2015 Was The Worst Year For The Stock Market Since 2008

New Year's Eve - Public DomainIt’s official – 2015 was a horrible year for stocks.  On the last day of the year, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down another 178 points, and overall it was the worst year for the Dow since 2008.  But of course the Dow was far from alone.  The S&P 500, the Russell 2000 and Dow Transports also all had their worst years since 2008.  Isn’t it funny how these things seem to happen every seven years?  But compared to other investments, stocks had a relatively “good” year.  In 2015, junk bonds, oil and industrial commodities all crashed hard – just like they all did just prior to the great stock market crash of 2008.  According to CNN, almost 70 percent of all investors lost money in 2015, and things are unfolding in textbook fashion for much more financial chaos in 2016.

Globally, over the past 12 months we have seen financial shaking unlike anything that we have experienced since the last great financial crisis.  During the month of August markets all over the world started to go haywire, and at one point approximately 11 trillion dollars of financial wealth had been wiped out globally according to author Jonathan Cahn.

Since that time, U.S. stocks rebounded quite a bit, but they still ended red for the year.  Other global markets were not nearly as fortunate.  Some major indexes finished 2015 down 20 percent or more, and European stocks just had their second worst December ever.

I honestly don’t understand the “nothing is happening” crowd.  The numbers clearly tell us that a global financial crisis began in 2015, and it threatens to accelerate greatly as we head into 2016.

Actually, there are a whole lot of people out there that would be truly thankful if “nothing” had happened over the past 12 months.  For example, there are five very unfortunate corporate CEOs that collectively lost 20 billion dollars in 2015…

Five CEOs of companies in the Russell 1000 index, including Nicholas Woodman of camera maker GoPro (GPRO), Sheldon Adelson of casino operator Las Vegas Sands (LVS) and even the famed investor Warren Buffett of Berkshire Hathaway (BRKA), lost more money on their companies’ shares than any other CEOs this year, according to a USA TODAY analysis of data from S&P Capital IQ.

These five CEOs were handed a whopping collective $20 billion loss on their company stock in 2015. Each and every one of these CEOs lost $1 billion or more – based on the average number of shares they’ve owned this year.

The biggest loser of the group was Warren Buffett.

He lost an astounding 7.8 billion dollars in 2015.

Do you think that he believes that “nothing happened” this past year?

And if “nothing happened”, then why are hedge funds “dropping like flies” right now?  The following comes from Zero Hedge

Two days, ago we noted that hedge funds are now dropping like flies in a year in which generating alpha has become virtually impossible for the majority of the vastly overpaid 2 and 20 “smart money” out there (and where levered beta is no longer the “sure thing” it used to be when the Fed was pumping trillions into stocks) when we reported that Seneca Capital, the $500 million multi-strat hedge fund belonging to Doug Hirsh (of Sohn Investment Conference fame), is shutting down.

And just within the last 24 hours, another very prominent hedge fund has collapsed.  SAB Capital, which once managed more than a billion dollars, is shutting down after huge losses this year.  Here is more from Zero Hedge

It turns out that despite our intention, the question was not rhetorical because just a few hours later Bloomberg answered when it reported that the latest hedge fund shutdown casualty was another iconic, long-term investor: Scott Bommer’s SAB Capital, which as of a year ago managed $1.1 billion, and which after 17 years of managing money and after dropping roughly 11% in the first eight month of 2015, has decided to return all outside client money, and converting the hedge fund into a family office (after all one has to preserve one’s offshore tax benefits).

Overall, 674 hedge funds shut down during the first nine months of this year, and the final number for 2015 will actually be far higher because the rate of closings has accelerated as we have approached the end of this calendar year.  When the final numbers come in, I would not be surprised to hear that 1,000 hedge funds had closed up shop in 2015.

Meanwhile, underlying economic conditions continue to deteriorate.

Corporate profits are steadily falling, the bond distress ratio just hit the highest level that we have seen since September 2009, and corporate debt defaults have risen to the highest level that we have seen since the last recession.

And this week we got a couple of new numbers that indicate that the U.S. economy is slowing down much faster than anticipated.

The first big surprise was the Dallas Fed’s general business activity index

The Dallas Fed’s general business activity index plunged to -20.1 in December from -4.9 in November. This was much worse than the -7.0 expected by economists.

Any reading below 0 signals contraction, and this index has been below 0 all year.

The next big surprise was the Chicago purchasing manager index

The Chicago purchasing manager index unexpectedly plunged to 42.9 in December, its lowest reading since July 2009.

Any reading below 50 signals a contraction in business activity.

This was down from 48.7 in November and much worse than the 50.0 expected by economists.

When the final numbers for the fourth quarter are in a few months from now, I believe that they will show that the U.S. economy officially entered recession territory at this time.

And the truth is that deep recessions have already started for some of the other biggest economies on the planet.  For example, I recently wrote about the deep troubles that Canada is now experiencing, and things have already gotten so bad in Brazil that Goldman Sachs is referring to that crisis as “an outright depression“.

Many people seem to assume that since I have a website called “The Economic Collapse Blog” that I must want everything to fall apart.  But that is not true at all.  I love my country, I enjoy my life, and I would be perfectly content to spend 2016 peacefully passing the time here in the mountains with my wonderful wife.  The longer things can stay somewhat “normal”, the better it is for all of us.

Unfortunately, for decades we have been making incredibly foolish decisions as a society, and the consequences of those decisions are now catching up with us in a major way.

Jonathan Cahn likes to say that “a great shaking is coming”, and I very much agree with him.

In fact, I think that it is going to be here a lot sooner than most people think.

So buckle up, because I believe that 2016 is going to be quite a wild ride.

This Is What A Financial Crisis Looks Like

Financial Crisis 2015 - Public DomainJust within the past few days, three major high yield funds have completely imploded, and panic is spreading rapidly on Wall Street.  Funds run by Third Avenue Management and Stone Lion Capital Partners have suspended payments to investors, and a fund run by Lucidus Capital Partners has liquidated its entire portfolio.  We are witnessing a race for the exits unlike anything that we have seen since the great financial crash of 2008, and many of those that choose to hesitate are going to end up getting totally wiped out.  In case you are wondering, this is what a financial crisis looks like.  In 2008, other global stock markets started to tumble, then junk bonds began to crash, and finally U.S. stocks followed.  The exact same pattern is playing out again, and the carnage that we have seen so far is just the tip of the iceberg.

Since the end of 2009, a high yield bond ETF that I watch very closely known as JNK has been trading in a range between 36 and 42.  I have been waiting all this time for it to dip below 35, because I knew that would be a sign that the next major financial crisis was imminent.

In September, it closed as low as 35.33 at one point, but that was not the signal that I was looking for.  Finally, early last week JNK broke below 35 for the very first time since the last financial crisis, and since then it has just kept on falling.  As I write this, JNK has plummeted all the way to 33.42, and Bloomberg is reporting that many bond managers “are predicting more carnage for high-yield investors”…

Top bond managers are predicting more carnage for high-yield investors amid a market rout that forced at least three credit funds in the past week to wind down.

Lucidus Capital Partners, a high-yield fund founded in 2009 by former employees of Bruce Kovner’s Caxton Associates, said Monday it has liquidated its entire portfolio and plans to return the $900 million it has under management to investors next month. Funds run by Third Avenue Management and Stone Lion Capital Partners have stopped returning cash to investors, after clients sought to pull too much money.

When it says that those firms “have stopped returning cash to investors”, what that means is that many of those investors will be lucky to get pennies on the dollar when it is all said and done.

Like I said, now that the crisis has started, the ones that are going to lose the most are those that hesitate.

And just check out some of the very big names that are “warning of more high-yield trouble ahead”

Scott Minerd, global chief investment officer at Guggenheim Partners, predicts 10 percent to 15 percent of junk bond funds may face high withdrawals as more investors worry about getting their money back. He joins money managers Jeffrey GundlachCarl Icahn, Bill Gross and Wilbur Ross in warning of more high-yield trouble ahead.

In this type of environment, the Federal Reserve would have to be completely insane to raise interest rates.

Unfortunately, that appears to be exactly what is going to happen.

If the Fed raises rates, that is going to make corporate debt defaults even more likely and will almost certainly drive high-yield bonds down even further…

Higher rates could make corporate bond defaults more likely and investors are already bailing out of the sector, pulling $3.8 billion out of high-yield funds in the week ended December 9, the biggest move in 15 weeks. The effective yield on U.S. junk bonds is now 17 percent, the highest level in five years, according to Bank of America Merrill Lynch data.

A whole host of prominent names are warning that the Fed is about to make a tragic mistake.  One of them is James Rickards

“The Fed should have raised interest rates in 2010 and 2011 and if they did that they would actually be in a position to cut them today,” said James Rickards, a central bank critic and chief global strategist at West Shore Funds. “The Fed is on the brink of committing a historic blunder that may rank with the mistakes it made in 1927 and 1929. By raising into weakness, they will likely cause a recession.”

In 2015, we have already seen stocks crash all over the globe.  Coming into December, more than half of the 93 largest stock market indexes in the world were down more than 10 percent year to date, and some of them were down by as much as 30 or 40 percent.  At this point, conditions are absolutely perfect for a frightening collapse of U.S. markets, and the Federal Reserve is about to pour gasoline on to the fire.

Anyone that says that “nothing is happening” is either completely misinformed or is totally crazy.

I like how James Howard Kunstler summarized what we are currently facing…

Equities barfed nearly four percent just last week, credit is crumbling (nobody wants to lend), junk bonds are tanking (as defaults loom), currencies all around the world are crashing, hedge funds can’t give investors their money back, “liquidity” is AWOL (no buyers for janky securities), commodities are in freefall, oil is going so deep into the sub-basement of value that the industry may never recover, international trade is evaporating, the president is doing everything possible in Syria to start World War Three, and the monster called globalism is lying in its coffin with a stake pointed over its heart.

The financial markets held together far longer than many people thought that they would, but now they are finally coming apart at the seams.

Moving forward, the “winners” are going to be the people that pull their money out the fastest.  This is especially true for high risk funds like the three that just imploded.  If you hesitate, you could end up losing everything.

And as this rush for the exits accelerates, sellers are going to greatly outnumber buyers, and this is going to push prices down at a very rapid pace.  We are going to hear a lot about a “lack of liquidity” in the days ahead, but the truth is that what we will really be looking at is a good old-fashioned panic.

Guess What Happened The Last Time Junk Bonds Started Crashing Like This? Hint: Think 2008

Thumbs Down - Public Domain
The extreme carnage that we are witnessing in the junk bond market right now is one of the clearest signals yet that a major U.S. stock market crash is imminent.  For those that are not familiar with “junk bonds”, please don’t get put off by the name.  They aren’t really “junk”.  They simply have a higher risk and thus a higher return than other bonds of the same type.  And yesterday, I explained why I watch them so closely.  If stocks are going to crash, you would expect to see a junk bond crash first.  This happened in 2008, and it is happening again right now.  On Monday, a high yield bond ETF known as JNK crashed through the psychologically important 35.00 barrier for the very first time since the last financial crisis.  On Tuesday, high yield bonds had their worst day in three months, and JNK plummeted all the way down to 34.44.  When I saw this I was absolutely stunned.  This is precisely the kind of junk bond crash that I have been anticipating that we would soon witness.

Normally, stocks and junk bonds track one another very closely, but just like before the 2008 crash, they have become decoupled in recent months.  Anyone that even has an elementary understanding of the financial world knows that this cannot continue indefinitely.  And when they start converging once again, the movement could be quite violent.

When I chose to use the word “carnage” to open this article, I was not exaggerating what is going on in the junk bond market one bit.  On Tuesday evening, Jeffrey Gundlach used the exact same word to describe what is happening…

Jeffrey Gundlach, the widely followed investor who runs DoubleLine Capital, said on a webcast on Tuesday that the junk bond market has come under severe selling pressure ahead of the Federal Reserve’s policy meeting next week.

We are looking at real carnage in the junk bond market,” Gundlach said. Gundlach also said it was too early to buy high-yield junk bonds and energy debt securities. “I don’t like things when they go down every single day.”

Sometimes a chart can be extremely helpful in understanding what is going on.  The following chart was posted by Zero Hedge on Tuesday, and it shows that yields on the riskiest junk bonds are heading into the stratosphere…

High Yield Debt - from Zero Hedge

And for those that are not familiar, it is important to note that when yields go up, bond prices go down.  So the chart above is what a “crash” looks like.

Another “leading indicator” that I watch is the behavior of Dow Transports.

Dow Transports started crashing before the Dow Jones Industrial Average did back in August, and now it is happening again

Dow Transports are in reverse. Down over 3% today, the biggest drop since the Black Monday collapse, Trannies are now below the lows of the Bullard bounce from October 2014 and down a shocking 16% in 2015. This would be the first four-quarters-in-a-row drop in Transports since 1994 and the worst year since 2008…

In addition, we are also seeing trouble signs erupt at major financial institutions just like we did during the run up to the 2008 crash.  For example, I have been concerned about Morgan Stanley for quite a while, and on Tuesday we learned that they have just laid off more than a thousand workers

Struggling Morgan Stanley slashed 1,200 jobs around the world in recent days, a person familiar with the matter told CNNMoney.

The cuts were broad-based and eliminated 25% of the positions within the fixed income and commodities businesses, the person said. Those divisions are grappling with tumbling trading revenue and shrinking fees.

Morgan Stanley also eliminated about 730 back-office jobs like human-resources and IT positions.

Virtually all of the things that we would expect to see just prior to a 2008-style stock market crash are happening right now.

If just two or three leading indicators were flashing red, we could have a really good debate about what they might mean.

But the fact that virtually all of the numbers are screaming a warning at us should mean that the debate is over.  Anyone with an open mind should be able to very clearly see what is coming next.

Very quickly, let me give you just 10 signs that indicate that we are right on the precipice of a major recession and a very substantial financial downturn…

1. Global GDP growth has gone negative for the first time since 2009.

2. Corporate earnings growth has turned negative.

3. S&P 500 net profit margins are steeply declining.  According to Tony Sagami, “since 1973, there has been only one 60 bps decline in S&P 500 net profit margin that didn’t lead to a recession.”

4. In October, U.S. imports of goods declined by 6.6 percent on a year over year basis.

5. In October, U.S. exports of goods declined by 10.4 percent on a year over year basis.

6. U.S. manufacturing is contracting at the fastest pace that we have seen since the last recession.

7. Corporate debt defaults have risen to the highest level that we have seen since the last recession.

8. Credit card numbers that were recently released show that holiday sales have gone negative for the first time since the last recession.

9. The velocity of money in the United States has dropped to the lowest level ever recorded.

10. Of the 93 largest stock market indexes in the entire world, 47 of them (slightly more than half) have already plunged at least 10 percent year to date.

Just like in 2008, other global financial markets are imploding ahead of a U.S. collapse.

On Tuesday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down another 162 points, but we are still within 1000 points of the market peak that was set earlier this year.  We are still in far better shape than most of the rest of the world, but that will soon change.

I can’t think of a single leading indicator that is telling us that everything is going to be okay.  All of the numbers are pointing to major trouble ahead.  So I hope that you are being smart and doing what you can to get prepared while there is still time.

4 Harbingers Of Stock Market Doom That Foreshadowed The 2008 Crash Are Flashing Red Again

Hourglass - Public DomainSo many of the exact same patterns that we witnessed just before the stock market crash of 2008 are playing out once again right before our eyes.  Most of the time, a stock market crash doesn’t just come out of nowhere.  Normally there are specific leading indicators that we can look for that will tell us if major trouble is on the horizon.  One of these leading indicators is the junk bond market.  Right now, a closely watched high yield bond ETF known as JNK is sitting at 35.77.  If it falls below 35, that will be a major red flag, and it will be the first time that it has done so since 2009.  As you can see from this chart, JNK started crashing in June and July of 2008 – well before equities started crashing later that year.  A crash in junk bonds almost always precedes a major crash in stocks, and so this is something that I am watching carefully.

And there is a reason why junk bonds are crashing.  In 2015 we have seen the most corporate bond downgrades since the last financial crisis, and corporate debt defaults are absolutely skyrocketing.  The following comes from a recent piece by Porter Stansberry

So far this year, nearly 300 U.S. corporations have seen their bonds downgraded. That’s the most downgrades per year since the financial crisis of 2008-2009. The year isn’t over yet. Neither are the downgrades. More worrisome, the 12-month default rate on high-yield corporate debt has doubled this year. This suggests we are well into the next major debt-default cycle.

Another thing that I am watching closely is the price of oil.

A massive crash in the price of oil preceded the stock market crash of 2008, and over the past year we have seen another dramatic crash in the price of oil.

Many had been expecting the price of oil to bounce back, but instead we are seeing new downward momentum.  In fact, according to Business Insider the price of U.S. oil briefly dipped below $43 a barrel on Wednesday…

Crude oil was down nearly 3% in morning trade on Wednesday.

West Texas Intermediate crude oil futures in New York dropped to as low as $42.97 per barrel. Futures touched a $42-handle in the last week of October, but last traded near those levels for a considerable period in August.

Another thing that I am watching is the ongoing crash of other industrial commodities.  This is something that also preceded the stock market crash of 2008, and it is a clear sign that global economic activity is really slowing down.

Prices for industrial commodities such as aluminum, tin, iron ore and coal are all crashing.  But the commodity that has me most alarmed personally is copper.

Economists commonly refer to it as “Dr. Copper”, and there is a very good reason for that.  Looking back over history, the price of copper often makes a significant move in one direction or the other before the overall economy does.  And the price of copper almost always starts declining before stocks do.

As I write this, the price of copper has fallen to $2.21, and it is already lower than at any point since the last financial crisis.  To get a better perspective regarding what I am talking about, just check out this chart.  This is one signal that is absolutely screaming that a major financial crisis is imminent.

One more harbinger of financial doom on the horizon is the surging U.S. dollar.  The U.S. dollar surged just before the financial crisis of 2008, and now it is happening again.

Most Americans don’t understand this, but the truth is that a rising U.S. dollar puts an incredible amount of stress on emerging markets all around the globe.  Since the last financial crisis, many of these emerging markets have been on a massive debt binge, and much of that debt was denominated in U.S. dollars.  Now that the dollar has increased in value, emerging market borrowers are finding that it takes much more of their own local currencies to service and pay back those debts.  Defaults are rapidly rising, and emerging market economies all over the world (such as Brazil) have already plunged into recession.

If the Fed does follow through with an interest rate hike in December, that is going to make things even worse.  The U.S. dollar will surge even more, and emerging markets will be in even more trouble.

At the same time that the dollar is getting stronger, the euro is getting weaker.  An article that was posted by CNBC on Wednesday went so far as to state that “it is now looking like the euro reaching parity with the greenback is all but guaranteed”…

The prospect of the Fed hiking interest rates in December has pushed the dollar higher, and it is now looking like the euro reaching parity with the greenback is all but guaranteed.

Strategists, however, disagree on how quickly that will happen and how much more the dollar can appreciate in the near term. That depends, they say, on the Fed, and how fast it will raise interest rates in a world where other central banks are moving in the opposite direction toward easier policy.

Goldman Sachs analysts this week reiterated that they expect euro parity with the dollar by year-end though other strategists expect the decline in the common currency against the dollar to take longer.

Let’s see, who has been warning that this would happen for more than a year?  Here are just a few examples…

July 19th: “For a long time, I have been repeating my prediction that the euro would fall to parity with the U.S. dollar.”

June 28th: “As I have warned repeatedly, the euro is heading for parity with the U.S. dollar, and at some point it will drop below parity.”

May 25th: “As I have warned so many times before, the euro is headed for parity with the U.S. dollar, and then it is going to go below parity.”

In August 2014, just a little bit over a year ago, the EUR/USD was sitting above 1.30.  At that time very few people out there would have ever imagined we would be talking about parity just a little more than a year later.

This is just the beginning of a time of great financial volatility.  The things that we are going to witness in the months and years to come are going to be absolutely unprecedented.  A massive global debt super-cycle is coming to an end, and the pain that this is going to mean for the global economy is almost too great to put into words.

This Is For The ‘Nothing Is Happening’ Crowd…

Wake Up - Public DomainA lot of people out there expected something to happen in September that did not ultimately happen.  There were all kinds of wild theories floating around, and many of them had no basis in reality whatsoever.  But without a doubt, some very important things did happen in September.  As I warned about ahead of time, we are witnessing the most significant global financial meltdown since the end of 2008.  All of the largest stock markets in the world are crashing simultaneously, and so far the amount of wealth that has been wiped out worldwide is in excess of 5 trillion dollars.  In addition to stocks, junk bonds are also crashing, and Bank of America says that it is a “slow moving trainwreck that seems to be accelerating“.  Thanks to the commodity price crash, many of the largest commodity traders on the planet are now imploding.  I wrote about the death spiral that has gripped Glencore yesterday.  On Tuesday, the stock price of the largest commodity trader in Asia, the Noble Group, plummeted like a rock and commodity trading giant Trafigura appears to be in worse shape than either Glencore or the Noble Group.  The total collapse of any of them could easily be a bigger event than the implosion of Lehman Brothers in 2008.  So I honestly do not understand the “nothing is happening” crowd.  It takes ignorance on an almost unbelievable level to try to claim that “nothing is happening” in the financial world right now.

Within the last 60 days, we have seen some things happen that we have never seen before.

For example, did you know that we witnessed the greatest intraday stock market crash in U.S. history on August 24th?

During that day, the Dow Jones Industrial Average plunged from a high of 16,459.75 to a low of 15,370.33 before rebounding substantially. That intraday point swing of 1,089 points was the largest in all of U.S. history.

Overall, the Dow has down 588.40 points that day.  When you combine that decline with the 530.94 point plunge from the previous Friday, you get a total drop of 1119.34 points over two consecutive trading days.  Never before in history had the Dow fallen by more than 500 points on two trading days in a row.  If that entire decline had fallen within one trading day, it would have been the largest stock market crash in U.S. history by a very wide margin, and everyone would be running around saying that author Jonathan Cahn was right again.

But because this massive decline fell over two consecutive trading days that somehow makes him wrong?

Are you kidding me?

Come on people – let’s use some common sense here.  We are already witnessing the greatest global stock market decline in seven years, and after a brief lull things are starting to accelerate once again.  Last night, stocks in Hong Kong were down 629 points and stocks in Japan were down 714 points.  In the U.S., the Nasdaq has had a string of down days recently, and the “death cross” that has just formed has many investors extremely concerned

The Nasdaq composite spooked investors on Monday after forming a death cross, a trading pattern that shows a decline in short-term momentum and is often a precursor to future losses.

A death cross occurs when the short-term moving average of a security or an index pierces below the long-term trend, in this case the 50-day moving average breaking through the 200-day moving average.

In the past month, similar chart patterns formed in the S&P 500, Dow and small-cap Russell 2000, but the Nasdaq avoided a death cross formation until Monday.

What we witnessed in September was not “the end” of anything.

Instead, it is just the beginning.

And if you listen carefully, some of the biggest names on Wall Street are issuing some very ominous warnings about what is coming.  For instance, just consider what Carl Icahn is saying

Danger ahead—that’s the warning from Carl Icahn in a video coming Tuesday.

The activist says low rates caused bubbles in art, real estate and high-yield bonds—with potentially dramatic consequences.

“It’s like giving somebody medicine and this medicine is being given and given and given and we don’t know what’s going to happen – you don’t know how bad it’s going to be. We do know when we did it a few years ago it caused a catastrophe, it caused ’08. Where do you draw the line?”

Even people like Jim Cramer are starting to freak out.  He recently told his audience that “we have a first-class bear market going”

Jim Cramer, the ex-hedge fund manager and host of CNBC’s show “Mad Money,” has been vocal recently on air, saying repeatedly that he doesn’t like the market now, and last week said “we have a first-class bear market going.” Similarly, Gary Kaltbaum, president of Kaltbaum Capital Management, has been sending out notes to clients and this newspaper for weeks, saying the poor price action of the stock market and many hard-hit sectors, such as energy and the recently clobbered biotech sector, has all the earmarks of a bear market. Over the weekend, Kaltbaum said: “We remain in a worldwide bear market for stocks.”

As I have warned repeatedly, there will continue to be ups and downs.  The stock market is not going to fall every day.  In fact, on some days stocks will absolutely soar.

But without a doubt, we have entered the period of time that I have warned about for so long.  The global financial system is now beginning to unravel, and any piece of major bad news will likely accelerate things.

For instance, the total collapse of Deutsche Bank, Petrobras, Glencore, the Noble Group, Trafigura or any of a number of other major financial institutions that I am currently watching could create mass panic on the global financial stage.

In addition, an unexpected natural disaster that hits a financially important major city or a massive terror attack in the western world are other examples of things that could accelerate this process.

Our world is becoming increasingly unstable, and we all need to learn to expect the unexpected.

The period of relative peace and security that we all have been enjoying for so long is ending, and now chaos is going to reign for a time.

So get prepared while you still can, because there is very little time remaining to do so…

If History Is Any Indication, Junk Bonds And Copper Are Telling Us Exactly Where Stocks Are Heading Next

Stock Market - Public DomainYields on the riskiest junk bonds are absolutely soaring and the price of copper just hit a fresh six year low.  To most people, those pieces of financial news are meaningless.  But if you understand history, and you are aware of the patterns that immediately preceded previous stock market crashes, then you know how how huge both of those signs are.  During the summer of 2008, junk bond prices absolutely cratered as junk bond yields skyrocketed.  This was a very clear signal that financial markets were about to crash, and sure enough a couple of months later it happened.  Now the exact same thing is happening again.  The following comes from a Wall Street On Parade article that was posted on Tuesday entitled “Keep Your Eye on Junk Bonds: They’re Starting to Behave Like ‘08“…

According to data from Bloomberg, corporations have issued a stunning $9.3 trillion in bonds since the beginning of 2009. The major beneficiary of this debt binge has been the stock market rather than investment in modernizing the plant, equipment or new hires to make the company more competitive for the future. Bond proceeds frequently ended up buying back shares or boosting dividends, thus elevating the stock market on the back of heavier debt levels on corporate balance sheets.

Now, with commodity prices resuming their plunge and currency wars spreading, concerns of financial contagion are back in the markets and spreads on corporate bonds versus safer, more liquid instruments like U.S. Treasury notes, are widening in a fashion similar to the warning signs heading into the 2008 crash. The $2.2 trillion junk bond market (high-yield) as well as the investment grade market have seen spreads widen as outflows from Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs) and bond funds pick up steam.

And right now we are seeing the most volatility in the junkiest of the junk bonds.

The following comes from Wolf Richter, and my jaw just about dropped to the floor when I first saw this…

This chart of yields at the riskiest end of the junk bond market – bonds rated CCC and below – shows what happened. These bonds have been selling off over the past 12 months, with exception of the sucker rally earlier this year, and their yields more than doubled from less than 7.9% in June a year ago to 16.2% by Thursday evening. And Thursday was a massacre:

riskiest junk bonds

On Thursday, yields jumped 2.6 percentage points, from 13.58% to 16.18%, as these junk bonds plunged. Those kinds of single-day vertigo-inducing sell-offs are rare in normal times, and there haven’t been any since the Financial Crisis.

Amazingly, the Federal Reserve is actually thinking about raising interest rates in this environment.

If that sounds like a really bad idea to you, that is because it is a really bad idea.

Raising interest rates would just add fuel to the fire of this junk bond rout.  DoubleLine Capital’s co-founder Jeffrey Gundlach agrees with me

To raise interest rates when junk bonds are nearly at a four-year low is a bad idea,” Gundlach said in a telephone interview.

Gundlach, widely followed for his prescient investment calls, said if the Fed begins raising interest rates in September, “it opens the lid on Pandora’s Box of a tightening cycle.”

Gundlach said the selling pressure in copper and commodity prices driven by worries over China’s growth outlook “should be a huge concern. It is the second-biggest economy in the world.”

Meanwhile, as Gundlach mentioned, the price of copper continues to plunge.

On Tuesday, it set a brand new six year low.  It is now the lowest that it has been since the days of the last financial crisis.

And as you can see from this excerpt from a recent Investment Research Dynamics article, the price of copper started crashing before the stock market crash of 2008…

I wanted to keep this simple and just look at what is considered perhaps the best barometer of global economic activity:

Copper Chart - Investment Research Dynamics

You’ll note that the price of copper is headed lower and is back to the price level where it was in the middle of 2008, right before the great financial collapse.  You’ll note that $3.6 trillion in Federal Reserve money printing – on top of trillions in Bank of Japan, ECB and People’s Bank of China money printing – has not been able to keep the price of copper from crashing again.

In case you haven’t figured it out by now, the global financial system is in real trouble.

Another sign that rough waters are ahead is the fact that global shipping has fallen into a dramatic slump.  The following comes from the Telegraph

World shipping has fallen into a deep slump over the late summer, dashing hopes of a quick recovery from the global trade recession earlier this year and heightening fears that the six-year economic expansion may be on its last legs.

Freight rates for container shipping from Asia to Europe fell by over 20pc in the second week of August, even though trade volumes should be picking up at this time of the year. The Shanghai Containerized Freight Index (SCFI) for routes to north European ports crashed by 23pc in five trading days.

Global economic activity is clearly slowing down, and there are 23 nations around the planet that are already experiencing stock market crashes.

The financial markets of the western world have not totally crashed just yet, but they are more leveraged and more vulnerable than ever.  The following comes from Zero Hedge

  • The REAL problem for the financial system is the bond bubble. In 2008 when the crisis hit it was $80 trillion. It has since grown to over $100 trillion.
  • The derivatives market that uses this bond bubble as collateral is over $555 trillion in size.
  • Many of the large multinational corporations, sovereign governments, and even municipalities have used derivatives to fake earnings and hide debt. NO ONE knows to what degree this has been the case, but given that 20% of corporate CFOs have admitted to faking earnings in the past, it’s likely a significant amount.
  • Corporations today are more leveraged than they were in 2007. As Stanley Druckenmiller noted recently, in 2007 corporate bonds were $3.5 trillion… today they are $7 trillion: an amount equal to nearly 50% of US GDP.
  • The Central Banks are now all leveraged at levels greater than or equal to where Lehman Brothers was when it imploded. The Fed is leveraged at 78 to 1. The ECB is leveraged at over 26 to 1. Lehman Brothers was leveraged at 30 to 1.
  • The Central Banks have no idea how to exit their strategies. Fed minutes released from 2009 show Janet Yellen was worried about how to exit when the Fed’s balance sheet was $1.3 trillion (back in 2009). Today it’s over $4.5 trillion.

As I explained during a recent interview with Kate Dalley of Fox News radio, what is coming should be obvious to anyone that is willing to look at the numbers honestly.

The global financial system is going to crash.

Yes, this crisis is going to take years to fully play out, but by the time it is all said and done it is going to be much worse than what we experienced back in 2008 and 2009.

So buckle up tight and hold on for your life, because we are in for one wild ride.

Boom Goes The Dynamite: The Crashing Price Of Oil Is Going To Rip The Global Economy To Shreds

Boom Goes The Dynamite - Public DomainIf you were waiting for a “black swan event” to come along and devastate the global economy, you don’t have to wait any longer.  As I write this, the price of U.S. oil is sitting at $45.76 a barrel.  It has fallen by more than 60 dollars a barrel since June.  There is only one other time in history when we have seen anything like this happen before.  That was in 2008, just prior to the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.  But following the financial crisis of 2008, the price of oil rebounded fairly rapidly.  As you will see below, there are very strong reasons to believe that it will not happen this time.  And the longer the price of oil stays this low, the worse our problems are going to get.  At a price of less than $50 a barrel, it is just a matter of time before we see a huge wave of energy company bankruptcies, massive job losses, a junk bond crash followed by a stock market crash, and a crisis in commodity derivatives unlike anything that we have ever seen before.  So let’s hope that a very unlikely miracle happens and the price of oil rebounds substantially in the months ahead.  Because if not, the price of oil is going to absolutely rip the global economy to shreds.

What amazes me is that there are still many economic “experts” in the mainstream media that are proclaiming that the collapse in the price of oil is going to be a good thing for the U.S. economy.

The only precedent that we can compare the current crash to is the oil price collapse of 2008.  You can see both crashes on the chart below…

Price Of Oil Since 2006

If rapidly falling oil prices are good economic news, that collapse should have pushed the U.S. economy into overdrive.

But that didn’t happen, did it?  Instead, we plunged into the deepest recession that we have seen since the Great Depression.

And unless there is a miracle rebound in the price of oil now, we are going to experience something similar this time.

Already, we are seeing oil rigs shut down at a staggering pace.  The following is from Bloomberg

U.S. oil drillers laid down the most rigs in the fourth quarter since 2009. And things are about to get much worse.

The rig count fell by 93 in the three months through Dec. 26, and lost another 17 last week, Baker Hughes Inc. data show. About 200 more will be idled over the next quarter as U.S. oil explorers make good on their promises to curb spending, according to Moody’s Corp.

But that was just the beginning of the carnage.  61 more oil rigs shut down last week alone, and hundreds more are being projected to shut down in the months ahead.

For those that cannot connect the dots, that is going to translate into the loss of large numbers of good paying jobs.  Just check out what is happening in Texas

A few days ago, Helmerich & Payne, announced that it would idle 50 more drilling rigs in February, after having already idled 11 rigs. Each rig accounts for about 100 jobs. This will cut its shale drilling activities by 20%. The other two large drillers, Nabors Industries and Patterson-UTI Energy are on a similar program. All three combined are “likely to cut approximately 15,000 jobs out of the 50,000 people they currently employ,” said Oilpro Managing Director Joseph Triepke.

Unfortunately, this crisis will not just be localized to states such as Texas.  There are tens of thousands of small and mid-size firms that will be affected.  The following is from a recent CNBC report

More than 20,000 small and midsize firms drive the “hydrocarbon revolution” in the U.S. that has helped the oil and gas industry thrive in recent years, and they produce more than 75 percent of the nation’s oil and gas output, according to the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research’s February 2014 Power & Growth Initiative Report. The Manhattan Institute is a conservative think tank in New York City.

A sustained decline in prices could lead to layoffs at these firms, say experts. “The energy industry has been one of the job-growth areas leading us out of the recession,” said Chad Mabry, a Houston-based analyst in the energy and natural resources research department of boutique investment bank MLV & Co. in New York City. “In 2015, that changes in this price environment,” he said. “We’re probably going to see some job losses on a fairy significant scale if this keeps up.”

If the price of oil makes a major comeback, the carnage will ultimately not be that bad.

But if it stays at this level or keeps going down for an extended period of time, it is inevitable that a whole bunch of those firms will go bankrupt and their debt will go bad.

That would mean a junk bond crash unlike anything that Wall Street has ever experienced.

And as I have written about previously, a stock market crash almost always follows a junk bond crash.

These are things that happened during the last financial crisis and that are repeating again right in front of our eyes.

Another thing that happened in 2008 that is happening again is a crash in industrial commodity prices.

At this point, industrial commodity prices have hit a 12 year low.  I am talking about industrial commodities such as copper, iron ore, steel and aluminum.  This is a huge sign that global economic activity is slowing down and that big trouble is on the way.

So what is driving this?  The following excerpt from a recent Zero Hedge article gives us a clue…

Globally there are over $9 trillion worth of borrowed US Dollars in the financial system. When you borrow in US Dollars, you are effectively SHORTING the US Dollar.

Which means that when the US Dollar rallies, your returns implode regardless of where you invested the borrowed money (another currency, stocks, oil, infrastructure projects, derivatives).

Take a look at commodities. Globally, there are over $22 TRILLION worth of derivatives trades involving commodities. ALL of these were at risk of blowing up if the US Dollar rallied.

Unfortunately, starting in mid-2014, it did in a big way.

This move in the US Dollar imploded those derivatives trades. If you want an explanation for why commodities are crashing (aside from the fact the global economy is slowing) this is it.

Once again, much of this could be avoided if the price of oil starts going back up substantially.

Unfortunately, that does not appear likely.  In fact, many of the big banks are projecting that it could go even lower

Goldman Sachs, CitiGroup, Societe General and Commerzbank are among the latest investment banks to reduce crude oil price estimates, and without production cuts, there appears to be more room for lower prices.

“We’re going to keep on going lower,” says industry analyst Brian Milne of energy manager Schneider Electric. “Even with fresher new lows, there’s still more downside.”

OPEC could stabilize global oil prices with a single announcement, but so far OPEC has refused to do this.  Many believe that the OPEC countries actually want the price of oil to fall for competitive reasons…

Representatives of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait stressed a dozen times in the past six weeks that the group won’t curb output to halt the biggest drop in crude since 2008. Qatar’s estimate for the global oversupply is among the biggest of any producing country. These countries actually want — and are achieving — further price declines as part of an attempt to hasten cutbacks by U.S. shale drillers, according to Barclays Plc and Commerzbank AG.

The oil producing countries in the Middle East seem to be settling in for the long haul.  In fact, one prominent Saudi prince made headlines all over the world this week when he said that “I’m sure we’re never going to see $100 anymore.”

Never is a very strong word.

Could there be such a massive worldwide oil glut going on right now that the price of oil will never get that high again?

Well, without a doubt there is a huge amount of unsold oil floating around out there at the moment.

It has gotten so bad that some big trading companies are actually hiring supertankers to store large quantities of unsold crude oil at sea…

Some of the world’s largest oil traders have this week hired supertankers to store crude at sea, marking a milestone in the build-up of the global glut.

Trading firms including Vitol, Trafiguraand energy major Shell have all booked crude tankers for up to 12 months, freight brokers and shipping sources told Reuters.

They said the flurry of long-term bookings was unusual and suggested traders could use the vessels to store excess crude at sea until prices rebound, repeating a popular 2009 trading gambit when prices last crashed.

The fundamentals for the price of oil are so much worse than they were back in 2008.

We could potentially be looking at sub-$50 oil for an extended period of time.

If that is indeed the case, there will be catastrophic damage to the global economy and to the global financial system.

So hold on to your hats, because it looks like we are going to be in for quite a bumpy ride in 2015.

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