumulated since 2008.  Just look at the chart posted below.  Does this look like something that the Federal Reserve will ever be able to “unwind”?…

Federal Reserve Balance Sheet

Remember, just the suggestion that the Fed would begin to slow down the pace of this buying spree a little bit was enough to send the financial markets into panic mode a few months ago.

If the Fed does decide to permanently stop quantitative easing at some point, stocks will drop dramatically and interest rates will skyrocket because there will be a lot less demand for U.S. Treasuries.  In fact, interest rates have already risen substantially over the past few months even though quantitative easing is still running.

Right now, the Fed is supplying a tremendous amount of the demand for U.S. debt securities in the marketplace.  According to Zero Hedge, Drew Brick of RBS recently made the following statement about the staggering amount of government debt that is currently being monetized by the Fed…

“On a rolling six-month average, in fact, the Fed is now responsible for monetizing a record 70% of all net supply measured in 10y equivalents. This represents a reliance on the Fed that is greater than ever before in history!

Overall, the Federal Reserve now holds 32.47 percent of all 10 year equivalents, and that percentage is rising by about 0.3 percent each week.

If the Federal Reserve does not keep doing this, the financial markets are going to crash because they are being propped up artificially by all of this funny money.

But if the Federal Reserve keeps doing this, it is going to become increasingly obvious to the rest of the world that the Fed is simply monetizing debt and is starting to behave like the Weimar Republic.

The remainder of the planet is watching what the Federal Reserve is doing very carefully, and they are starting to ask themselves some very hard questions.

Why should they continue to use our dollars to trade with one another when the Fed is wildly creating money out of thin air and rapidly devaluing the existing dollars that they are holding?

And why should they continue to lend us trillions of dollars at ultra-low interest rates that are way below the real rate of inflation when the U.S. government is already drowning in debt and the money that will be used to pay those debts back will be steadily losing value with each passing day?

The Federal Reserve is in very dangerous territory.  If the Fed wants the current system to continue, it is going to have to stop this reckless money printing at some point or else the rest of the world will eventually decide to stop participating in it.

If the Fed wants to go ahead and make quantitative easing a permanent part of our system, then eventually it will need to go all the way and start monetizing all of our debt.

Right now, the Fed is stuck in the middle of a “no man’s land” where it is monetizing a significant amount of U.S. government debt but it is trying to sell everyone else on the idea that it is not really monetizing debt.  This is a state of affairs that cannot go on indefinitely.

At some point, the Fed is going to have to make a decision.  And for now the Fed seems to be married to the idea that eventually things will get back to “normal” and they will stop monetizing debt.

Even Janet Yellen is admitting that quantitative easing “cannot continue forever”.

However, she also said on Thursday that it is important not to end quantitative easing too rapidly, “especially when the recovery is still fragile“.

Well, at this point quantitative easing has been going on in one form or another for about five years now.

Will it ever end?

And when it does, how bad will the financial crash be?

Meanwhile, with each passing day the faith that the rest of the world has in our dollar and in our financial system continues to erode.

If the Fed continues to behave this recklessly, it is inevitable that the rest of the globe will begin to move even more rapidly away from the U.S. dollar and will become much more hesitant to lend us money.

Ultimately, the Federal Reserve is faced with only bad choices.  The status quo is not sustainable, ending quantitative easing will cause the financial markets to crash, and going “all the way” with quantitative easing will just turn us into the Weimar Republic.

But anyone with half a brain should have been able to see that this debt-based financial system that the Federal Reserve is at the heart of was going to end tragically anyway.  The 100 year anniversary of the Federal Reserve is coming up, and the truth is that it should have been abolished long ago.

The consequences of decades of very foolish decisions are catching up with us, and this is all going to end very, very badly.

I hope that you are getting ready.

Janet Yellen: What A Horrifying Choice For Fed Chairman She Would Be

Janet YellenAre you ready for Janet Yellen?  Wall Street wants her, the mainstream media wants her and it appears that her confirmation would be a slam dunk.  She would be the first woman ever to chair the Federal Reserve, and her philosophy is that a little bit of inflation is actually good for an economy.  She was reportedly the architect for many of the unprecedented monetary decisions that Ben Bernanke made during his tenure, and that has many on Wall Street and in the media very excited.  Noting that we “already know that Yellen is on board with Bernanke’s easy money policies”, CNN recently even went so far as to publish a rabidly pro-Yellen article with this stunning headline: “Dear Mr. President: Name Yellen now!”  But after watching what a disaster Bernanke has been, do we really want more of the same?  It doesn’t really matter whether she is a woman, a man, a giant lizard or a robot, the question is whether or not she is going to continue to take us down the path to ruin that Bernanke has taken us.  As I have written about so many times, the Federal Reserve is at the very heart of our economic problems, and under Bernanke the Fed has created a mammoth financial bubble unlike anything that we have ever seen before.  If Yellen keeps us going down that road, financial disaster is inevitable.

Sadly, Yellen is not a woman that believes in free markets.  She had the following to say back in 1999

“Will capitalist economies operate at full employment in the absence of routine intervention? Certainly not.”

Yellen believes that without the “routine intervention” of the central planners at the Fed, our economy will not produce satisfactory results.

So if you thought that Bernanke was an “interventionist”, you haven’t seen anything yet.  In fact, according to Time Magazine, Yellen was continually urging Bernanke to do even more “to help stimulate the economy”…

But as the most recent financial crisis proved, a good Fed chief needs to be willing to think outside the box to achieve its goals of low, steady inflation and full employment. This is exactly what Bernanke did — using the powers of his office to launch a massive bond-buying program aimed at lowering interest rates further down the yield curve and promising to keep short-term interest rates at near zero for years. Bernanke, however, didn’t launch these programs immediately. Behind the scenes, it was reportedly Yellen who was the most forceful advocate for the Fed doing more to help stimulate the economy.

It is truly frightening to think that Yellen might turn out to be “Bernanke on steroids”.

Let’s hope that she is not the choice.

But the media is endlessly hyping her.  They keep proclaiming that she has a “good track record” when it comes to forecasting future economic conditions.

Oh really?

Back in February 2007, before the housing crash and the last financial crisis, she made the following statement…

“The bottom line for housing is that the concerns we used to hear about the possibility of a devastating collapse—one that might be big enough to cause a recession in the U.S. economy—while not fully allayed have diminished. Moreover, while the future for housing activity remains uncertain, I think there is a reasonable chance that housing is in the process of stabilizing, which would mean that it would put a considerably smaller drag on the economy going forward.”

And during a speech in December 2007 she offered up this gem…

“To sum up the story on the outlook for real GDP growth, my own view is that, under appropriate monetary policy, the economy is still likely to achieve a relatively smooth adjustment path, with real GDP growth gradually returning to its roughly 2½ percent trend over the next year or so, and the unemployment rate rising only very gradually to just above its 4¾ percent sustainable level.”

And in front of the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission in 2010 she openly admitted that she did not see the last financial crisis coming…

“For my own part,” Ms. Yellen said, “I did not see and did not appreciate what the risks were with securitization, the credit ratings agencies, the shadow banking system, the S.I.V.’s — I didn’t see any of that coming until it happened.”

So if she didn’t see the last crisis coming, will she see the next one coming?

Right now, she insists that everything is going to be just fine in our immediate future.

Do you believe her?

Meanwhile, economic warning flags are popping up all over the place.  As Zero Hedge recently noted, perhaps this is why a lot of high profile candidates don’t want the Fed job.  Perhaps they don’t want to be blamed for the giant economic mess that is about to happen…

With so many candidates dropping out of the race, one has to wonder why the attraction of the ‘most-powerful’ job in the world is fading. Perhaps it is not wanting to stuck between the rock of the ‘broken-market-diminishing-returns’ of moar QE and the hard place of an economy/market that is sputtering and needs moar. As Bloomberg’s Rich Yamarone notes, There’s a little known rule of thumb in the economics world: when the annual growth rate of key U.S. indicators falls below 2 percent, the economy slides into recession in the next 12 months… and more than one of them is flashing red.

But we have far bigger worries on our hands than just another recession.

Over the past several years, Fed intervention has been systematically destroying confidence in the U.S. dollar and has been making U.S. government debt less desirable.  Foreigners are already starting to dump U.S. debt, and it is only a matter of time before the U.S. dollar loses its status as the de facto reserve currency of the world.

By “kicking the can down the road”, the Fed has created tremendous structural problems which are going to come back to bite us big time in the long run.

Recklessly printing money, monetizing debt and driving interest rates down to ridiculously low levels may have had some benefits in the short-term, but in the end this giant Ponzi scheme is going to collapse in spectacular fashion.  The following is how James Howard Kunstler puts it…

The Fed can only pretend to try to get out of this self-created hell-hole. The stock market is a proxy for the economy and a handful of giant banks are proxies for the American public, and all they’ve really got going is a hideous high-frequency churn of trades in conjectural debentures that pretend to represent something hidden in the caboose of a choo-choo train of wished-for value — and hardly anyone in the nation, including those with multiple graduate degrees in abstruse crypto-sciences, can even pretend to understand it all.

When reality crosses the finish line ahead of poor, exhausted Mr. Bernanke, havoc must ensue. All the artificial props fall away and the so-called American economy is revealed for what it is: a surreal landscape of ruin with nothing left but salvage value. Very few people will get a living off of the salvage operations, and there will be fights and skirmishes everywhere by one gang or another for control of the pickings. The utility of money itself may be bygone, along with the legitimacy of anyone or anything claiming institutional authority. This is what comes of all attempts to get something for nothing.

The American people deserve to know the truth.

The Fed is not our “savior”.  The truth is that the Fed is the primary cause of many of our biggest economic problems.  For much more on this, please see my previous article entitled “25 Fast Facts About The Federal Reserve – Please Share With Everyone You Know“.

Unfortunately, Wall Street and the mainstream media love the Fed and they appear to very much love Janet Yellen.

Yellen would be an absolutely horrifying choice for Fed Chairman, but so would any of the other names that have been floated.

America has embraced the foolishness of the financial central planners at the Federal Reserve, and in the end we will all pay a great price for that.

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