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Dot-Com Bubble 2.0 Is Bursting: Tech Stocks Are Already Down Half A Trillion Dollars Since Mid-2015

Tech Bubble 2.0Do you remember how much stocks went down when the first dot-com bubble burst?  Well, it is happening again, and tech stocks are already down more than half a trillion dollars since the middle of 2015.  On Friday, the tech-heavy Nasdaq dropped to its lowest level in more than 15 months, and it has now fallen more than 16 percent from the peak of the market.  But of course some of the biggest names have fallen much more than that.  Netflix is down 37 percent, Yahoo is down 39 percent, LinkedIn is down 60 percent, and Twitter is down more than 70 percent.  If you go back through my previous articles, you will find that I specifically warned about Twitter again and again.  Irrational financial bubbles like this always burst eventually, and many investors that got in at the very top are now losing extraordinary amounts of money.

On Friday, tech stocks got absolutely slammed as the bursting of dot-com bubble 2.0 accelerated once again.  The following is how CNBC summarized the carnage…

The Nasdaq composite fell 3.25 percent, as Apple and the iShares Nasdaq Biotechnology ETF (IBB) dropped 2.67 percent and 3.19 percent, respectively.

Also weighing on the index were Amazon and Facebook, which closed down 6.36 percent and 5.81 percent, respectively.

LinkedIn shares also tanked 43.63 percent after posting weak guidance on their quarterly results.

Overall, LinkedIn is now down a total of 60 percent from the peak of the market.  But they are far from the only ones that have already seen their bubble burst.

Many of the biggest names in the tech world have gotten mercilessly hammered over the past six months of so.  Just look at some of the famous brands that have already lost between 20 and 40 percent of their market caps…

Yahoo (YHOO) shares are off 39%, and Netflix (NFLX), the best-performing stock in the S&P 500 last year, is now off by 37% from its 52-week high.

Likewise, Priceline.com (PCLN) is off 31% and eBay (EBAY), 22%.

But there are other very big tech companies that have seen stock collapses that completely dwarf those numbers.  Here are some more absolutely stunning statistics from USA Today

Twitter and Groupon are the biggest dogs of this boom, both off 70% from 52-week highs and well below their IPO prices.

FitBit shares have collapsed 70%, while Yelp’s valuation has shrunk by two-thirds.

Box, which has the distinction of posting quarterly net losses in excess of revenue, is down by half.

Match.com, the holding company for dating sites owned by parent Interactive Corp. that went public late last year, is down 39% from its high.

When your stock loses 70 percent of its value, that is a complete and utter collapse.

In the past, I have specifically singled out Twitter, Yelp and LinkedIn as tech stocks that were irrationally priced.

Hopefully people listened to those warnings and got out while the getting was good.

At the top of this article, I mentioned that tech stocks have already fallen in value by more than 500 billion dollars.  The financial crisis that began in the middle of last year is now greatly accelerating, and Wall Street is starting to panic.

As stocks crash, many hedge funds are being absolutely pummeled.  The following are just a few of the high profile names that are experiencing massive losses right now

Some of the biggest names to get trounced include:

►Pershing Square Capital Management, the publicly traded investment vehicle of billionaire hedgie Bill Ackman, fell 11% last month following a 20% decline last year, data from the web site shows.

►Larry Robbins’ Glenview Capital, famous for picking stocks that could benefit from Obamacare, dropped 13.65% in January following a decline of 18% last year, according to data from HSBC’s Hedge Weekly report, a copy of which was obtained by USA TODAY.

►Marcato International, a well-known activist fund run by Ackman protege Mick McGuire, fell 12.1% last month following a 9% loss last year, according to HSBC.

When you lose more than 10 percent of your money in a single month, that is not good.

And if I am right, this is just the beginning of our troubles.

And of course I am far from the only one warning that big problems are on the horizon.  In fact, analysts at Citigroup just made international headlines by warning that the global economy was now trapped in a “death spiral”

Some analysts — including those at Citi — have turned bearish on the world economy this year, following an equity rout in January and weaker economic data out of China and the U.S.

The world appears to be trapped in a circular reference death spiral,” Citi strategists led by Jonathan Stubbs said in a report on Thursday.

Stronger U.S. dollar, weaker oil/commodity prices, weaker world trade/petrodollar liquidity, weaker EM (and global growth)… and repeat. Ad infinitum, this would lead to Oilmageddon, a ‘significant and synchronized’ global recession and a proper modern-day equity bear market.”

Signs of a significant economic downturn are all around us, and so many of the exact same patterns that played out during the last two stock market crashes are happening again, and yet most people continue to refuse to acknowledge what is taking place.

If you are waiting for this new dot-com bubble to crash, you can stop waiting, because it has already happened.

When your stock falls by 50, 60 or 70 percent, the game is already over.

But just like 2001 and 2008, many people out there will end up being paralyzed by indecision.  Once again the mainstream media is insisting that there is no reason for panic and that everything will be just fine, and once again millions upon millions of ordinary Americans will be wiped out as the financial markets implode.

This is now the third time this has happened since the turn of the century.

How clueless have we become?  The exact same thing keeps happening to us over and over and yet we still don’t get it.

Only this time around there isn’t going to be any sort of a “recovery” afterwards.

This is essentially our “third strike”, and the years ahead are going to be extremely bitter and painful for most people.

But if you want to believe that one of these politicians is going to come along and save America, you go ahead and keep on believing that.

Most people believe what they want to believe, and the capacity that many Americans have demonstrated for self-delusion is absolutely remarkable.

The Rapture, Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton And 50 Other Excuses People Use For Not Prepping

Four Horsemen Of The Apocalypse - Public DomainHave you ever come away discouraged after trying to talk about prepping with friends or family members that just don’t seem to be interested?  Over the years, I have heard countless excuses from people for why they aren’t getting prepared for what is about to happen to America.  Some of the excuses, like a lack of money, are definitely legitimate.  But in many other instances, the objections don’t seem to make a lot of sense.  In America today, most people let others do most of their thinking for them.  And in general, our political, religious and cultural leaders are telling Americans that there really is no reason to be overly concerned about the future.  They assure us that they have everything under control, and that life is only going to get better in the years ahead.  Bad beliefs lead to bad decisions which in turn lead to bad actions, and most Americans have chosen to believe what the elite are telling them at this point.  As a result, only a small fraction of society is getting physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually prepared for the exceedingly hard times that are rapidly approaching.  The following are 53 common excuses that people like to use for not prepping…

1. “Obama fixed everything that was wrong with America”

2. “When Hillary Clinton is elected she will put this nation back on the right track”

3. “Donald Trump will make America great again”

4. “I don’t have to prepare because the rapture is going to happen before anything really bad happens to this country”

5. “Everybody told me that the world was going to end in September and that didn’t happen”

6. “I don’t have enough money to buy emergency food and supplies”

7. “I’m too exhausted after working hard all day to do anything else”

8. “There is never enough time, and I would rather spend my precious free time doing something else”

9. “The U.S. economy is the greatest economy in the history of the world – there is no way that it could ever possibly collapse”

10. “Whenever we have had a major economic downturn in the past we have always recovered”

11. “Things are never going to get THAT bad”

12. “When things fall apart the federal government will take care of us”

13. “I am going to spend my extra money on fun rather than on fear”

14. “While you guys are sitting on stockpiles of expired food, I will be counting all of the money that I made in the stock market”

15. “When disaster strikes I will simply steal food from everyone else that has been prepping”

16. “The people at the Federal Reserve are very highly educated and they know precisely what they are doing”

17. “Wal-Mart will always be there when I need it”

18. “I’m too lazy to get prepared”

19. “Preppers don’t have a positive mental attitude”

20. “It is anti-faith to get prepared for an economic collapse”

21. “If the economy does collapse, I will just go on welfare”

22. “Nobody can get prepared for every possible scenario, so why bother?”

23. “I would rather save money for retirement”

24. “Obama told me that anyone that says the economy is heading for hard times is just peddling fiction”

25. “The stock market always rebounds to new highs after every crash, so why worry?”

26. “I don’t have room to store anything at my place”

27. “Prepping is something that crazy people do”

28. “I’m not a conspiracy theorist”

29. “I am afraid that all of the food that I store is going to go bad”

30. “All of the people that got freaked out about Y2K look really foolish right about now, don’t they?”

31. “Instead of being ultra-paranoid, I would rather just enjoy my life”

32. “If things get really bad, the people in my community will just band together to take care of everyone”

33. “If society did completely collapse, I would not want to go on living anyway”

34. “I’m too lazy to learn how to grow a garden”

35. “If you assume that the worst is eventually going to happen, then you don’t really believe in America”

36. “If something happens I will just run out to the store and grab what I need”

37. “If all of my debts are wiped out during an economic collapse I might as well live it up now”

38. “When things hit the fan I will just go live with my relatives that have been prepping”

39. “My spouse does not believe that prepping is a good idea”

40. “Prepping seems so complicated and I don’t know where to start”

41. “I don’t have to worry about preparing for a major disaster because that is what FEMA is for”

42. “There is no way that the supermarkets could ever possibly run out of food”

43. “Once I get my student loans and credit card debt paid off then maybe I will start thinking about prepping”

44. “My relatives are already convinced that I am a nutjob – I don’t need to make it worse by stockpiling buckets of food in my garage”

45. “What would the people at work think?”

46. “If there really was a reason to get prepared they would have told us about it on the news”

47. “People have been predicting doom and gloom for years, and yet nothing has happened”

48. “If I do prepare, angry mobs will just come and steal it all at some point anyway”

49. “Look at how fast technology is advancing – there is no way that things could completely fall apart now that humanity has so much advanced knowledge”

50. “We live in the greatest country on the entire planet during the greatest time for humanity in the history of the world”

51. “I have no intention of becoming a card carrying member of the Tin Foil Hat Brigade”

52. “If we are all going to die anyway, what is the point of prepping?”

53. “There is always more time – if I don’t get prepared today I can always get prepared tomorrow”

If you would like to learn more about how you can get prepared for what is immediately ahead of us, you may want to check out an article that I recently did entitled “70 Tips That Will Help You Survive What Is Going To Happen To America“.  It contains quite a few little “nuggets” that many people don’t commonly think about when it comes to prepping.

Personally, I think that it would be very nice if normal life were to just continue indefinitely in America.  That way I could just sit up on my mountain and enjoy a nice quiet life with my family.

But the truth is that we are moving into the greatest time of chaos that any of us have ever experienced, and those of us that have been preparing are going to need to step forward as leaders.  It is during times of great darkness that light is needed the most, and during the hard years ahead there is going to be a crying need for people that have great strength, great courage and great love.

So do you have any excuses that you have heard that you think would make good additions to this list?  Please feel free to share them with the rest of us by leaving a comment below…

The Federal Reserve Just Made Another Huge Mistake

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

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

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

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

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

So how did the markets respond to the Fed?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What Really Happened In 2015, And What Is Coming In 2016…

2015 2016 - Public DomainA lot of people were expecting some really big things to happen in 2015, and most of them did not happen.  But what did happen?  It is my contention that a global financial crisis began during the second half of 2015, and it threatens to greatly accelerate as we enter 2016.  During the last six months of the year that just ended, financial markets all over the planet crashed, trillions of dollars of global wealth was wiped out, and some of the largest economies in the world plunged into recession.  Here in the United States, 2015 was the worst year for stocks since 2008, nearly 70 percent of all investors lost money last year, and it is being projected that the final numbers will show that close to 1,000 hedge funds permanently shut down within the last 12 months.  This is what the early stages of a financial crisis look like, and the worst is yet to come.

If we were entering another 2008-style crisis, we would expect to see junk bonds crashing.  When financial trouble starts, it usually doesn’t start with the biggest and strongest companies.  Instead, it usually starts percolating on the periphery.  And right now bonds of firms that are considered to be on the risky side of things are rapidly losing value.

In the chart below, you can see that a high yield bond ETF that I track very closely known as JNK started crashing in the middle of 2008.  This crash began to unfold before the horrific crash of stocks in the fall.  Investors that saw junk bonds crashing in advance and pulled their money out of stocks in time saved an enormous amount of money.

Now, for the very first time since the last financial crisis, we are seeing junk bonds crash again.  In December, there was finally a sustained crash through the psychologically-important 35.00 level, and at this point JNK is sitting a bit below 34.00.  This stunning decline is a giant red flag that tells us that stocks will soon follow in the exact same direction…

JNK

In 2015, Third Avenue Management shocked Wall Street when they froze withdrawals from a 788 million dollar mutual fund that was highly focused on junk bonds.  Investors that couldn’t get their money out began to panic, and other mutual funds now find themselves under siege.  If junk bonds continue to crash, this will just be the beginning of the carnage.

One of the big reasons why junk bonds are crashing is because of the crash in the price of oil.  Over the past 18 months, the price of oil has plummeted from $108 a barrel to $37 a barrel.

There has only been one other time in all of history when we have ever seen an oil price crash of this magnitude. That was in 2008 – just before the greatest financial crisis since the Great Depression…

Oil - Federal Reserve

Why can’t people see the parallels?

Crashes are happening all around us, and yet so many of the “experts” seem completely blind to what is going on.

Unlike 2008, the price of oil is not expected to rapidly rebound any time soon.  The following comes from CNN

Crude prices dropped a whopping 35% last year and are hovering around $37 a barrel. That’s a level not seen since the global financial crisis.

It won’t get better any time soon. Most oil experts believe prices will bounce back in late 2016, but they expect more pain first.

Goldman Sachs forecasts that oil will average about $38 a barrel in February, even lower than for most of 2015.

Meanwhile, the prices of industrial commodities have been crashing as well.  For example, the chart below shows that the price of copper started crashing hard just before the great financial crisis of 2008, and the exact same thing is happening once again right before our very eyes…

Price Of Copper

Things are unfolding just as we would expect they would during the initial stages of a new global financial crisis.

And we have already seen a full blown stock market crash in many of the largest economies around the planet.  For instance, just look at what has been happening in Brazil.  The Brazilians have the 7th largest economy in the world, and Goldman Sachs says that they have plunged into an “outright depression“.  In the chart below, you can see the sharp downturn that took place in August, and Brazilian stocks actually kept falling all the way through the end of 2015…

Brazil Stock Market

We see a similar thing when we look at our neighbor to the north.  Canada has the 11th largest economy on the entire planet, and I recently wrote a lengthy article about the economic difficulties that the Canadians are now facing.  2015 was a very bad year for Canadian stocks as well, and they just kept falling steadily all the way through December…

Canada Stock Market

Of course nobody can forget what happened to China.  The Chinese have the second largest economy on the globe, and news about their economic slowdown in making headlines almost every single day now.

Last summer, Chinese stocks crashed about 40 percent, and they did manage to bounce back just a bit since then. But they are still down about 30 percent from the peak of the market…

China Stock Market

And there is plenty more that we could talk about.  European stocks just had their second worst December ever, and Japanese stocks are down about 500 points in early trading as I write this article.

Here in the United States, the Dow Jones Industrial Average, Dow Transports, the S&P 500 and the Russell 2000 all had their worst years since 2008.  As I mentioned the other day674 hedge funds shut down during the first nine months of 2015, and it is being projected that the final total for the year will be up around 1000.

But we aren’t hearing much about this financial carnage on the news yet, are we?

Many people that I talk to still think that “nothing is happening”, but don’t you dare say that to Warren Buffett.

He lost 7.8 billion dollars in 2015.

How would you feel if you lost 7.8 billion dollars in a single year?

The truth, of course, is that signs of financial chaos are erupting all around us.  Corporate profits are plunging, the bond distress ratio just hit the highest level that we have seen since the last financial crisis, and corporate debt defaults have risen to the highest level that we have seen in about seven years.

If you run a business, you may have noticed that fewer people are coming in and it seems like those that do come in have less money to spend.  Economic activity is slowing down, and inventories are piling up.  In fact, wholesale inventories have now risen to the highest level that we have seen since the last recession…

Inventory To Sales Ratio - Federal Reserve

Do you notice a theme?

So many things that have not happened in six or seven years are now happening again.

History may not repeat, but it sure does rhyme, and it astounds me that more people cannot see that 2015/2016 is looking eerily similar to a replay of 2008/2009.

Another number that I watch closely is the velocity of money.  When an economy is running well, money tends to circulate efficiently through the system.  But when an economy gets into trouble, people get scared and start holding on to their money.  As you can see from the chart below, the velocity of money declined during every single recession since 1960.  This is precisely what one would expect.  And of course during the recession that started in 2008, the velocity of money plunged precipitously.  But then a funny thing happened when that recession supposedly “ended”.  The velocity of money just kept going down, and now it has fallen to an all-time record low…

Velocity Of Money M2

A big reason for this is the ongoing decline of the middle class.  In 2015, we learned that middle class Americans now make up a minority of the population for the first time ever.

But if you go back to 1971, 61 percent of all Americans lived in middle class households.

Meanwhile, the share of the income pie that the middle class takes home has also continued to shrink.

In 1970, the middle class brought home approximately 62 percent of all income. Today, that number has fallen to just 43 percent.

As the middle class is systematically destroyed, the number of Americans living in poverty just continues to grow. And those that often suffer the most are the children.  It may be hard for you to believe, but the number of homeless children in the U.S. has increased by 60 percent over the past six years.

60 percent!

How in the world can anyone dare to claim that “things are getting better”?

Anyone that says that should be ashamed of themselves.

We are in the midst of a long-term economic collapse that is now accelerating once again.

Anyone that tries to tell you that “things are getting better” and that 2016 is going to be a better year than 2015 is simply not being honest with you.

A new global financial crisis erupted during the last six months of 2015, and this new financial crisis is going to intensify throughout the early months of 2016.  Financial institutions will begin falling like dominoes, and this will result in a great credit crunch around the world.  Businesses will fail, unemployment will skyrocket and millions will suddenly be faced with economic despair.

By the time it is all said and done, this new financial crisis will be even worse than what we experienced back in 2008, and the suffering that we will see around the world will be off the charts.

So does that mean that I am down about this year?

Not at all.  In fact, my wife and I are greatly looking forward to 2016.  In the midst of all the chaos and darkness, there will be great opportunities to do good and to make a difference.

What a great shaking comes, people go looking for answers.  And I think that this will be a year when millions of people start to understand that our politicians and the mainstream media are not telling them the truth.

Yes, great challenges are coming.  But now is not a time to dig a hole and try to hide from the world.  Instead, this will be a time for those that have prepared in advance to love others, help others and show them the truth.

What about you?

Are you ready to be a light during the dark times that are coming?

Please feel free to join the conversation by posting a comment below…

Financial Armageddon Approaches: U.S. Banks Have 247 Trillion Dollars Of Exposure To Derivatives

Nuclear War - Public DomainDid you know that there are 5 “too big to fail” banks in the United States that each have exposure to derivatives contracts that is in excess of 30 trillion dollars?  Overall, the biggest U.S. banks collectively have more than 247 trillion dollars of exposure to derivatives contracts.  That is an amount of money that is more than 13 times the size of the U.S. national debt, and it is a ticking time bomb that could set off financial Armageddon at any moment.  Globally, the notional value of all outstanding derivatives contracts is a staggering 552.9 trillion dollars according to the Bank for International Settlements.  The bankers assure us that these financial instruments are far less risky than they sound, and that they have spread the risk around enough so that there is no way they could bring the entire system down.  But that is the thing about risk – you can try to spread it around as many ways as you can, but you can never eliminate it.  And when this derivatives bubble finally implodes, there won’t be enough money on the entire planet to fix it.

A lot of readers may be tempted to quit reading right now, because “derivatives” is a term that sounds quite complicated.  And yes, the details of these arrangements can be immensely complicated, but the concept is quite simple.  Here is a good definition of “derivatives” that comes from Investopedia

A derivative is a security with a price that is dependent upon or derived from one or more underlying assets. The derivative itself is a contract between two or more parties based upon the asset or assets. Its value is determined by fluctuations in the underlying asset. The most common underlying assets include stocks, bonds, commodities, currencies, interest rates and market indexes.

I like to refer to the derivatives marketplace as a form of “legalized gambling”.  Those that are engaged in derivatives trading are simply betting that something either will or will not happen in the future.  Derivatives played a critical role in the financial crisis of 2008, and I am fully convinced that they will take on a starring role in this new financial crisis.

And I am certainly not the only one that is concerned about the potentially destructive nature of these financial instruments.  In a letter that he once wrote to shareholders of Berkshire Hathaway, Warren Buffett referred to derivatives as “financial weapons of mass destruction”…

The derivatives genie is now well out of the bottle, and these instruments will almost certainly multiply in variety and number until some event makes their toxicity clear. Central banks and governments have so far found no effective way to control, or even monitor, the risks posed by these contracts. In my view, derivatives are financial weapons of mass destruction, carrying dangers that, while now latent, are potentially lethal.

Since the last financial crisis, the big banks in this country have become even more reckless.  And that is a huge problem, because our economy is even more dependent on them than we were the last time around.  At this point, the four largest banks in the U.S. are approximately 40 percent larger than they were back in 2008.  The five largest banks account for approximately 42 percent of all loans in this country, and the six largest banks account for approximately 67 percent of all assets in our financial system.

So the problem of “too big to fail” is now bigger than ever.

If those banks go under, we are all in for a world of hurt.

Yesterday, I wrote about how the Federal Reserve has implemented new rules that would limit the ability of the Fed to loan money to these big banks during the next crisis.  So if the survival of these big banks is threatened by a derivatives crisis, the money to bail them out would probably have to come from somewhere else.

In such a scenario, could we see European-style “bail-ins” in this country?

Ellen Brown, one of the most fierce critics of our current financial system and the author of Web of Debt, seems to think so…

Dodd-Frank states in its preamble that it will “protect the American taxpayer by ending bailouts.” But it does this under Title II by imposing the losses of insolvent financial companies on their common and preferred stockholders, debtholders, and other unsecured creditors. That includes depositors, the largest class of unsecured creditor of any bank.

Title II is aimed at “ensuring that payout to claimants is at least as much as the claimants would have received under bankruptcy liquidation.” But here’s the catch: under both the Dodd Frank Act and the 2005 Bankruptcy Act, derivative claims have super-priority over all other claimssecured and unsecured, insured and uninsured.

The over-the-counter (OTC) derivative market (the largest market for derivatives) is made up of banks and other highly sophisticated players such as hedge funds. OTC derivatives are the bets of these financial players against each other. Derivative claims are considered “secured” because collateral is posted by the parties.

For some inexplicable reason, the hard-earned money you deposit in the bank is not considered “security” or “collateral.” It is just a loan to the bank, and you must stand in line along with the other creditors in hopes of getting it back.

As I mentioned yesterday, the FDIC guarantees the safety of deposits in member banks up to a certain amount.  But as Brown has pointed out, the FDIC only has somewhere around 70 billion dollars sitting around to cover bank failures.

If hundreds of billions or even trillions of dollars are ultimately needed to bail out the banking system, where is that money going to come from?

It would be difficult to overstate the threat that derivatives pose to our “too big to fail” banks.  The following numbers come directly from the OCC’s most recent quarterly report (see Table 2), and they reveal a recklessness that is on a level that is difficult to put into words…

Citigroup

Total Assets: $1,808,356,000,000 (more than 1.8 trillion dollars)

Total Exposure To Derivatives: $53,042,993,000,000 (more than 53 trillion dollars)

JPMorgan Chase

Total Assets: $2,417,121,000,000 (about 2.4 trillion dollars)

Total Exposure To Derivatives: $51,352,846,000,000 (more than 51 trillion dollars)

Goldman Sachs

Total Assets: $880,607,000,000 (less than a trillion dollars)

Total Exposure To Derivatives: $51,148,095,000,000 (more than 51 trillion dollars)

Bank Of America

Total Assets: $2,154,342,000,000 (a little bit more than 2.1 trillion dollars)

Total Exposure To Derivatives: $45,243,755,000,000 (more than 45 trillion dollars)

Morgan Stanley

Total Assets: $834,113,000,000 (less than a trillion dollars)

Total Exposure To Derivatives: $31,054,323,000,000 (more than 31 trillion dollars)

Wells Fargo

Total Assets: $1,751,265,000,000 (more than 1.7 trillion dollars)

Total Exposure To Derivatives: $6,074,262,000,000 (more than 6 trillion dollars)

As the “real economy” crumbles, major hedge funds continue to drop like flies, and we head into a new recession, there seems to very little alarm among the general population about what is happening.

The mainstream media is assuring us that everything is under control, and they are running front page headlines such as this one during the holiday season: “Kylie Jenner shows off her red-hot, new tattoo“.

But underneath the surface, trouble is brewing.

A new financial crisis has already begun, and it is going to intensify as we head into 2016.

And as this new crisis unfolds, one word that you are going to want to listen for is “derivatives”, because they are going to play a major role in the “financial Armageddon” that is rapidly approaching.

Superyacht Getaway Subs And Luxury Bomb Shelters: The Elite Are The Most Paranoid Preppers Of All

Superyachts - Public DomainWhen it comes to “prepping”, many among the elite take things to an entirely different level.  As you will see below, the elite are willing to pay big money for cutting edge home security measures, luxury bomb shelters and superyacht getaway submarines. Some of the things that the elite are demanding for their own protection go beyond even what we would see in a James Bond film, and serving the prepping needs of the elite has become a multi-billion dollar business.  Meanwhile, the media outlets that the elite own continue to mock the rest of us for getting prepared.  All the time we see headlines like this one that appeared in a major American news source: “Preppers: Meet the paranoid Americans awaiting the apocalypse“.  Well, if we are paranoid for setting aside some extra food and supplies for the future, what does that make the people that you will read about in this article?

The elite live in a world that is completely different from the world that you and I live in.  In wealthy enclaves of major global cities such as London, elitists are willing to shell out massive amounts of money to ensure that everyone else is kept out.  The following comes from an article that was just published a few hours ago by the London Evening Standard entitled “The paranoid world of London’s super-rich: DNA-laced security mist and superyacht getaway submarines“…

Business is booming because billionaires are a paranoid bunch. Take one who recently moved to Mayfair. ‘He wanted everything, from protection from cyber hacking through to physical intrusion and kidnapping,’ says Bond Gunning. ‘We ended up installing fingerprint-activated locks for family members and programmable keys for staff that limit the time they are allowed into the property and the rooms they are able to enter and exit.

‘Inside and outside we installed 24-hour monitored CCTV cameras that are so hi-tech they can tell the difference between a dog, cat and a person. In the garden there are thermal-imaging cameras that can detect heat sources in the undergrowth. One thing intruders can’t hide is the heat of their bodies.

‘Should an intruder evade the cameras or ignore the warnings they automatically broadcast, the property itself is protected by bulletproof glass and alarm sensors in all rooms. There is a bullet, gas and bombproof panic or safe room, with its own food and water, medical supplies and communications, and an impregnable supply of fresh air. Just in case the family cannot make it there in time, key rooms are sealed by reinforced shutters.’

But for many elitists, those kinds of extreme security measures are simply not enough.  That is why sales of “luxury doomsday shelters” are absolutely soaring.  If “the end of the world” arrives unexpectedly, high net worth individuals want to know that there will be somewhere for them and their families to go.  The following is an excerpt from an article about one such facility located in Indiana

As we roll down US Highway 41 in Terre Haute, Indiana , my guide insists I give him my iPhone. Then he tosses me a satin blindfold. The terms of our trip were clear—I wasn’t to know where we were going or how we got there.That’s because we’re on our way to the undisclosed location of an underground bunker designed to survive the end of the world, whatever form that apocalypse takes.

When I remove my blindfold, I am standing in a grassy clearing looking at a boxy concrete structure that serves as the entrance to a Cold War–era government communications facility gutted and reborn as Vivos Indiana. This is the Ritz Carlton of doomsday shelters, a hideout where residents can wait out a nuclear winter or a zombie apocalypse in luxury and style while the rest of humanity melts and disintegrates. The living area has 12-and-a-half-foot ceilings, sumptuous black leather couches, wall art featuring cheerful Parisian street scenes, towering faux ferns, and plush carpets. Faith Hill croons from a large-screen TV set in front of three rows of comfy beige reclining chairs. The cupboards are stocked with 60 varieties of freeze-dried and canned foodstuffs; an evening meal might include spaghetti aglio e olio topped with skillet fried steak chunks, a fresh tomato-and-zucchini salad fresh from the hydroponic garden, and decadent turtle brownies. An eight-by-nine bedroom is designed for four people (there are larger units for six) and comes with double-queen bunks clothed in 600-thread-count ivory sheets and duvet covers worthy of a four-star hotel, a comparison highlighted on the Vivos website.

That sounds lovely.

But normal people like us cannot afford something like that.  It will only be the elite that will be able to afford to hole up in underground bunkers while the world above descends into madness.

Other elitists will be taking off in their superyachts and heading out into the open ocean when things really start falling to pieces.  And if their superyachts are threatened, some of them even have “getaway subs”.  Here is more from the Evening Standard

The ultimate vehicle of choice is no longer an armoured limousine or a private jet. They’re so Noughties. If you want bragging rights these days, you need your own submarine, which floats out of a sub-sea compartment in your superyacht. ‘It’s a toy, but if the worst happened, it could also be an escape route,’ says one prominent London tycoon with a weakness for Monaco-berthed superyachts — provided they have military-grade radar jammers and missile and torpedo defences.

So exactly why are so many among the elite so concerned about their own security these days?

Why are so many of them going to such extraordinary lengths to prepare for worst case scenarios?

Do they know something that the rest of us do not?

In a previous article, I included a quote from an article in the Mirror that was published earlier this year entitled “Panicked super rich buying boltholes with private airstrips to escape if poor rise up“…

Robert Johnson, president of the Institute of New Economic Thinking, told people at the World Economic Forum in Davos that many hedge fund managers were already planning their escapes.

He said: “I know hedge fund managers all over the world who are buying airstrips and farms in places like New Zealand because they think they need a getaway.”

The next time that someone criticizes you for prepping, just point out what the elite are doing.

Clearly, many of them are deeply concerned that something may be coming.

So are you preparing?

If so, what are you preparing for?

Please feel free to join the discussion by posting a comment below…

The Numbers Say That A Major Global Recession Has Already Begun

Global - Public DomainThe biggest bank in the western world has just come out and declared that the global economy is “already in a recession”.  According to British banking giant HSBC, global trade is down 8.4 percent so far this year, and global GDP expressed in U.S. dollars is down 3.4 percentSo those that are waiting for the next worldwide economic recession to begin can stop waiting.  It is officially here.  As you will see below, money is fleeing emerging markets at a blistering pace, major global banks are stuck with huge loans that will never be repaid, and it looks like a very significant worldwide credit crunch has begun.  Just a few days ago, I explained that the IMF, the UN, the BIS And Citibank were all warning that a major economic crisis could be imminent.  They aren’t just making this stuff up out of thin air, but most Americans still seem to believe that everything is going to be just fine.  The level of blind faith in the system that most people are demonstrating right now is absolutely astounding.

The numbers say that the global economy has not been in this bad shape since the devastating recession that shook the world in 2008 and 2009.  According to HSBC, “we are already in a dollar recession”…

Global trade is also declining at an alarming pace. According to the latest data available in June the year on year change is -8.4%. To find periods of equivalent declines we only really find recessionary periods. This is an interesting point. On one metric we are already in a recession. As can be seen in Chart 3 on the following page, global GDP expressed in US dollars is already negative to the tune of USD 1,37trn or -3.4%. That is, we are already in a dollar recession. 

Here is the chart that Zero Hedge posted along with the quote above.  As you can see, the only time global GDP expressed in U.S. dollars has fallen faster in recent years was during the horrible recession of seven years ago…

HSBC Chart

But there are still a whole lot of incredibly clueless people running around out there claiming that “nothing is happening” even though more signs of trouble are erupting all around us every single day.

For instance, just today CNBC published an article entitled “The US is closer to deflation than you think“, and Twitter just announced that it plans to lay off 8 percent of its entire workforce.

But of course the biggest problems are happening in “emerging markets” right now.  The following is an excerpt from an article that was just published in a major British news source entitled “The world economic order is collapsing and this time there seems no way out“…

Now act three is beginning, but in countries much less able to devise measures to stop financial contagion and whose banks are more precarious. For global finance next flooded the so-called emerging market economies (EMEs), countries such as Turkey, Brazil, Malaysia, China, all riding high on sky-high commodity prices as the China boom, itself fuelled by wild lending, seemed never-ending. China manufactured more cement from 2010-13 than the US had produced over the entire 20th century. It could not last and so it is proving.

China’s banks are, in effect, bust: few of the vast loans they have made can ever be repaid, so they cannot now lend at the rate needed to sustain China’s once super-high but illusory growth rates. China’s real growth is now below that of the Mao years: the economic crisis will spawn a crisis of legitimacy for the deeply corrupt communist party. Commodity prices have crashed.

Money is flooding out of the EMEs, leaving overborrowed companies, indebted households and stricken banks, but EMEs do not have institutions such as the Federal Reserve or European Central Bank to knock up rescue packages. Yet these nations now account for more than half of global GDP. Small wonder the IMF is worried.

It is one thing for The Economic Collapse Blog to warn that “the world economic order is collapsing”, but this is one of the biggest newspapers in the UK.

I was writing about these emerging market problems back in July, but at that time very few really understood the true gravity of the situation.  But now giant banks such as Goldman Sachs are calling this the third stage of the ongoing global financial crisis.  The following comes from a recent CNBC piece entitled “Is EM turmoil the third wave of the financial crisis? Goldman thinks so“…

Emerging markets aren’t just suffering through another market rout—it’s a third wave of the global financial crisis, Goldman Sachs said.

“Increased uncertainty about the fallout from weaker emerging market economies, lower commodity prices and potentially higher U.S. interest rates are raising fresh concerns about the sustainability of asset price rises, marking a new wave in the Global Financial Crisis,” Goldman said in a note dated last week.

The emerging market wave, coinciding with the collapse in commodity prices, follows the U.S. stage, which marked the fallout from the housing crash, and the European stage, when the U.S. crisis spread to the continent’s sovereign debt, the bank said.

You know that it is late in the game when Goldman Sachs starts sounding exactly like The Economic Collapse Blog.  I have been warning about a “series of waves” for years.

When will people wake up?

What is it going to take?

The crisis is happening right now.

Of course many Americans will refuse to acknowledge what is going on until the Dow Jones Industrial Average collapses by several thousand more points.  And that is coming.  But let us all hope that day is delayed for as long as possible, because all of our lives will become much crazier once that happens.

And the truth is that many Americans do understand that bad times are on the horizon.  Just check out the following numbers that were recently reported by CNBC

The CNBC All-America Economic Survey finds views on the current state of the economy about stable, with 23 percent saying it is good or excellent and 42 percent judging it as fair. About a third say the economy is poor, up 3 points from the June survey.

But the percentage of Americans who believe the economy will get worse rose 6 points to 32 percent, the highest level since the government shutdown in 2013. And just 22 percent believe the economy will get better, 2 points lower than June and the lowest level since 2008, when the nation was gripped by recession.

If you want to believe that everything is going to be just fine somehow, then go ahead and believe that.

All I can do is present the facts.  For months I have been warning about this financial crisis, and now it is playing out as a slow-motion train wreck right in front of our eyes.

We are moving into a period of time during which events are going to start to move much more rapidly, and life as we know it is about to change in a major way for all of us.

Hopefully you have already been preparing for what is about to come.

If not, I wouldn’t want to be in your position.

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