Record Low New Home Sales In 2011

New home sales in the United States are on pace to set a brand new all-time record low in 2011.  This will be the third year in a row that new home sales have set a new record low.  Sadly, this is yet another sign that the U.S. economy continues to grow weaker.  Back in 2005, more than four times as many new homes were being sold as are being sold today.  The home building industry is one of the central pillars of the U.S. economy, and the fact that we are going to set another new record low for home sales in 2011 is a really bad sign for those hoping for an economic recovery.  Unlike most of those that work in the financial industry, those that build new homes produce something of lasting value for American families.  In addition, millions of Americans have traditionally made a solid living by building and selling new homes.  But today the market for new homes has totally dried up and large numbers of those jobs are disappearing.  Some of the reasons for this include high unemployment, a glut of foreclosures on the market and the tightening of lending standards on home loans.  In order for the U.S. to have anything resembling a healthy economy again, we are going to need a revival in the sale of new homes.

But unfortunately, it looks like things are getting even worse.  In August, the number of new home sales declined for the fourth month in a row.  That is a very troubling sign because typically summer is the best time for new home sales.

Celia Chen, the director of housing economics at Moody’s Analytics, is saying the following about the dismal numbers….

“With job growth at a standstill, the stock market swinging wildly, Congress wrangling over the debt ceiling and the euro zone’s problems sending consumer confidence down, sales of new homes are slipping from an already weak pace.”

When you take a close look at the numbers, it really is shocking to see how far we have fallen.

Back in 1963, the U.S. Census Bureau began monitoring new home sales.  Prior to the most recent economic downturn, the record low for new home sales happened in 1982.

In that year, only 412,000 new homes were sold.

Well, that record was broken in 2009.

Then it was broken again in 2010.

And it will be broken again in 2011.

This year, we are on pace to see only 303,000 new homes sold in America.

That is beyond pathetic.

To get an idea of just how bad that is, just check out the following chart which comes from the Calculated Risk blog.  The first number is the year, the second number is the total number of new homes sold during that year, and the third number is the total number of new homes sold through the month of August during that year.  The number of new homes sold during 2011 is a projected number….

2000:  877  608
2001:  908  644
2002:  973  670
2003:  1,086  759
2004:  1,203  841
2005:  1,283  906
2006:  1,051  756
2007:  776  577
2008:  485  365
2009:  375  261
2010:  323  231
2011:  303  211

As you can see, this will be the fifth year in a row that new home sales have fallen.

And yet the folks on television keep telling us that the recession is over.

The frightening thing is that new home sales are this anemic even with mortgage rates at historic lows.

So what is going to happen once mortgage rates start going up?

It is hard to imagine new home sales getting even worse than they are now.

And we desperately need to get things turned around.  New home construction is very good for the economy.

According to the National Association of Home Builders, each new home that is constructed creates the equivalent of 3 jobs for an entire year and generates approximately $90,000 in taxes.

So what is holding things back?

Well, for one thing, if people do not have good jobs they cannot afford to buy new homes.

Back in 1969, 95 percent of all men between the ages of 25 and 54 had a job.  In July, only 81.2 percent of men in that age group had a job.

That is a massive problem that needs to be solved.

Unfortunately, our leaders continue to allow millions of our jobs to be shipped overseas.

If you gathered together all of the people in the United States that are “officially unemployed” right now, they would constitute the 68th largest country in the world.  It would be a nation larger than Greece.

Secondly, there is a gigantic glut of foreclosed homes on the market right now that is competing with new homes for the few qualified home buyers that are out there.

It is absolutely shocking how many vacant homes there are in some areas of the country.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 18 percent of all homes in the state of Florida are sitting vacant.  That figure is 63 percent larger than it was just ten years ago.

In the city of Detroit alone, there are more than 33,000 abandoned homes.

Until the number of vacant homes goes down, there is just not going to be a need in the marketplace for a lot of new homes.

Sadly, it looks like another huge wave of foreclosures could be on the way.

According to the Mortgage Bankers Association, at least 8 million Americans are currently at least one month behind on their mortgage payments.

That is more than a bit frightening.

Thirdly, lending standards on home loans have dramatically changed.

Five or six years ago, if you were breathing you could get a home loan.

Even the family dog could get a home loan.

But now the pendulum has swung to the opposite end of the spectrum.

Applying for a mortgage today is like getting a series of proctology exams from a very rude and very uncaring doctor.

Many mortgage lenders today will deny you at the slightest hint of a problem.

Even if you have a very high income, near perfect credit, very little debt and a long history of financial responsibility there is still a very good chance that you will be turned down.

If you don’t believe this, just start talking to people that have applied for home loans lately.

A ton of pending home sales are being cancelled because potential home buyers simply cannot get approved.

Until some sort of “balance” is restored to the mortgage lending process, this is going to continue to be a major problem.

It would be nice if I could tell you that things are going to get better soon, but the truth is that there are all kinds of signs that the U.S. economy is getting even worse and there are all kinds of signs that the global financial system is on the verge of a massive nervous breakdown.

So if you make a living by building or selling new homes, you might want to find other ways to supplement your income for a while.

Things are not going to turn around significantly any time soon.

Unelected, Unaccountable, Unrepentant: The Federal Reserve Is Using Your Money To Bail Out European Commercial Banks Once Again

For a moment, imagine that there is a privately-owned organization in the United States that can create U.S. dollars out of thin air whenever it wants and can loan that money to whoever it wants to.  Imagine that this organization is able to act with the full power of the U.S. government behind it, but that nobody in the organization is ever elected by the American people, and that for all practical purposes the organization is not accountable to the president or to Congress.  Imagine that the organization is able to make trillions of dollars of secret loans to banks, to foreign governments and even to their close friends without ever having to face a comprehensive audit.  Does that sound preposterous?  Well, such an organization actually exists.  It is called the Federal Reserve, and today we found out that once again the Fed is going to be taking huge piles of your money and loaning it to commercial banks in Europe.  The Congress cannot overrule this decision.  Neither can Barack Obama.  Because it has so much power, many refer to the Federal Reserve as “the fourth branch of government”, but unlike the other three branches of government, there are basically no significant “checks and balances” on the Federal Reserve.  If you don’t like the fact that the Federal Reserve is racing in to help big foreign banks survive the European debt crisis that is just too bad.  The Federal Reserve pretty much gets to do whatever it wants to do, and the folks over at the Fed simply do not care whether you like that or not.

So what in the world just happened today?  The following is how an article on CNBC explained it….

Just ahead of the Wall Street open Thursday, the European Central Bank, along with the U.S. Federal Reserve, Bank of England, Bank of Japan and Swiss National Bank announced they would offer three-month dollar loans to Europe’s commercial banks, easing dollar funding constraints.

It must be nice to do whatever you want without having to get the approval of anyone else.

What do you think Barack Obama would give for such power right about now?

The Federal Reserve and other major central banks around the world decided that lending big European banks gigantic piles of dollars would be a good idea, so they are just doing it.

No debate, no votes and no democracy – they just tell us how things are going to be and that is that.

It is a bit ironic that all of this happened on the third anniversary of the collapse of Lehman Brothers.  It is almost as if the central bankers of the world are trying to send some sort of a message.

So how much money is going to be loaned out?

Well, according to an article in The Daily Mail, big European banks are going to be able to borrow an “unlimited” amount of money….

The deal announced yesterday means banks will be able to borrow ‘any amount’ of money in three separate auctions in October, November and December. Banks will have to put up collateral, or security, to tap the emergency funds.

Wow – I wish someone would offer to lend me an “unlimited” amount of money.

But of course this really is not going to solve anything in the long run.  You can’t solve a raging debt problem with more debt.

Yes, it will help the big European banks with their short-term liquidity problems, but it will do nothing to fix the long-term structural problems that are tearing Europe to pieces.

Win Thin, a senior currency strategist at Brown Brothers Harriman, said essentially the same thing to CNBC today….

“They’re taking care of the symptoms, but the underlying illness is still out there. On the margin, it’s positive. Until Greece defaults and we clear this whole thing up, they’re still treading water”

So, no, the financial problems of Europe have not been solved.

Just think of this latest move as a temporary band-aid.

So why get upset about it?

Well, what all of this shows is just how arrogant the Federal Reserve is.

The Federal Reserve gets to throw around trillions of dollars without any accountability to the American people.

As I have written about previously, the Federal Reserve made $16.1 trillion in secret loans to their friends during the last financial crisis.

This was revealed in a GAO report, and members of Congress such as Ron Paul and Bernie Sanders tried to get people to pay attention to this.  The following is a statement about this report that was taken from the official website of Senator Sanders….

“As a result of this audit, we now know that the Federal Reserve provided more than $16 trillion in total financial assistance to some of the largest financial institutions and corporations in the United States and throughout the world”

So how much of that money went overseas?  Well, it turns out that approximately $3.08 trillion of that money was loaned to big banks and major financial institutions in Europe and Asia.

Barack Obama can’t lend trillions of dollars to foreign banks.

So why does the Federal Reserve get to do it?

Sadly, most Americans know very little about the Federal Reserve.  In the United States today, most Americans graduate from high school without ever learning much of anything about the Fed.

But if you really want to understand what is going on with our economy, it is absolutely critical that you understand the Federal Reserve.

The following are some more reasons why you should be upset about what the Federal Reserve has been doing….

*The Federal Reserve is a perpetual debt machine.  Today, the U.S. national debt is 4700 times larger than it was when the Federal Reserve was created back in 1913.

*The Federal Reserve has recently been actually paying banks not to make loans.  Right now banks can park money at the Federal Reserve and make risk-free income without having to make loans to the American people.

*Current Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke has a track record of failure that is legendary, and yet George W. Bush and Barack Obama both backed him 100%.

*The Federal Reserve system is designed to create inflation.  The truth is that the United States has only had a persistent, ongoing problem with inflation since the Federal Reserve was created back in 1913.

*Since 2008, what the Federal Reserve has been doing to our money supply has been absolutely insane.  Eventually this is going to have very serious consequences for us.

*The U.S. government has handed over the task of “centrally planning” our economy to the Federal Reserve.  The Fed decides what the target rate of inflation should be, what the target rate of unemployment should be, what interest rates are going to be and what the size of the money supply is going to be.  This is quite similar to the “central planning” that goes on in communist nations, but very few people in our government seem upset by this.

*The Federal Reserve picks “winners” and “losers” in the financial system.  For example, when the last financial crisis hit, the Fed bent over backwards to help out the big Wall Street banks, but hordes of small banks were left out in the cold.

*As mentioned above, the Federal Reserve has become way, way too powerful.  The Fed is able to do a lot of things that the three branches of government are simply not able to do.  Fortunately, there are a few of our leaders that are alarmed by this.  For example, Ron Paul once told MSNBC that he believes that the Federal Reserve is now more powerful than Congress…..

“The regulations should be on the Federal Reserve. We should have transparency of the Federal Reserve. They can create trillions of dollars to bail out their friends, and we don’t even have any transparency of this. They’re more powerful than the Congress.”

As long as we continue to use a debt-based currency that is controlled by a privately-owned central bank, we are going to continue to have permanent inflation and government debt that expands at an exponential pace.

The “central planning” done by the Federal Reserve has created bubble after bubble after bubble.  Our dollars is on the verge of dying and our financial system is about to collapse.

The Federal Reserve system simply does not work.

Hopefully we can start sending more politicians to Washington D.C. that will be willing to stand up to the Federal Reserve.

But for now, the Federal Reserve is going to keep running around doing whatever it wants to do whether we like it or not.

The Sovereign Debt Crisis Is Never Going To End Until There Is A Major Global Financial Collapse

In the past, there certainly have been governments that have gotten into trouble with debt, but what we are experiencing now is the first truly global sovereign debt crisis.  There has never been a time in recorded history when virtually all of the governments of the world were drowning in debt all at the same time.  This sovereign debt crisis is never going to end until there is a major global financial collapse.  There simply is no way to unwind the colossal web of debt that we have constructed in an orderly fashion.  Right now the EU and the IMF have been making “emergency loans” to nations such as Greece, Ireland and Portugal, but that is only going to buy those countries a few additional months.  Giving more loans to nations that are already drowning in red ink may “kick the can down the road” for a little while but it isn’t going to solve anything.  Meanwhile, dozens more nations all over the globe are rapidly approaching a day of reckoning.

All of the bailouts that you are hearing about right now are simply delaying the pain.  The reality is that when the “emergency loans” for Greece stop, Greece is going to default.  Greece is toast.  The game is over for them.  You can stick a fork in Greece because it is done.

One of the big problems for Greece is that since it is part of the euro it can’t independently print more money.  If Greece cannot raise enough euros internally Greece must turn to outside assistance.

Unfortunately, at this point Greece has accumulated such a mammoth debt that it cannot possibly sustain it.  By the end of the year, it is projected that the national debt of Greece will soar to approximately 166% of GDP.

The financial collapse of Greece is inevitable.  If they keep using the euro they will collapse.  If they quit using the euro they will collapse.  When the rest of Europe decides that it is tired of propping Greece up the game will be over.

At this point very few people are interested in lending Greece more money.

As I wrote about yesterday, many of the nations around the world are only able to keep going because they are able to borrow huge amounts of money at low interest rates.

Well, nobody wants to lend money to Greece at a low rate of interest anymore.

Today, the yield on 2 year Greek bonds is back over 28 percent.

Fortunately for the rest of the world, Greece is just a very, very small part of the global economy, but when interest rates start spiking like that on U.S. debt or Japanese debt the entire world financial system will be thrown into chaos.

So why is there so much of a focus on Greece right now?

Well, there is a real danger that the panic will start to spread.

The other day, Moody’s Investors Service slashed the credit rating on Portuguese government debt by four notches.

Portuguese debt is now considered to be “junk”.

But even more alarming is that Moody’s stated that what is going on in Greece played a role in reducing the credit rating of Portugal.

The following is a portion of what Moody’s had to say when they cut the credit rating of Portugal by four notches….

Although Portugal’s Ba2 rating indicates a much lower risk of
restructuring than Greece’s Caa1 rating, the EU’s evolving approach to providing official support is an important factor for Portugal because it implies a rising risk that private sector participation could become a precondition for additional rounds of official lending to Portugal in the future as well. This development is significant not only because it increases the economic risks facing current investors, but also because it may discourage new private sector lending going forward and reduce the likelihood that Portugal will soon be able to regain market access on sustainable terms.

Do you understand what is being said there?

Basically, Moody’s is saying that the terms of the Greek bailout make Portuguese debt less attractive because Portugal will likely be forced into a similar bailout at some point.

If the EU is not going to fully guarantee the debt of the member nations, then that debt becomes less attractive to investors.

The downgrade of Portugal is having all kinds of consequences.  The cost of insuring Portuguese government debt set a new record high on Wednesday, and yields on Portuguese bonds have gone haywire.

If you want to get an idea of just how badly Portuguese bonds have been crashing, just check out this chart.

But it is not just Portugal that is having problems.

Just recently, Moody’s warned that it may downgrade Italy’s Aa2 debt rating at some point within the next few months.

Spain is also on the verge of major problems and Ireland may need another bailout soon.

Things don’t look good.

Unfortunately, if the dominoes start to fall the entire EU is going to go down.

Big banks all over Europe are highly exposed to sovereign debt and they are leveraged to the hilt.

It is almost as if we are looking at a replay of 2008 in many ways.

When Lehman Brothers finally collapsed, it was leveraged 31 to 1.

Today, major German banks are leveraged 32 to 1, and major German banks are currently holding a tremendous amount of Greek debt.

Anyone with half a brain can see that this is going to end badly.

So how is the European Central Bank responding to this crisis?

They are raising interest rates once again.

That certainly is not going to help the PIIGS much.

But Europe is not the only one facing a horrific debt crunch.

In Japan, the national debt is now up to about 226 percent of GDP.  So far the Japanese government has been able to handle a debt load this massive because the citizens of Japan have been willing to lend the government gigantic mountains of money at interest rates so low that they are hard to believe.

When that paradigm changes, and it will, Japan is going to be in a massive amount of trouble.  In fact, an article in Forbes has warned that even a very modest increase in interest rates would cause interest payments on Japanese government debt to exceed total government revenue by the year 2019.

Of course the biggest pile of debt sitting out there is the national debt of the United States.  The U.S. is so enslaved to debt that there is literally no way out under the current system.  To say that America is in big trouble would be a massive understatement.

In fact, the whole world is headed for trouble.

Right now government debt around the globe continues to soar at an exponential pace.  At some point a wall is going to be hit.

The Wall Street Journal recently quoted Professor Carmen Reinhart as saying the following about what we are facing….

“These processes are not linear,” warns Prof. Reinhart. “You can increase debt for a while and nothing happens. Then you hit the wall, and—bang!—what seem to be minor shocks that the markets would shrug off in other circumstances suddenly become big.”

That is the nature of debt bubbles – they keep expanding and expanding until the day that they inevitably burst.

Governments around the world will issue somewhere in the neighborhood of 5 trillion dollars more debt this year alone.  Debt to GDP ratios all over the globe continue to rise at a frightening pace.

Because the world is so interconnected today, the collapse of even one nation will devastate banks all over the planet.  If even one domino is toppled there is no telling where things may end.

The combination of huge amounts of debt and huge amounts of leverage is incredibly toxic, and that is what we have all over the globe today.  Almost every major nation is drowning in a sea of red ink and almost all of our major financial institutions are leveraged to the hilt.

There is only one way that the sovereign debt crisis can end.

Very, very badly.

I hope you are ready for what is coming.

Without Low Interest Rates, The U.S. Financial System Dies

Right now, interest rates are near historic lows.  The U.S. government is able to borrow gigantic mountains of money for next to nothing.  U.S. consumers are still able to get home loans, car loans and student loans at ridiculously low interest rates.  When this low interest rate environment changes (and it will), it is going to absolutely devastate the U.S. economy.  Without low interest rates, the U.S. financial system dies.  When it comes to borrowing money, it is the rate of interest that causes the pain.  If you could borrow as much money as you wanted at a zero rate of interest for the rest of your life you would never, ever have a debt problem.  But when there is a cost to borrowing money that changes things.  The higher the rate of interest goes, the more painful debt becomes.

The only reason that U.S. government finances have not fallen apart completely already is because the federal government is still able to borrow huge amounts of money very cheaply.  If interest rates on U.S. government debt even return just to “average” levels, it is going to be absolutely catastrophic.

So what happens if rates go above “average”?

The reality is that if there is a major crisis that causes interest rates on U.S. Treasuries to go well beyond “normal” levels it is going to cause a complete and total collapse.

In 2010, the U.S. government paid out just $413 billion in interest even though the national debt soared to 14 trillion dollars by the end of the year.

That means that the U.S. government paid somewhere in the neighborhood of 3 percent interest for the year.

Considering how rapidly the U.S. dollar has been declining and how much money printing the Federal Reserve has been doing, a rate of interest that low is absolutely ridiculous.

The shorter the term, the more ridiculous the rates of interest on U.S. Treasuries are.

For example, the rate of interest on 3 month U.S. Treasuries right now is just barely above zero.

The Federal Reserve has been playing all kinds of games in an attempt to keep interest rates on U.S. government debt low, and so far they have been pretty successful at it.

But they aren’t going to be able to do it forever.

Up until now, other nations and investors around the world have continued to participate in the system even though they know that the Federal Reserve is cheating.

However, there are signs that a lot of investors are finally getting fed up and are ready to walk away from U.S. government debt.

China has been dumping short-term U.S. government debt.  Russia has been dumping U.S. government debt. Pimco has been dumping U.S. government debt.

Others are taking things even farther.

In fact, there are some investors that plan on cashing in on the loss of confidence in U.S. Treasuries.  Renowned investor Jim Rogers says that he is now going to be shorting 30 year U.S. government bonds.

Just check out what Rogers recently told CNBC….

“I cannot imagine or conceive lending money to the United States government for 30-years at 3, 4, 5 or 6 percent —you pick a number — in U.S. dollars”

And he is right.  Who in the world would be stupid enough to loan the U.S. government money at a 4 or 5 percent rate of interest for the next 30 years?

Actually, most U.S. government debt is financed in the short-term these days.  In fact, the U.S. government issues a higher percentage of short-term debt than any other industrialized nation.

This trend really got started during the Clinton administration.  Back then they figured out that the U.S. could reduce its borrowing costs substantially by relying much more heavily on short-term debt.  The Bush and Obama administrations have continued this trend.

So these days the U.S. government constantly has huge amounts of debt that are maturing and that need to be rolled over.

This is great as long as interest rates stay very, very low.

But when interest rates rise the whole game will change.

In a recent article, Pat Buchanan explained that the Obama administration is being completely unrealistic when it assumes that interest rates on U.S. government debt will stay incredibly low over the next decade….

“The average rate of interest the Fed has had to pay to borrow for the last two decades has been 5.7 percent. However, President Obama is projecting the cost of money at only 2.5 percent.

A return to the normal Fed rate would, by 2020, add $4.9 trillion to the cumulative deficit”

Most Americans really cannot grasp how incredibly low interest rates are right now.

Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words.

The following chart shows how interest rates on 10 year U.S. Treasury bonds have declined over the last several decades.

As confidence in the U.S. dollar and in U.S. government debt declines, interest rates will go up.

In fact, there are troubling signs that we are starting to see a move in that direction right now.  Last week, the yield on 5 year U.S. Treasuries experienced the biggest one week percentage jump ever recorded.

The big danger is that the political wrangling in Washington D.C. will start to cause a panic.  The managing director of Standard & Poor’s recently told Reuters that if the U.S. government starts defaulting on debt at the beginning of August, the credit rating on U.S. Treasury bonds that are supposed to mature on August 4th will go from AAA all the way down to D….

Chambers, who is also the chairman of S&P’s sovereign ratings committee, told Reuters on Tuesday that U.S. Treasury bills maturing on August 4 would be rated ‘D’ if the government fails to honor them. Unaffected Treasuries would be downgraded as well, but not as sharply, he said.

“If the U.S. government misses a payment, it goes to D,” Chambers said. “That would happen right after August 4, when the bills mature, because they don’t have a grace period.”

When a credit rating gets slashed, interest rates on that debt can go up dramatically.

Just ask the citizens of Greece.

Today, the interest rate on 2 year Greek bonds is over 26 percent.

You are delusional if you believe that something like that can never happen here.

Right now the U.S. national debt is completely and totally out of control.  If the U.S. government had to start paying interest rates of 10, 15 or 20 percent to borrow money it would be a total nightmare.

This year the U.S. government will have income of about 2.2 trillion dollars.

If in future years the U.S. government is spending a trillion or a trillion and a half dollars just on interest on the national debt, then how in the world is it going to be possible to even run the government, much less balance the budget?

But rising interest rates would not just devastate the federal government.

It would become much more expensive for state and local governments to borrow money.

Student loans would become much more expensive.

Car loans would become much more expensive.

Home loans would become out of reach for everyone except the very wealthy.

As we saw during the housing crash of a few years ago, rising interest rates can absolutely wipe homeowners out.

On a standard home loan, if you change the rate of interest from 5 percent to 10 percent you increase the mortgage payment by approximately 50 percent.

If you change the rate of interest from 5 percent to 15 percent, you roughly double the mortgage payment.

As the 30 year fixed rate mortgage chart below shows, interest rates are near historic lows right now….

Keep in mind that even with such ridiculously low interest rates the U.S. real estate market has been deader than a doornail.

So what would a significant spike in interest rates do to it?

When all of these low interest rates go away the entire financial system is going to change dramatically.

A significant spike in interest rates would wipe out U.S. government finances, it would push state and local governments all over the country to the brink of bankruptcy, it would bring economic activity to a standstill and it would destroy any hopes for a housing recovery.

This country, and in particular the federal government, is enslaved to debt but right now we are not feeling the full pain of that debt because interest rates are so low.

If you want to know when things are really going to start coming apart, just keep an eye on interest rates.  When they really start spiking you can start sounding the alarm.

The truth is that the state of the economy is going to continue to get worse.  Our debt is growing every single day and our country is getting poorer every single day.  When interest rates start surging it is going to start knocking over a lot of dominoes.

I hope you are getting prepared for when that happens.

Don’t Buy A House In 2011 Before You Read These 20 Wacky Statistics About The U.S. Real Estate Crisis

Unless you have been asleep or hiding under a rock for the past five years, you already know that we are experiencing the worst real estate crisis that the U.S. has ever seen.  Home prices in the United States have fallen 33 percent from the peak of the housing bubble, which is more than they fell during the Great Depression.  Those that decided to buy a house in 2005 or 2006 are really hurting right now.  Just think about it.  Could you imagine paying off a $400,000 mortgage on a home that is now only worth $250,000?  Millions of Americans are now living through that kind of financial hell.  Sadly, most analysts expect U.S. home prices to go down even further.  Despite the “best efforts” of those running our economy, unemployment is still rampant.  The number of middle class jobs continues to decline year after year, but it takes at least a middle class income to buy a decent home.  In addition, financial institutions have really tightened up lending standards and have made it much more difficult to get home loans.  Back during the wild days of the housing bubble, the family cat could get a zero-down mortgage, but today the pendulum has swung very far in the other direction and now it is really, really tough to get a home loan.  Meanwhile, the number of foreclosures and distressed properties continues to soar.  So with a ton of homes on the market and not a lot of buyers the power is firmly in the hands of those looking to buy a house.

So will home prices continue to go down?  Possibly.  But they won’t go down forever.  At some point the inflation that is already affecting many other segments of the economy will affect home prices as well.  That doesn’t mean that it will be middle class American families that will be buying up all the homes.  An increasing percentage of homes are being purchased by investors or by foreigners.  There are a lot of really beautiful homes in the United States, and wealthy people from all over the globe love to buy a house in America.

But because of the factors mentioned above, it is quite possible that U.S. home prices could go down another 10 or 20 percent, especially if the economy gets worse.

So what is the right time to buy a house?

Nobody really knows for sure.

Mortgage rates are near record lows right now and there are some great deals to be had in many areas of the country.  But that does not mean that you won’t be able to get the same home for even less 6 months or a year from now.

In any event, this truly has been a really trying time for the U.S. housing market.  Hordes of builders, construction workers, contractors, real estate agents and mortgage professionals have been put out of work by this downturn.  The housing industry is one of the core pillars of the economy, and so a recovery in home sales is desperately needed.

The following are 20 really wacky statistics about the U.S. real estate crisis….

#1 According to Zillow, 28.4 percent of all single-family homes with a mortgage in the United States are now underwater.

#2 Zillow has also announced that the average price of a home in the U.S. is about 8 percent lower than it was a year ago and that it continues to fall about 1 percent a month.

#3 U.S. home prices have now fallen a whopping 33% from where they were at during the peak of the housing bubble.

#4 During the first quarter of 2011, home values declined at the fastest rate since late 2008.

#5 According to Zillow, more than 55 percent of all single-family homes with a mortgage in Atlanta have negative equity and more than 68 percent of all single-family homes with a mortgage in Phoenix have negative equity.

#6 U.S. home values have fallen an astounding 6.3 trillion dollars since the housing crisis first began.

#7 In February, U.S. housing starts experienced their largest decline in 27 years.

#8 New home sales in the United States are now down 80% from the peak in July 2005.

#9 Historically, the percentage of residential mortgages in foreclosure in the United States has tended to hover between 1 and 1.5 percent.  Today, it is up around 4.5 percent.

#10 According to RealtyTrac, foreclosure filings in the United States are projected to increase by another 20 percent in 2011.

#11 It is estimated that 25% of all mortgages in Miami-Dade County are “in serious distress and headed for either foreclosure or short sale“.

#12 Two years ago, the average U.S. homeowner that was being foreclosed upon had not made a mortgage payment in 11 months.  Today, the average U.S. homeowner that is being foreclosed upon has not made a mortgage payment in 17 months.

#13 Sales of foreclosed homes now represent an all-time record 23.7% of the market.

#14 4.5 million home loans are now either in some stage of foreclosure or are at least 90 days delinquent.

#15 According to the Mortgage Bankers Association, at least 8 million Americans are currently at least one month behind on their mortgage payments.

#16 In September 2008, 33 percent of Americans knew someone who had been foreclosed upon or who was facing the threat of foreclosure.  Today that number has risen to 48 percent.

#17 During the first quarter of 2011, less new homes were sold in the U.S. than in any three month period ever recorded.

#18 According to a recent census report, 13% of all homes in the United States are currently sitting empty.

#19 In 1996, 89 percent of Americans believed that it was better to own a home than to rent one.  Today that number has fallen to 63 percent.

#20 According to Zillow, the United States has been in a “housing recession” for 57 straight months without an end in sight.

So should we be confident that the folks in charge are doing everything that they can to turn all of this around?

Sadly, the truth is that our “authorities” really do not know what they are doing.  The following is what Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke had to say about the housing market back in 2006….

“Housing markets are cooling a bit. Our expectation is that the decline in activity or the slowing in activity will be moderate, that house prices will probably continue to rise.”

Since that time U.S. housing prices have experienced their biggest decline ever.

At some point widespread inflation is going to reverse the trend we are experiencing right now, but that doesn’t mean that most American families will be able to afford to buy homes when that happens.

As I have written about previously, the middle class in America is shrinking.  The number of Americans on food stamps has increased by 18 million over the past four years and today 47 million Americans (a new all-time record) are living in poverty.

Millions of our jobs are being shipped overseas, the cost of living keeps going up and an increasing percentage of American families are losing faith in the economy.

More Americans than ever are talking about “the coming economic collapse” as if it is a foregone conclusion.  Our federal government is swamped with debt, our state and local governments are swamped with debt and our economic infrastructure is being ripped to shreds by globalization.

So sadly, no, there are not a whole lot of reasons to be optimistic at this point about a major economic turnaround.

The U.S. economy is going down the toilet and the coming collapse is going to be incredibly painful for all of us.

Hopefully when that collapse comes you will have somewhere warm and safe to call home.  If not, hopefully someone will have compassion on you.  In any event, we all need to buckle up because it is going to be a wild ride.

18 Reasons Why You Can Stick A Fork In The New Home Construction Industry

If you make your living by building or selling new homes in the United States, you might want to consider taking up a different career for a while.  New homes sales in the United States hit yet another new all-time record low in the month of February, and there are a whole lot of reasons why new home sales are going to stay extremely low for an extended period of time.  The massive wave of foreclosures that we have seen has produced a giant glut of unsold homes in the marketplace, mortgage lenders are making it really hard to get approved for home loans, unemployment is still rampant and the global economy looks like it may soon plunge into another major recession.  None of those things is good news for the new home construction industry.  The truth is that we were supposed to have seen new home sales already bounce back by now.  If you look at the historical numbers, new home sales in the U.S. always increased significantly after the end of every recession since World War 2.  But that did not happen this time.  Instead, new home sales have just continued to decline.  This is absolutely unprecedented, and economists are puzzled.  So what is going to happen if the U.S. economy suffers another major downturn?

New home construction has always been one of the foundational pillars of the U.S. economy.  When times were good new home construction would boom, and when times were bad new home construction would falter.

Well, unfortunately the industry is stuck in the midst of a multi-year decline right now.  The reality is that you can stick a fork in the new home construction industry in the United States.  It is toast.  There is going to be no recovery for the foreseeable future.

Not that previously owned homes are doing that much better.  According to the National Association of Realtors, sales of previously existing homes in the United States dropped 9.6 percent in February.  But at least sales of previously owned homes are not at all-time record lows like new home sales are.

As you can see from the facts posted below, new home sales are absolutely abysmal right now, and there are a lot of indications that things may get even worse.  The following are 18 reasons why you can stick a fork in the new home construction industry….

#1 New home sales in the United States set a brand new all-time record low in the month of February.

#2 Only 19,000 new homes were sold in the United States during the month of February. The previous record low for new home sales during the month of February was 27,000, which was set last year.

#3 The “months of supply” of new homes in the U.S. rose from 7.4 months in January to 8.9 months in February.

#4 The median price of a new home in the United States declined almost 14 percent to $202,100 in the month of February.

#5 The median price of a new home in the U.S. is now the lowest it has been since December 2003.

#6 As of the end of 2010, new home sales in the United States had declined for five straight years, and they are expected to be lower once again in 2011.

#7 Now home sales in the United States are now down 80% from the peak in July 2005.

#8 New home construction starts in the United States fell 22.5 percent during the month of February.  This was the largest decline in 27 years.

#9 In February, the number of new building permits (a measure of future home building activity) declined to the lowest level in more than 50 years.  In fact, new building permits were 20 percent lower during February 2011 than they were in February 2010.

#10 There is a major glut of foreclosed homes that still need to be sold off.  David Crowe, the chief economist for the National Association of Home Builders, recently told CNN that the constant flow of new foreclosures being put on the market is a huge hindrance to a recovery for new home sales….

“One of the biggest detriments to building new homes is the flow of existing foreclosed homes.”

#11 The number of foreclosures just continues to increase.  This means that those trying to sell new homes are going to continue to be competing against a giant mountain of foreclosed homes for the foreseeable future.  An all-time record of 2.87 million U.S. households received a foreclosure filing in 2010, and that number is expected to be even higher in 2011.

#12 In fact, there are a whole lot of signs that there will be very high levels of foreclosures for years to come.  For example, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association, at least 8 million Americans are at least one month behind on their mortgage payments at this point.

#13 A stunningly high number of Americans are “underwater” on their mortgages right now.  This could lead to an increase in the number of “strategic defaults”.  31 percent of the homeowners that responded to a recent Rasmussen Reports survey indicated that they are “underwater” on their mortgages, and Deutsche Bank is projecting that 48 percent of all U.S. mortgages could have negative equity by the end of 2011.

#14 The truth is that the U.S. doesn’t need a whole lot of new housing at the moment.  Right now, 11 percent of all homes in the United States are currently standing empty.

#15 Mortgage lending standards have become extremely tight.  Back during the housing bubble, almost anyone that was breathing could get a zero-down mortgage.  Today, mortgage lenders have made it extremely difficult to acquire a home loan, and it is quite typical these days for lenders to demand down payments of 20 percent or more.  This is dramatically reducing the number of home buyers in the marketplace.

#16 American families cannot buy homes if they do not have good jobs.  Unfortunately, it has become extremely difficult to find a job in the United States today.  This is especially true if you are looking for a good job.  It now takes the average unemployed worker in America about 33 weeks to find a job.

#17 There is not going to be a jobs recovery until the overall economy improves.  Unfortunately, the price of oil continues to rise dramatically and economic disasters all over the planet threaten to plunge the global economy into another major recession.

#18 On top of everything else, perceptions regarding home ownership are shifting in the United States.  In 1996, 89 percent of Americans believed that it was better to own a home than to rent one.  Today that number has fallen to 63 percent.

Even Donald Trump Is Warning That An Economic Collapse Is Coming

In a shocking new interview, Donald Trump has gone farther than he ever has before in discussing a potential economic collapse in America.  Using phrases such as “you’re going to pay $25 for a loaf of bread pretty soon” and “we could end up being another Egypt”, Trump explained to Newsmax that he is incredibly concerned about the direction our economy is headed.  Whatever you may think of Donald Trump on a personal level, it is undeniable that he has been extremely successful in business.  As one of the most prominent businessmen in America, he is absolutely horrified about what is happening to this nation.  In fact, he is so disturbed about the direction that this country is heading that he is seriously considering running for president in 2012.  But whether he decides to run in 2012 or not, what Trump is now saying about the U.S. economy should be a huge wake up call for all of us.

Trump says that the U.S. government is broke, that all of our jobs are being shipped overseas, that other nations are heavily taking advantage of us and that the value of the U.S. dollar is being destroyed.  The following interview with Trump was originally posted on Newsmax and it is really worth watching….

Now, you may or may not think much of Donald Trump as a politician, but when a businessman of his caliber starts using apocalyptic language to describe where the U.S. economy is headed perhaps we should all pay attention.

The following are 12 key quotes that were pulled out of Trump’s new interview along with some facts and statistics that show that what Trump is saying is really happening.

#1 “If oil prices are allowed to inflate and keep inflating, if the dollar keeps going down in value, I think there’s a very distinct possibility that things could get worse.”

Donald Trump is exactly right – we are headed for big trouble if we continue to allow the Federal Reserve to pump hundreds of billions of new dollars into the system.  As I have written about previously, all of this new money will give us the illusion of short-term economic growth and it will pump up the stock market, but in the end all of the inflation the new money is gong to cause is going to be very painful.  Just look at how rapidly M1 has been skyrocketing over the last couple of years.  Is there any way that we are going to be able to avoid paying a very serious price for all of this reckless money printing?….

Already all of this money printing has had a very serious affect on world financial markets.  The price of agricultural commodities is skyrocketing and the price of oil has almost reached $100 a barrel once again.  The last time that the price of oil soared above $100 a barrel was in the early part of 2008, and we all remember the horrific financial collapse that followed in the fall of 2008.

#2 “….you’re going to pay $25 for a loaf of bread pretty soon. Look at what’s happening with our food prices. They’re going through the roof. We could end up being another Egypt. You could have riots in our streets also.”

The price of corn has risen 88 percent over the past year and the price of wheat has soared a whopping 114 percent over the past year.  Let’s hope that we don’t have to pay $25 for a loaf of bread in the United States any time soon, but in some areas of the world that is what it now feels like.

Approximately 3 billion people in the world today live on the equivalent of $2 a day or less, and most of that money ends up getting spent on food.  When food prices go up 10 or 20 percent in deeply impoverished areas of the globe, suddenly the lives of millions are threatened.  The riots that we have seen in Egypt, Algeria, Tunisia and other nations recently were not entirely caused by rising food prices, but they were certainly a big factor.

#3 “I think gold will go up as long as people don’t have confidence in our president and our country. And they don’t have confidence in our president.”

Investors run to gold and other precious metals when they don’t feel secure.  We saw that happen a lot in 2010.  As confidence in the paper currencies and the financial systems of the world has rapidly diminished, precious metals have become increasingly attractive.

In fact, the price of gold has doubled since the beginning of the economic downturn in 2007.  As the global financial situation continues to become more unstable, the demand for precious metals is likely only going to become more intense.

#4 “The banks have really let us down. Number one, they did some bad things and caused some bad problems. Number two, if you have something that you want to buy, like a house, they’re generally not there for you.”

Banks were given massive bailouts with the understanding that they would open up the vaults and start lending money to average Americans again.

Well, that has not happened.

In particular, it has become much, much harder to get a mortgage in the United States today.  Not that the big banks didn’t need to make changes to their lending practices, but things have gotten so tight now that it is choking the real estate market to death.

#5 “I see $3.50 for a gallon of gas for cars, and cars are lined up trying to get it and it’s $3.50. It’s a shame, a ridiculous shame.”

Our lack of a cohesive energy policy is a national disgrace.  There is no way in the world that a gallon of gas should be $3.50 a gallon.

The U.S. has massive reserves of oil and natural gas that it should be using.  In addition, the lack of progress on developing alternative energy sources in light of our sickening dependence on foreign oil is very puzzling.  We should be very far along towards solving our energy problems by this point.

Meanwhile, we keep pouring billions into the pockets of foreign oil barons every single month.  Unfortunately, Trump was exactly correct in the interview – if something is not done the price of gas is going to keep going higher.

#6 “I think the biggest threat is that our jobs are being stolen by other countries. We’re not going to have any jobs here pretty soon.”

Donal Trump is one of the few prominent leaders that is openly speaking the truth about the predatory economic practices of some of our “trading partners”.  Most of our politicians have just kept endlessly promising us that free trade is “good for us” even as tens of thousands of factories and millions upon millions of jobs have been shipped overseas.

Back in 1970, 25 percent of all jobs in the United States were manufacturing jobs. Today, only 9 percent of the jobs in the United States are manufacturing jobs.

Yes, computers and robots have replaced a lot of manual labor today, but technology does not account for most of the decline we have seen in manufacturing.

n 1959, manufacturing represented 28 percent of all U.S. economic output.  In 2008, it represented only 11.5 percent.  Meanwhile, manufacturing in the “developing world” has absolutely exploded.

#7 “We’re like a whipping post for other countries. We are standing there and just being beaten by South Korea, by Mexico, by China, by India.”

Most Americans have absolutely no idea how lopsided many of our “trade agreements” actually are.  Other nations openly manipulate their currencies in order to keep their exports dirt cheap and we allow it.  Other nations openly subsidize their domestic industries that are directly competing with businesses in the United States and we don’t complain.  Other nations make it incredibly difficult for American companies to do business in their countries while we allow foreign corporations to come on in and do pretty much whatever they want here.

Then there are certain nations (such as China) that brazenly rip off trade secrets from foreign corporations time after time after time and never get penalized for it.

Meanwhile, our economy continues to bleed jobs at a staggering pace.  The number of net jobs gained by the U.S. economy during this past decade was smaller than during any other decade since World War 2.

Fortunately, more Americans than ever seem to be waking up and are realizing that globalism is causing many of these problems.  A NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll conducted last year discovered that 69 percent of Americans now believe that free trade agreements have cost America jobs.

#8 “All of our jobs are going to China. We’re rebuilding China and other places.”

China is doing great.  China is now the number one producer in the world of wind and solar power.  They now possess the fastest supercomputer on the entire globe.  China also now has the world’s fastest train and the world’s biggest high-speed rail network.

Most Americans don’t realize that China is literally kicking the crap out of us.

Back in 1998, the United States had 25 percent of the world’s high-tech export market and China had just 10 percent. Ten years later, the United States had less than 15 percent and China’s share had soared to 20 percent.

Every single month we buy about 4 times as much stuff from them as they buy from us.  Our trade deficit with China has ballooned to enormous proportions.  In fact, the U.S. trade deficit with China during this past August was more than 4,600 times larger than the U.S. trade deficit with China was for the entire year of 1985.

So when Donald Trump says that we are rebuilding China he is not joking around.

Nobel economist Robert W. Fogel of the University of Chicago is projecting that the Chinese economy will be three times larger than the U.S. economy by the year 2040 if current trends continue.

Yes, that is how serious things have become.

#9 “We are a laughingstock throughout the world.”

Donald Trump has said on several occasions that his friends and business partners in China just laugh and laugh at us.  They can’t even believe what they are getting away with.

We have become an incompetent giant that is the butt of all the jokes.

According to Stanford University economics professor Ed Lazear, if the U.S. economy and the Chinese economy continue to grow at current rates, the average Chinese citizen will be wealthier than the average American citizen in just 30 years.

Our formerly great industrial cities are slowly becoming ghost towns.  The number of long-term unemployed Americans is at an all-time high.  Tens of millions of Americans can’t even survive without government assistance anymore.  The number of Americans on food stamps set a new all-time record every single month during 2010, and now well over 43 million Americans are enrolled in the program.

We really have become a joke.

#10 “The federal government has no money.”

Unfortunately, our federal government has continued to borrow and spend like there is no tomorrow.

According to the Congressional Budget Office, the U.S. government will have the biggest budget deficit ever recorded (approximately 1.5 trillion dollars) this year.

So much for fiscal discipline, eh?

It is being projected that the U.S. national debt will increase by $150,000 per U.S. household between 2009 and 2021.

Do you have an extra $150,000 to contribute for your share?

By 2015 our national debt will be somewhere in the neighborhood of 20 trillion dollars.

It is the biggest mountain of debt in the history of the world by far, and it is the gift that we are going to pass down to future generations of Americans.

If there are any future generations of Americans.

#11 “I hate what is happening to this country.”

We should all hate what is happening to this country.  Our economic guts are being ripped out, we are being abused by the rest of the world, America’s infrastructure is being sold off piece by piece, our federal government is drowning in debt, our state governments are drowning in debt and our local governments are drowning in debt.

The only way we can even keep going is to run around to the rest of the world and beg them to keep lending us more money.

The mainstream media keeps proclaiming that we are the greatest economy on earth, but the truth is that we are being transformed into a pathetic loser and our politicians are just standing there with their hands in their pockets letting it happen.

All red-blooded Americans should be horrified by what is happening to this nation.  We have been betrayed by corrupt and incompetent leaders.  As a nation, we have become fat, lazy and stupid.

Hopefully what Donald Trump and others are saying about a coming economic collapse will serve as a huge wake up call and the sleeping giant will arise once again.

If the sleeping giant does not arise, we are in a massive amount of trouble, because right now the road we are on is leading to the biggest economic collapse the world has ever seen.

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