The Beginning Of The End
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19 Reasons To Be Deeply Concerned About The Global Economy As We Enter The 2nd Half Of 2013

EarthIs the global economic downturn going to accelerate as we roll into the second half of this year?  There is turmoil in the Middle East, we are seeing things happen in the bond markets that we have not seen happen in more than 30 years, and much of Europe has already plunged into a full-blown economic depression.  Sadly, most Americans will never understand what is happening until financial disaster strikes them personally.  As long as they can go to work during the day and eat frozen pizza and watch reality television at night, most of them will consider everything to be just fine.  Unfortunately, the truth is that everything is not fine.  The world is becoming increasingly unstable, we are living in the terminal phase of the greatest debt bubble in the history of the planet and the global financial system is even more vulnerable than it was back in 2008.  Unfortunately, most people seem to only have a 48 hour attention span at best these days.  They don’t have the patience to watch long-term trends develop.  And the coming economic collapse is not going to happen all at once.  Rather, it is like watching a very, very slow-motion train wreck happen.  The coming economic nightmare is going to unfold over a number of years.  Yes, there will be moments of great panic, but mostly it will be a steady decline into economic oblivion.  And there are a lot of indications that the second half of this year is not going to be as good as the first half was.  The following are 19 reasons to be deeply concerned about the global economy as we head into the second half of 2013…

#1 The velocity of money in the United States has plunged to an all-time low.  It is extremely difficult to have an “economic recovery” if banks are not lending money and people are not spending it…

Velocity Of Money

#2 The fall of the Egyptian government threatens to bring even more instability to the Middle East.  In response to the events in Egypt, the price of oil rose to more than 101 dollars a barrel on Wednesday.

#3 Every time the average price of a gallon of gasoline in the United States has risen over $3.80 in the past three years, a stock market decline has always followed.

#4 As the world becomes increasingly unstable, massive citizen protest movements have been rising all over the globe

The protests have many different origins. In Brazil people rose up against bus fares, in Turkey against a building project. Indonesians have rejected higher fuel prices, Bulgarians the government’s cronyism.

In the euro zone they march against austerity, and the Arab spring has become a perma-protest against pretty much everything. Each angry demonstration is angry in its own way.

#5 The European sovereign debt crisis is flaring up once again.  This time it is Portugal’s turn to take center stage…

From Greece to Cyprus, Slovenia to Spain and Italy, and now most pressingly Portugal, where the finance and foreign ministers resigned in the space of two days, a host of problems is stirring after 10 months of relative calm imposed by the European Central Bank.

Portuguese Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho told the nation in an address late on Tuesday that he did not accept the foreign minister’s resignation and would try to go on governing.

If his government does end up collapsing, as is now more likely, it will raise immediate questions about Lisbon’s ability to meet the terms of the 78-billion-euro bailout it agreed with the EU and International Monetary Fund in 2011.

#6 It is being projected that Italy will need a major EU bailout within six months.

#7 Bond investors are starting to panic.  In fact, even prominent firms such as Pimco are seeing investors pull massive amounts of money out right now…

In June, investors pulled $9.6bn from Bill Gross’s flagship fund at Pimco, the largest single month of outflows at the fund since Morningstar records began in 1993, the investment research firm said.

The outflows came after investors pulled $1.3bn from the fund in May, which marked the first outflows since December 2011.

Overall, a whopping 80 billion dollars was pulled out of bond funds during June.

#8 Central banks are selling off staggering amounts of U.S. Treasury bonds right now.

#9 U.S. mortgage bonds just suffered their largest quarterly decline in nearly 20 years.

#10 We continue to buy far more from the rest of the world than they buy from us.  The U.S. trade deficit for the month of May was 45.0 billion dollars.

#11 The severe drought that the western half of the United States is suffering never seems to end.  What will it do to food prices if ranchers and farmers out west have to go through another summer like they did last year?

#12 European car sales have fallen to a 20 year low.

#13 Unemployment in the eurozone is at an all-time high.

#14 Could the paper gold Ponzi scheme be on the verge of crumbling?  There are reports that there is now a 100 day delay for gold owners to take physical delivery of their gold from some warehouses owned by the London Metal Exchange…

We’re told that bullion-buyers in London must now wait more than 100 days to take delivery of the bullion for which they have already paid.

The comedic drones at Bloomberg, and officials of the London Metal Exchange itself would have us believe this is due to “warehouse queues.” While precious metals bulls undoubtedly appreciate the imagery implied of a 100-day line-up of armored cars waiting to load their bullion – in the middle of this “bear market” – the implication is fallacious.

In an era of just-in-time inventories; the notion that there can be a 100-day backlog to load bullion into armored cars with the metal already sitting in the warehouse is ludicrous. Clearly what the LME is really reporting here is a greater-than-three-month delay to refine the gold (or silver) being purchased here – and then ship it to their warehouse.

In other words, the “bullion” which traders believe they are purchasing today is in fact merely ore which hasn’t even been dug out of the ground yet.

#15 The number of mortgage applications in the United States is falling at the fastest rate in more than 3 years.

#16 Real disposable income in the United States is falling at the fastest rate in more than 4 years.

#17 The percentage of companies issuing negative earnings guidance for this quarter is at a level that we have never seen before.

#18 Is the dark side of derivatives trading about to be exposed?  EU officials claim that 13 major international banks have been colluding to control the trading of derivatives…

The European Commission says many of the world’s largest investment banks appear to have colluded to block attempts by exchanges to trade and offer more transparent prices for financial products known as credit derivatives.

The commission, the executive arm of the European Union, said Monday it has informed 13 banks — including Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan and Morgan Stanley — as well as the industry association for derivatives itself, the International Swaps and Derivatives Association, ISDA, of the preliminary conclusions of an investigation that began in March.

#19 There are 441 trillion dollars of interest rate derivatives sitting out there and interest rates have risen rapidly over the past few weeks.  What is going to happen to those derivatives if interest rates keep going higher?

So what do you think?

Are there any items that are missing that you would add to this list?

Please feel free to share what you think by posting a comment below…

There Will Be War In The Middle East

The military action that we are watching in the Middle East right now is just a preview of coming attractions.  Tensions in the region are rising with each passing day, and all sides have been anticipating future conflicts and preparing for war for decades.  It would be wonderful if everyone could sit down, forgive each other and agree to quit fighting, but that is not going to happen.  Most of us that live in the western world have a very difficult time understanding the mindset of those immersed in these conflicts.  In the Middle East, there are vendettas and grudges that go back literally thousands of years.  Children are raised in schools where they are taught to bitterly hate their enemies from the time that they are first able to speak.  As Americans, we have forgiven former enemies such as Germany and Japan and we just expect that everyone else should be able to forgive as well.  But that is simply not the way that it works over there, and there is no long-term solution in the Middle East that is going to be acceptable to all sides.  Right now, Israel, Hamas, Hezbollah, the Muslim Brotherhood, Syria and Iran are all preparing for war.  Hopefully cooler heads will prevail in this current crisis, but that will only delay the inevitable.  There will be war in the Middle East.  Yes, politicians such as Barack Obama will do their best to broker more “peace agreements”, but even the declaration of a “Palestinian state” will never stop the fighting.  In fact, it would just set the stage for more war.  I don’t mean to sound pessimistic about the region, but the truth is that there will be more war until it is not possible to fight any longer.  Any “peace plan” will just be a pause in the warfare.

But hopefully the current crisis in the Middle East will not immediately erupt into a full-blown regional war.  That would not be good for the global economy.  In fact, that would not be good for anyone at all.

Here are some of the most recent developments…

-Hamas has launched dozens of rockets into Israel since Saturday.  At one point, the IDF estimated that at least 130 rockets had been fired from Gaza.  Other estimates have put the number of rocket attacks much higher.

-In response, the IDF launched a military operation in Gaza on Wednesday.  This involved the killing of the head of the military wing of Hamas, Ahmed Jabari, in an airstrike that was captured on video.  You can see video of the airstrike right here.

-The IDF also attacked more than 20 underground rocket launchers in Gaza.  The goal was to stop them from launching more rockets into Israel.  Apparently those rocket launchers were capable of hitting targets 25 miles over the border into Israel.

-In response to the Wednesday attacks by the IDF, a substantial number of rockets were fired from Gaza toward Israel.  The IDF says that the Iron Dome missile defense system was able to intercept 13 of the rockets.

-The IDF says that the military operations they conducted on Wednesday were part of a “major offensive” and that a ground attack may also be coming.

-“Operation Pillar of Defense” is the code name that has been given to this campaign.

-The IDF is not taking any options off the table.  The following is from a message posted on the IDF Twitter account

“All options are on the table. If necessary, the IDF is ready to initiate a ground operation in Gaza.”

-In particular, the IDF is being very open about the fact that top Hamas leaders will be targeted.  The following is from another message posted on the IDF Twitter account

“We recommend that no Hamas operatives, whether low level or senior leaders, show their faces above ground in the days ahead.”

-The U.S. State Department has denounced Hamas for the rocket attacks against Israel and is saying that Israel has the right to self-defense.

-The military wing of Hamas says that Israel “has opened the gates of hell.

-One top Hamas official, Khalil al-Haya, is very clear about what his goal is…

“The battle between us and the occupation is open and it will end only with the liberation of Palestine and Jerusalem”

-Islamic Jihad has released a statement that is very critical of the IDF attack on Wednesday…

“Israel has declared war on Gaza and they will bear the responsibility for the consequences.”

In Egypt, the head of the most important political party is warning that Egypt may have to get involved if the fighting continues.  The following is from a Breitbart report

Today, Egypt’s Freedom and Justice Party, the political wing of the Muslim Brotherhood – a party formerly headed by current President Mohammed Morsi – announced that Egypt would get involved if Israel continued to kill terrorists in the Gaza Strip. Such Israeli action, said the party, would prompt “swift Arab and international action to stop the massacres.” The party also warned that Israel “must take into account the changes in the Arab region and especially Egypt … [Egypt] will not allow the Palestinians to be subjected to Israeli aggression, as in the past.”

-Things also continue to get more tense with Syria.  Israel has fired tank shells into Syria twice since Sunday.  They did this in response to Syrian shells which struck the Golan Heights.  This marked the first time that Israel had fired tank shells into Syria since the Yom Kippur War in 1973.

-Syrian rebels are receiving a massive influx of arms and assistance.  The following is from a recent article in the Washington Post

Syrian rebels battling the regime of President Bashar al-Assad have begun receiving significantly more and better weapons in recent weeks, an effort paid for by Persian Gulf nations and coordinated in part by the United States, according to opposition activists and U.S. and foreign officials.

Obama administration officials emphasized that the United States is neither supplying nor funding the lethal material, which includes antitank weaponry. Instead, they said, the administration has expanded contacts with opposition military forces to provide the gulf nations with assessments of rebel credibility and command-and-control infrastructure.

-It is being reported that UK troops may soon be deployed to areas near the border with Syria.

-NATO has announced that it is prepared to defend Turkey if necessary…

NATO will defend alliance member Turkey, which struck back after mortar rounds fired from Syria landed inside its border, the alliance’s Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said at a meeting in Prague on Monday.

“NATO as an organization will do what it takes to protect and defend Turkey, our ally. We have more plans in place to make sure that we can protect and defend Turkey and hopefully that way also deter so that attacks on Turkey will not take place,” he said.

Once again, hopefully all of this will settle down in a few days.

But it is never easy to predict what is going to happen next in the Middle East.  There is so much hate and anger and things could literally explode over there at any time.

In the months and years to come, I expect the Middle East to become a major issue for the global economy and a major political issue inside the United States.

When war does erupt in the Middle East, it is going to dramatically affect the price of oil, and there will also be a tremendous amount of debate about whether the U.S. military should intervene or not.

Let us hope for peace, but let us also be very realistic about the situation over there.  Our world is becoming more unstable with each passing day, and the times that are coming are going to be very challenging.

So what do you think?

Please feel free to post a comment with your thoughts below…

8 Economic Threats That We Were Not Even Talking About At The Beginning Of The Summer

In the crazy times in which we live, it helps to expect the unexpected.  Sometimes you can think that you have it all figured out and then this world can throw a real curveball at you. Very few people anticipated that we would see a massive outbreak of the West Nile Virus in Texas this year or that the Mississippi River would be in danger of drying up after experiencing historic flooding last year.  Who would have thought that we would see the worst drought in more than 50 years or that horrific wildfires would burn nearly 7 million acres of land?  This is why economic conditions are always so hard to predict.  A single “black swan event” can come along and change everything almost overnight.  Our world has become incredibly unstable, and so who really knows what the rest of 2012 will bring?  Will we see a stock market crash?  Will the hurricane season be unusually bad?  Will war erupt in the Middle East?  Will we see a major earthquake on the west coast or even a volcanic eruption?  Will the upcoming election cause an eruption of anger and frustration in America?  We don’t know the answers to those questions yet, and the truth is that we will probably see some things happen that very few of us are anticipating at this point.

This is an exciting time to be a “news junkie”, but unfortunately the vast majority of the news these days is bad.

It is almost as if a “perfect storm” is developing.  Our weather is going crazy, our financial system is on the verge of collapse, our politicians seem more insane than ever, there is evidence of social decay all around us and the drumbeats of war in the Middle East grow louder with each passing day.

As strange as 2012 has been so far, I fear that things are about to get a whole lot stranger.

Not that we haven’t had some very unanticipated events happen this year up to this point.

The following are 8 economic threats that we were not even talking about at the beginning of the summer….

#1 West Nile Virus

What is up with all of the strange disease outbreaks that we have seen so far this year?

Flesh eating disease and the bird flu have both been making global headlines this summer, but in the U.S. right now it is the West Nile Virus that is getting the most attention.

So far more than 1,100 cases of the West Nile Virus have been diagnosed in the United States and more than 41 people have died from it.

More than half of the cases so far have been in Texas, but we have also seen people come down with West Nile Virus in Mississippi, Louisiana, South Dakota, and Oklahoma.

If you live in any of those areas, you might want to do your best to avoid mosquitos for the rest of the summer.

#2 Historic Drought

This summer, the United States has experienced the worst drought that it has seen in more than 50 years.

This weather has been absolutely crippling for farmers and ranchers all over the nation.  As I wrote about the other day, about half of all corn being grown in the U.S. is currently either in “poor” or “very poor” condition.

As the drought has dragged on, many farmers and ranchers have become increasingly desperate.  In fact, one farmer has even been feeding his cows candy in an attempt to deal with rising feed prices.

Needless to say, this drought has been causing commodity prices to soar.

On Tuesday, the price of corn closed at a record $8.38 a bushel, and the price of soybeans closed at $17.30 a bushel.

#3 The Mississippi River Is Drying Up

Thanks to this drought, rivers and lakes all over the United States are drying up.  In fact, there have been reports that millions of fish have been dying because water levels have gotten so low in many areas.

Even the mighty Mississippi River has dropped to dangerously low levels.

At this point, the Mississippi is lower than most people living along the river can ever remember.  If it drops much lower, it could potentially have an absolutely devastating impact on the U.S. economy.

A recent NBC News report described what is at stake….

About $180 billion worth of goods move up and down the river on barges, 500 million tons of the basic ingredients for much of the U.S. economy, according to the American Waterways Operators, a trade group. It carries 60 percent of the nation’s grain, 22 percent of the oil and gas and 20 percent of the coal, according to American Waterways Operators. It would take 60 trailer trucks to carry the cargo in just one barge, 144 18-wheeler tankers to carry the oil and gas in one petroleum barge.

If all traffic along the Mississippi was forced to stop, it is estimated that it would cost the U.S. economy about 300 million dollars a day.

And already there have been stoppages along one 11 mile stretch of the river….

Nearly 100 boats and barges were waiting for passage Monday along an 11-mile stretch of the Mississippi River that has been closed because of low water levels, the U.S. Coast Guard said. New Orleans-based Coast Guard spokesman Ryan Tippets said the stretch of river near Greenville, Miss., has been closed intermittently since Aug. 11, when a vessel ran aground.

So what happens if the Mississippi gets even lower?

#4 Wildfires

The extreme heat has also been responsible for the horrific outbreak of wildfires that we have seen in the western United States this year.

So far in 2012, nearly 7 million acres have been burned up.

That is an area about as big as the states of Maryland and Delaware combined.

#5 The Global Elite Hoarding Gold

In the past, the global elite and the mainstream media would mock those who are hoarding gold in anticipation of a major financial collapse.

But now it is the global elite who are hoarding gold.

In a previous article, I discussed how men such as George Soros and John Paulson are investing mind-boggling amounts of money in gold right now.  The amount of money that these two individuals are investing in gold is difficult to comprehend….

There was also news last week in an SEC filing that both George Soros and John Paulson had increased their investment in SPDR Gold Trust, the world’s largest publicly traded physical gold exchange traded fund (ETF).

Mr Soros upped his stake in the ETF to 884,400 shares from 319,550 and Mr Paulson bought 4.53m shares, bringing his stake to 21.3m.

At the current price of about $156 a share, these are new investments of about $88m of Mr Soros’ cash and more than $700m from Mr Paulson’s funds. These are significant positions.

Combined, Soros and Paulson dumped more than three quarters of a billion dollars into gold during the second quarter of 2012 alone.

So what are they anticipating?

The central banks of the world have been very busy hoarding gold as well.  According to the World Gold Council, global central banks were net buyers of 157.5 metric tons of gold during the second quarter of 2012.

Over the past 20 years there has never been a time when global central banks have accumulated that much gold during a single quarter.

So just what in the world is going on?

#6 Recession In The UK

Everyone knew that Greece was in deep trouble.

And everyone knew that Italy and Spain were in deep trouble.

But it was a surprise to see the UK economy plunge deep into recession.  During the second quarter of 2012 alone, the UK economy shrunk by 0.7 percent.

At this point the British economy has contracted for three quarters in a row.

Hopefully things will not get even worse over there.

#7 Major Economic Slowdown In The United States

Considering the fact that the U.S. economy never even came close to recovering from the last recession, it is a bit disheartening to see that it looks like we are headed for another major downturn.

According to Michael Panzer of Financial Armageddon, measurements of economic activity compiled by the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia indicate that the U.S. economy is rapidly heading into another recession.  If you doubt this, just check out this chart.

And for a lot more reasons why the U.S. economy is entering another recession, check out this article.

#8 Hauled Off To A Mental Institution For What You Believe

Do you ever worry that what you post on Facebook could get you involuntarily committed to a mental institution?

Well, that is exactly what happened to one military vet recently.

A former Marine named Brandon Raub was hauled off to a mental institution because of what he posted on his Facebook page.

This is how the Economic Policy Journal summarized what happened to Raub….

The muscle used to grab Brandon Raub was local Chesterfield County, VA police. Also present during the grab were agents of the FBI and of the Secret Service.

Both the FBI and the Secret Service claim that they were only observing and not participating in the grab. The Chesterfield County police initially stated that they were only carrying out a request from the federal agencies.

The police also claim Raub is not under arrest, even though he was led away in handcuffs and is not permitted to leave the psychiatric ward of a hospital—even though it appears that Raub is not in  any way in need of psychological care.

I note this happened in the United States of America, with local police, FBI agents and Secret Service taking part.

The claim that Raub is “not under arrest” is completely and totally ridiculous.  The authorities came to his door, slapped handcuffs on him and are holding him in a mental institution against his will.

And now he has been transferred to a facility that is 3 hours away from his family, his supporters and his legal team.

What in the world is America turning into?

The Rutherford Institute is defending Raub, and the following is an excerpt from a statement about this case on their website….

“This is not how justice in America is supposed to work—with Americans being arrested for doing nothing more than exercising their First Amendment rights, forced to undergo psychological evaluations, detained against their will and isolated from their family, friends and attorneys. This is a scary new chapter in our history,” said John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute. “Brandon Raub is no different from the majority of Americans who use their private Facebook pages to post a variety of content, ranging from song lyrics and political hyperbole to trash talking their neighbors, friends and government leaders.”

This is the kind of thing that we have seen under brutal totalitarian regimes in the past.  Dissidents are grabbed by authorities and taken to mental institutions where they are conveniently “disappeared”.

This kind of thing is not supposed to happen in America.

But it is happening.

And you know what?  Before the authorities start attacking people for exercising free speech on Facebook perhaps they should clean up their own house.

It turns out that thousands of DHS employees have been convicted of crimes in recent years.  The following is from a recent CNS News article….

There have been 2,527 Department of Homeland Security (DHS) employees and co-conspirators convicted of corruption and other criminal misconduct since 2004, according to a federal auditor.

Our world is becoming a very crazy place.

One thing that most people did see coming this summer was the continuing economic decline in Greece.

At this point Greece is experiencing a full-blown economic depression and it gets worse by the day.

If you can believe it, 1,250 companies have shut down in the second largest city in Greece in 2012 alone.

Ouch.

And many in the financial world believe the the situation in Greece is going to go beyond the breaking point fairly soon.

In fact, analysts at Citibank believe that there is a 90 percent chance that Greece will leave the euro over the next 12 to 18 months.

90 percent?

They sound pretty sure of themselves.

Not that the rest of Europe is in such great shape either.

According to Bloomberg, it looks like Europe will soon be losing about half a million auto industry jobs….

Efforts by PSA Peugeot Citroen (UG) and Fiat SpA (F) to end losses in Europe could cost more than 500,000 people their jobs as automakers and parts suppliers grapple with the effects of the European sovereign debt crisis.

We live in very unusual times.

Things are falling apart all around us and we seem to be rapidly approaching another major economic crisis.

Central banks, governments and Wall Street insiders all seem to be preparing for the worst.

Are you?

Saudi Arabia And China Team Up To Build A Gigantic New Oil Refinery – Is This The Beginning Of The End For The Petrodollar?

The largest oil exporter in the Middle East has teamed up with the second largest consumer of oil in the world (China) to build a gigantic new oil refinery and the mainstream media in the United States has barely even noticed it.  This mammoth new refinery is scheduled to be fully operational in the Red Sea port city of Yanbu by 2014.  Over the past several years, China has sought to aggressively expand trade with Saudi Arabia, and China now actually imports more oil from Saudi Arabia than the United States does.  In February, China imported 1.39 million barrels of oil per day from Saudi Arabia.  That was 39 percent higher than last February.  So why is this important?  Well, back in 1973 the United States and Saudi Arabia agreed that all oil sold by Saudi Arabia would be denominated in U.S. dollars.  This petrodollar system was adopted by almost the entire world and it has had great benefits for the U.S. economy.  But if China becomes Saudi Arabia’s most important trading partner, then why should Saudi Arabia continue to only sell oil in U.S. dollars?  And if the petrodollar system collapses, what is that going to mean for the U.S. economy?

Those are very important questions, and they will be addressed later on in this article.  First of all, let’s take a closer look at the agreement reached between Saudi Arabia and China recently.

The following is how the deal was described in a recent China Daily article….

In what Riyadh calls “the largest expansion by any oil company in the world”, Sinopec’s deal on Saturday with Saudi oil giant Aramco will allow a major oil refinery to become operational in the Red Sea port of Yanbu by 2014.

The $8.5 billion joint venture, which covers an area of about 5.2 million square meters, is already under construction. It will process 400,000 barrels of heavy crude oil per day. Aramco will hold a 62.5 percent stake in the plant while Sinopec will own the remaining 37.5 percent.

At a time when the U.S. is actually losing refining capacity, this is a stunning development.

Yet the U.S. press has been largely silent about this.

Very curious.

But China is not just doing deals with Saudi Arabia.  China has also been striking deals with several other important oil producing nations.  The following comes from a recent article by Gregg Laskoski….

China’s investment in oil infrastructure and refining capacity is unparalleled. And more importantly, it executes a consistent strategy of developing world-class refining facilities in partnership with OPEC suppliers. Such relationships mean economic leverage that could soon subordinate U.S. relations with the same countries.

Egypt is building its largest refinery ever with investment from China.

Shortly after the partnership with Egypt was announced, China signed a $23 billion agreement with Nigeria to construct three gasoline refineries and a fuel complex in Nigeria.

Essentially, China is running circles around the United States when it comes to locking up strategic oil supplies worldwide.

And all of these developments could have tremendous implications for the future of the petrodollar system.

If you are not familiar with the petrodollar system, it really is not that complicated.  Basically, almost all of the oil in the world is traded in U.S. dollars.  The origin of the petrodollar system was detailed in a recent article by Jerry Robinson….

In 1973, a deal was struck between Saudi Arabia and the United States in which every barrel of oil purchased from the Saudis would be denominated in U.S. dollars. Under this new arrangement, any country that sought to purchase oil from Saudi Arabia would be required to first exchange their own national currency for U.S. dollars. In exchange for Saudi Arabia’s willingness to denominate their oil sales exclusively in U.S. dollars, the United States offered weapons and protection of their oil fields from neighboring nations, including Israel.

By 1975, all of the OPEC nations had agreed to price their own oil supplies exclusively in U.S. dollars in exchange for weapons and military protection. 

This petrodollar system, or more simply known as an “oil for dollars” system, created an immediate artificial demand for U.S. dollars around the globe. And of course, as global oil demand increased, so did the demand for U.S. dollars.

Once you understand the petrodollar system, it becomes much easier to understand why our politicians treat Saudi leaders with kid gloves.  The U.S. government does not want to see anything happen that would jeopardize the status quo.

A recent article by Marin Katusa described some more of the benefits that the petrodollar system has had for the U.S. economy….

The “petrodollar” system was a brilliant political and economic move. It forced the world’s oil money to flow through the US Federal Reserve, creating ever-growing international demand for both US dollars and US debt, while essentially letting the US pretty much own the world’s oil for free, since oil’s value is denominated in a currency that America controls and prints. The petrodollar system spread beyond oil: the majority of international trade is done in US dollars. That means that from Russia to China, Brazil to South Korea, every country aims to maximize the US-dollar surplus garnered from its export trade to buy oil.

The US has reaped many rewards. As oil usage increased in the 1980s, demand for the US dollar rose with it, lifting the US economy to new heights. But even without economic success at home the US dollar would have soared, because the petrodollar system created consistent international demand for US dollars, which in turn gained in value. A strong US dollar allowed Americans to buy imported goods at a massive discount – the petrodollar system essentially creating a subsidy for US consumers at the expense of the rest of the world. Here, finally, the US hit on a downside: The availability of cheap imports hit the US manufacturing industry hard, and the disappearance of manufacturing jobs remains one of the biggest challenges in resurrecting the US economy today.

So what happens if the petrodollar system collapses?

Well, for one thing the value of the U.S. dollar would plummet big time.

U.S. consumers would suddenly find that all of those “cheap imported goods” would rise in price dramatically as would the price of gasoline.

If you think the price of gas is high now, you just wait until the petrodollar system collapses.

In addition, there would be much less of a demand for U.S. government debt since countries would not have so many excess U.S. dollars lying around.

So needless to say, the U.S. government really needs the petrodollar system to continue.

But in the end, it is Saudi Arabia that is holding the cards.

If Saudi Arabia chooses to sell oil in a currency other than the U.S. dollar, most of the rest of the oil producing countries in the Middle East would surely do the same rather quickly.

And we have already seen countries in other parts of the world start to move away from using the U.S. dollar in global trade.

For example, Russia and China have agreed to now use their own national currencies when trading with each other rather than the U.S. dollar.

That got virtually no attention in the U.S. media, but it really was a big deal when it was announced.

A recent article by Graham Summers summarized some of the other moves away from the U.S. dollar in international trade that we have seen recently….

Indeed, officials from China, India, Brazil, Russia, and South Africa (the latest addition to the BRIC acronym, now to be called BRICS) recently met in southern China to discuss expanding the use of their own currencies in foreign trade (yet another move away from the US Dollar).

To recap:

  • China and Russia have removed the US Dollar from their trade
  • China is rushing its trade agreement with Brazil
  • China, Russia, Brazil, India, and now South Africa are moving to trade more in their own currencies (not the US Dollar)
  • Saudi Arabia is moving to formalize trade with China and Russia
  • Singapore is moving to trade yuan

The trend here is obvious. The US Dollar’s reign as the world’s reserve currency is ending. The process will take time to unfold. But the Dollar will be finished as reserve currency within the next five years.

Yes, the days of the U.S. dollar being the primary reserve currency of the world are definitely numbered.

It will not happen overnight, but as the U.S. economy continues to get weaker it is inevitable that the rest of the world will continue to question why the U.S. dollar should automatically have such a dominant position in international trade.

Over the next few years, keep a close eye on Saudi Arabia.

When Saudi Arabia announces a move away from the petrodollar system, that will be a major trigger event for the global financial system and it will be a really, really bad sign for the U.S. economy.

The level of prosperity that we are enjoying today would not be possible without the petrodollar system.  Once the petrodollar system collapses, a lot of our underlying economic vulnerabilities will be exposed and it will not be pretty.

Tough times are on the horizon.  It is imperative that we all get informed and that we all get prepared.

15 Potentially Massive Threats To The U.S. Economy Over The Next 12 Months

We live in a world that is becoming increasingly unstable, and the potential for an event that could cause “sudden change” to the U.S. economy is greater than ever.  There are dozens of potentially massive threats that could easily push the U.S. economy over the edge during the next 12 months.  A war in the Middle East, a financial collapse in Europe, a major derivatives crisis or a horrific natural disaster could all change our economic situation very rapidly.  Most of the time I write about the long-term economic trends that are slowly but surely ripping the U.S. economy to pieces, but the truth is that just a single really bad “black swan event” over the next 12 months could accelerate our economic problems dramatically.  If oil was cut off from the Middle East or a really bad natural disaster suddenly destroyed a major U.S. city, the U.S. economy would be thrown into a state of chaos.  Considering how bad the U.S. economy is currently performing, it would be easy to see how a major “shock to the system” could push us into the “next Great Depression” very easily.  Let us hope that none of these things actually happen over the next 12 months, but let us also understand that we live in a world that has become extremely chaotic and extremely unstable.

In the list below, you will find some “sudden change” events that are somewhat likely and some that are quite unlikely.  I have tried to include a broad range of potential “black swan events”, but there are certainly dozens more massive threats that could potentially be listed.

The following are 15 potentially massive threats to the U.S. economy over the next 12 months….

#1 War With Syria – U.S. Senator John McCain is now publicly calling for U.S. airstrikes against Syria.  A military conflict with Syria becomes more likely with each passing day.

#2 War With Iran – A war in the Middle East involving Iran could literally erupt at any time.  The following is from a Reuters news report that was issued on Monday….

President Barack Obama appealed to Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday to give sanctions time to curb Iran’s nuclear ambitions, but the Israeli prime minister offered no sign of backing away from possible military action, saying his country must be the “master of its fate.”

#3 A Disorderly Greek Debt Default – Many reporters in Europe seem to think that this is becoming increasingly likely.  So what would a disorderly Greek debt default mean for the global financial system?  A leaked report that was authored by the Institute of International Finance says that a disorderly Greek debt default would have some very serious consequences.  You can read the full text of that leaked report right here.

#4 An Economic Collapse In Spain – Spain has one of the largest economies in Europe and it is rapidly becoming a basket case.  As I have written about previously, the unemployment rate in Spain has hit 19.9 percent, and the unemployment rate for workers under the age of 25 is up to 49.9 percent.  Unfortunately, the situation in Spain continues to deteriorate.  The following is from a recent article by Marc Chandler….

However, the devolution in Spain is particularly troubling. The new fiscal compact had just been signed last week, which includes somewhat more rigorous fiscal rule and enforcement, when Spain’s PM Rajoy revealed that this year’s deficit would come in around 5.8 percent of GDP rather the 4.4 percent target. This of course follows last year’s 8.5 percent overshoot of the 6 percent target.

The problem that for Spain is that the 4.4 percent target was based on forecasts for more than 2 percent growth this year. However, in late February, the EU cuts its forecast to a 1 percent contraction. This still seems optimistic. The IMF forecasts a 1.7 percent contraction, which the Spanish government now accepts.

#5 The Price Of Gasoline – The average price of a gallon of gasoline in the United States has risen for 27 days in a row and is now up to $3.77.  Virtually all forms of economic activity are affected by the price of gasoline, and if the price of gas keeps going up it is eventually going to have dramatic consequences for the U.S. economy.

#6 The Student Loan Debt Bubble – Just like we saw with the housing bubble, the student loan debt bubble just continues to grow and grow and grow.  At some point the nearly 1 trillion dollar bubble is going to burst.  What effect will it have on our financial system when that finally happens?

#7 State And Local Government Debt Crisis – It is being reported that California is running out of cash again and there are cities all over the country that are on the verge of bankruptcy.  Could we see a significant municipal bond crisis in the next 12 months?

#8 The Collapse Of A Major U.S. Bank – A number of top U.S. banks are looking increasingly shaky.  In a recent article, David Trainer explained why he has such serious concerns about Bank of America right now….

In my opinion, there are four actions taken by financial services that signal the company is headed to serious trouble.

1. Management shake-up and major layoffs – lots of layoffs over the past year

2. Exploiting accounting rules to boost earnings – SFAS 159

3. Drawing down reserves to boost earnings: to the tune of $13.3 billion in 2011 and 2012

4. Bilking customers with new fees: tried it before and trying it again

Bank of America has taken all four steps.

#9 A Derivatives Crisis – The International Swaps and Derivatives Association recently ruled that the Greek debt deal will not trigger payouts on credit default swaps.  This is seriously shaking confidence in the global market for derivatives.  But the global financial system simply cannot afford a major derivatives crisis.

Estimates of the notional value of the worldwide derivatives market range from $600 trillion all the way up to $1.5 quadrillion.  The notional value of all derivatives held by Bank of America is approximately $75 trillion.  JPMorgan Chase is holding derivatives with a notional value of approximately $79 trillion.

When the derivatives bubble finally bursts it is going to be a financial horror show unlike anything we have ever seen.

#10 The Fall Of The Japanese Economy – The Japanese economy shrank at a 2.3 percent rate during the fourth quarter of 2011.  Japan has a debt to GDP ratio of over 200 percent and a major debt crisis involving Japan could erupt at any time.

#11 A “Solar Megastorm” – Scientists tell us that there is a “1 in 8 chance” that a “solar megastorm” will hit the earth by 2014.  A recent Daily Mail article detailed what some of the consequences of such an event would be….

‘We live in a cyber cocoon enveloping the Earth. Imagine what the consequences might be,’ Daniel Baker, of the University of Colorado’s Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics told National Geographic when asked about a potential ‘megastorm’.

‘Every time you purchase a gallon of gas with your credit card, that’s a satellite transaction.

‘Imagine large cities without power for a week, a month, or a year. The losses could be $1 to $2 trillion, and the effects could be felt for years.

#12 A Major West Coast Earthquake Or Volcanic Eruption – On Monday, there was a 4.0 earthquake in San Francisco and a 6.1 earthquake in Argentina.  Is the “Ring of Fire” waking up again?

#13 Tornado Damage To Major U.S. Cities – Last year, the U.S. experienced one of the worst tornado seasons of all time.  This year, we have already seen the worst tornado outbreak ever recorded in the United States in the month of March.  A couple of towns in Indiana were completely wiped out by that outbreak.  So what should we expect when we get to the heart of tornado season this year?

#14 Severe Drought In The United States – Last summer was one of the driest summers on record in the United States, and in many areas there is simply not enough water available for farmers this year.  Some are even projecting that we could see “dust bowl conditions” return to some areas of the country eventually.

#15 An Asteroid Strike In 2013 – Although scientists tell us that the probability is extremely low, the truth is that there is a slight chance that a sizeable asteroid could hit the earth in February 2013.  The asteroid is estimated to be between 60 and 100 meters wide, and it is projected to pass by our planet “at a distance of under 27,000 km“.  If it did hit us (and scientists say that the odds of that happening are very low) it would potentially be as serious an event as the Tunguska Event in Siberia in 1908.  Mac Slavo of shtfplan.com recently described how awesome the Tunguska Event really was….

On June 30, 1908 an incoming meteor exploded approximately 5 miles above Siberia. The force of the air burst explosion, estimated at between 15 and 30 megatons, or about 1000 times bigger than the atomic bomb that destroyed Hiroshima, was so powerful that it annihilated everything in an 830 square mile area, and reports suggest that that explosion was heard up to 1000 miles away. Because of the remoteness of the impact zone, the Tunguska Event over Siberia had very little effect on the human population in the region, but the destruction of some 80 million trees in the area shows just how powerful a blast was created.

Of course there are so many other “sudden change” events that could potentially happen – a terror event in a major U.S. city, a deadly pandemic, an EMP attack, cyberterrorism or a major political scandal could all possibly cause a stock market crash and an economic collapse in the United States.

In the world that we are living in today, you just never know what is going to happen.

So what are all of you concerned about over the next 12 months?

Do you see the potential for some “black swan events” to happen?

Please feel free to post a comment with your thoughts below….

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