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The Global Liquidity Squeeze Has Begun

Squeeze Globe - Public DomainGet ready for another major worldwide credit crunch.  Today, the entire global financial system resembles a colossal spiral of debt.  Just about all economic activity involves the flow of credit in some way, and so the only way to have “economic growth” is to introduce even more debt into the system.  When the system started to fail back in 2008, global authorities responded by pumping this debt spiral back up and getting it to spin even faster than ever.  If you can believe it, the total amount of global debt has risen by $35 trillion since the last crisis.  Unfortunately, any system based on debt is going to break down eventually, and there are signs that it is starting to happen once again.  For example, just a few days ago the IMF warned regulators to prepare for a global “liquidity shock“.  And on Friday, Chinese authorities announced a ban on certain types of financing for margin trades on over-the-counter stocks, and we learned that preparations are being made behind the scenes in Europe for a Greek debt default and a Greek exit from the eurozone.  On top of everything else, we just witnessed the biggest spike in credit application rejections ever recorded in the United States.  All of these are signs that credit conditions are tightening, and once a “liquidity squeeze” begins, it can create a lot of fear.

Over the past six months, the Chinese stock market has exploded upward even as the overall Chinese economy has started to slow down.  Investors have been using something called “umbrella trusts” to finance a lot of these stock purchases, and these umbrella trusts have given them the ability to have much more leverage than normal brokerage financing would allow.  This works great as long as stocks go up.  Once they start going down, the losses can be absolutely staggering.

That is why Chinese authorities are stepping in before this bubble gets even worse.  Here is more about what has been going on in China from Bloomberg

China’s trusts boosted their investments in equities by 28 percent to 552 billion yuan ($89.1 billion) in the fourth quarter. The higher leverage allowed by the products exposes individuals to larger losses in the event of stock-market drops, which can be exaggerated as investors scramble to repay debt during a selloff.

In umbrella trusts, private investors take up the junior tranche, while cash from trusts and banks’ wealth-management products form the senior tranches. The latter receive fixed returns while the former take the rest, so private investors are effectively borrowing from trusts and banks.

Margin debt on the Shanghai Stock Exchange climbed to a record 1.16 trillion yuan on Thursday. In a margin trade, investors use their own money for just a portion of their stock purchase, borrowing the rest. The loans are backed by the investors’ equity holdings, meaning that they may be compelled to sell when prices fall to repay their debt.

Overall, China has seen more debt growth than any other major industrialized nation since the last recession.  This debt growth has been so dramatic that it has gotten the attention of authorities all over the planet

Wolfgang Schaeuble, Germany’s finance minister says that “debt levels in the global economy continue to give cause for concern.”

Singling out China in particular, Schaeuble noted that “debt has nearly quadrupled since 2007″, adding that it’s “growth appears to be built on debt, driven by a real estate boom and shadow banks.”

According to McKinsey’s research, total outstanding debt in China increased from $US7.4 trillion in 2007 to $US28.2 trillion in 2014. That figure, expressed as a percentage of GDP, equates to 282% of total output, higher than the likes of other G20 nations such as the US, Canada, Germany, South Korea and Australia.

This credit boom in China has been one of the primary engines for “global growth” in recent years, but now conditions are changing.  Eventually, the impact of what is going on in China right now is going to be felt all over the planet.

Over in Europe, the Greek debt crisis is finally coming to a breaking point.  For years, authorities have continued to kick the can down the road and have continued to lend Greece even more money.

But now it appears that patience with Greece has run out.

For instance, the head of the IMF says that no delay will be allowed on the repayment of IMF loans that are due next month…

IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde roiled currency and bond markets on Thursday as reports came out of her opening press conference saying that she had denied any payment delay to Greece on IMF loans falling due next month.

Unless Greece concludes its negotiations for a further round of bailout money from the European Union, however, it is not likely to have the money to repay the IMF.

And we are getting reports that things are happening behind the scenes in Europe to prepare for the inevitable moment when Greece will finally leave the euro and go back to their own currency.

For example, consider what Art Cashin told CNBC on Friday

First, “there were reports in the media [saying] that the ECB and/or banking authorities suggested to banks to get rid of any sovereign Greek debt they had, which suggests that maybe the next step will be Greece exiting,” Cashin told CNBC.

Also, one of Greece’s largest newspapers is reporting that neighboring countries are forcing subsidiaries of Greek banks that operate inside their borders to reduce their risk to a Greek debt default to zero

According to a report from Kathimerini, one of Greece’s largest newspapers, central banks in Albania, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Romania, Serbia, Turkey and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia have all forced the subsidiaries of Greek banks operating in those countries to bring their exposure to Greek risk — including bonds, treasury bills, deposits to Greek banks, and loans — down to zero.

Once Greece leaves the euro, that is going to create a tremendous credit crunch in Europe as fear begins to spread like wildfire.  Everyone will be wondering which nation will be “the next Greece”, and investors will want to pull their money out of perceived danger zones before they get hammered.

In the past, other European nations have been willing to bend over backwards to accommodate Greece and avoid this kind of mess, but those days appear to be finished.  In fact, the finance minister of France openly admits that the French “are not sympathetic to Greece”

Greece isn’t winning much sympathy from its debt-wracked European counterparts as the country draws closer to default for failing to make bailout repayments.

“We are not sympathetic to Greece,” French Finance Minister Michael Sapin said in an interview at the International Monetary Fund-World Bank spring meetings here.

“We are demanding because Greece must comply with the European (rules) that apply to all countries,” Sapin said.

Yes, it is possible that another short-term deal could be reached which could kick the can down the road for a few more months.

But either way, things in Europe are going to continue to get worse.

Meanwhile, very disappointing earnings reports in the U.S. are starting to really rattle investors.

For example, we just learned that GE lost 13.6 billion dollars in the first quarter…

One week following the announcement that it would dismantle most of its GE Capital financing operations to instead focus on its industrial roots, General Electric reported a first quarter loss of $13.6 billion.

The results were impacted by charges relating to the conglomerate’s strategic shift. A year ago GE reported a first quarter profit of $3 billion.

That is a lot of money.

How in the world does a company lose 13.6 billion dollars in a single quarter during an “economic recovery”?

Other big firms are reporting disappointing earnings numbers too

In earnings news, American Express Co. late Thursday said its results were hurt by the strong U.S. dollar, which reduced revenue booked in other countries. Chief Executive Kenneth Chenault reiterated the company’s forecast that 2015 earnings will be flat to modestly down year over year. Shares fell 4.6%.

Advanced Micro Devices Inc. said its first-quarter loss widened as revenue slumped. The company said it was exiting its dense server systems business, effective immediately. Revenue and the loss excluding items missed expectations, pushing shares down 13%.

And just like we saw just before the financial crisis of 2008, Americans are increasingly having difficulty meeting their financial obligations.

For instance, the delinquency rate on student loans has reached a very frightening level

More borrowers are failing to make payments on their student loans five years after leaving college, painting a grim picture for borrowers, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

Student debt continues to increase, especially for people who took out loans years ago. Those who left school in the Great Recession, which ended in 2009, had particular difficulty with repayment, with many defaulting, becoming seriously delinquent or not being able to reduce their balances, the New York Fed said today.

Only 37 percent of borrowers are current on their loans and are actively paying them down, and 17 percent are in default or in delinquency.

At this point, the American consumer is pretty well tapped out.  If you can believe it, 56 percent of all Americans have subprime credit today, and as I mentioned above, we just witnessed the biggest spike in credit application rejections ever recorded.

We have reached a point of debt saturation, and the credit crunch that is going to follow is going to be extremely painful.

Of course the biggest provider of global liquidity in recent years has been the Federal Reserve.  But with the Fed pulling back on QE, this is creating some tremendous challenges all over the globe.  The following is an excerpt from a recent article in the Telegraph

The big worry is what will happen to Russia, Brazil and developing economies in Asia that borrowed most heavily in dollars when the Fed was still flooding the world with cheap liquidity. Emerging markets account to roughly half of the $9 trillion of offshore dollar debt outside US jurisdiction.

The IMF warned that a big chunk of the debt owed by companies is in the non-tradeable sector. These firms lack “natural revenue hedges” that can shield them against a double blow from rising borrowing costs and a further surge in the dollar.

So what is the bottom line to all of this?

The bottom line is that we are starting to see the early phases of a liquidity squeeze.

The flow of credit is going to begin to get tighter, and that means that global economic activity is going to slow down.

This happened during the last financial crisis, and during this next financial crisis the credit crunch is going to be even worse.

This is why it is so important to have an emergency fund.  During this type of crisis, you may have to be the source of your own liquidity.  At a time when it seems like nobody has any cash, those that do have some will be way ahead of the game.

Barack Obama Says That What America Really Needs Is Lots More Debt

ObamacareWhen it comes to taking a chainsaw to the future of America, nobody seems more eager than Barack Obama.  Despite the fact that the U.S. national debt is on pace to approximately double during his eight years in the White House, he has just proposed a budget that would take government spending to crazy new heights.  When Barack Obama took the oath of office, the U.S. national debt was 10.6 trillion dollars.  Today, it has surpassed the 18 trillion dollar mark.  And even though we are being told that “deficits are going down”, the truth is that the U.S. national debt increased by more than a trillion dollars in fiscal 2014.  But that isn’t good enough for Obama.  He says that we need to come out of this period of “mindless austerity” and steal money from our children and our grandchildren even faster.  In addition, Obama wants to raise taxes again.  His budget calls for 2 trillion dollars in tax increases over the next decade.  He always touts these tax increases as “tax hikes on the rich”, but somehow they almost always seem to end up hitting the middle class too.  But whether or not Congress ever adopts Obama’s new budget is not really the issue.  The reality of the matter is that the “tax and spend Democrats” and the “tax and spend Republicans” are both responsible for getting us into this mess.  Future generations of Americans are already facing the largest mountain of debt in the history of the planet, and both parties want to make this mountain of debt even higher.  The only disagreement is about how fast it should happen.  It is a national disgrace, but most Americans have come to accept this as “normal”.  If our children and our grandchildren get the opportunity, they will curse us for what we have done to them.

All debt destroys.

All debt enslaves.

And when you are talking about an 18 trillion dollar debt, you are talking about an amount of money that is almost unimaginable.

If our national debt was reduced to a stack of one dollar bills, it would circle our planet at the equator 45 times.

How could we have done such a thing?

Thomas Jefferson once said that “the principle of spending money to be paid by posterity, under the name of funding, is but swindling futurity on a large scale.”  He correctly understood that government debt is stealing.  We are financially raping our children, our grandchildren and all future generations of Americans.  It is an incredibly wicked thing to do.

But instead of men like Thomas Jefferson running our country, we have men like Barack Obama running it.

And to Barack Obama, running up a trillion dollars of debt a year is “mindless austerity”

“I want to work with Congress to replace mindless austerity with smart investments that strengthen America,” Obama said in a speech at the Department of Homeland Security. “I’m not going to accept a budget that locks in sequestration going forward. It would be bad for our security, and bad for our growth.”

Yes, if we steal money from future generations it will artificially inflate our current standard of living and make our economy look temporarily better than it should be.

But it is morally wrong to do this, and our current crop of politicians have no intentions of ever bringing the debt party to an end.

Even with the ridiculously optimistic economic assumptions that are used in Obama’s new budget, the federal budget is never projected to balance within the next decade.  Instead, Obama’s budget projects that the national debt will rise from 18.1 trillion dollars right now to 26.2 trillion dollars in 2025.

Of course it would greatly help if the federal government actually spent our money wisely.  But instead, the feds often waste our hard-earned tax dollars in some of the most bizarre ways imaginable.  The following is just one example

The U.S. federal government has prompted controversy after spending over $33,000 on a study to find out whether same-sex couples live closer to tobacco shops than heterosexuals.

The large sum was spent on a study by the National Institutes of Health entitled, ‘Relationship Between Tobacco Retailer Density and Sexual Minority Couples.’

Thanks to this kind of insane spending, our debt is completely and totally out of control.

While Barack Obama has been in the White House, the U.S. national debt has increased by $84,266 per full-time private sector worker.  Anyone that believes that this kind of debt accumulation is sustainable is absolutely delusional.

The only reason why our house of cards has not completely collapsed already is because the rest of the world has been willing to lend us gigantic piles of money at artificially low interest rates.

In December, the average rate of interest on the government’s marketable debt was 2.013 percent.  But in the past, interest rates have been much higher than that.  For example, in January 2000 the average rate of interest on the government’s marketable debt was 6.620 percent.  If we returned to that level today, we would be paying well over a trillion dollars a year just in interest on the national debt.

And the issue isn’t just the more than one trillion dollars in new debt that we are accumulating every 12 months.

As I have discussed previously, the U.S. government has more than seven trillion dollars of debt that must be “rolled over” each year.  In other words, the federal government must issue more than seven trillion dollars of new debt just to pay off old debts that are coming due.

If something were to happen which would cause the rest of the planet to either be unwilling or unable to lend us trillions of dollars at ridiculously low interest rates all of a sudden, the game would be over.

We were handed the keys to the greatest and most prosperous economy in the history of the planet, and our greed has totally wrecked it.

We were wealthy beyond imagination, but that was never good enough for us.  We always had to have more.

And now we are hurtling toward financial oblivion, and we have a man in the White House that wants us to go into debt even faster.

 

The Federal Reserve Is At The Heart Of The Debt Enslavement System That Dominates Our Lives

The Great Seal Of The United States - A Symbol Of Your Enslavement - Photo by IpankoninFrom the dawn of history, elites have always attempted to enslave humanity.  Yes, there have certainly been times when those in power have slaughtered vast numbers of people, but normally those in power find it much more beneficial to profit from the labor of those that they are able to subjugate.  If you are forced to build a pyramid, or pay a third of your crops in tribute, or hand over nearly half of your paycheck in taxes, that enriches those in power at your expense.  You become a “human resource” that is being exploited to serve the interests of others.  Today, some forms of slavery have been outlawed, but one of the most insidious forms is more pervasive than ever.  It is called debt, and virtually every major decision of our lives involves more of it.  For example, at the very beginning of our adult lives we are pushed to go to college, and Americans have piled up more than 1.2 trillion dollars of student loan debt at this point.  When we buy homes, most Americans get mortgages that they can barely afford, and when we buy vehicles most Americans now stretch their loans out over five or six years.  When we get married, that often means even more debt.  And of course no society on Earth has ever piled up more credit card debt than we have.  Almost all of us are in bondage to debt at this point, and as we slowly pay off that debt over the years we will greatly enrich the elitists that tricked us into going into so much debt in the first place.  At the apex of this debt enslavement system is the Federal Reserve.  As you will see below, it is an institution that is designed to produce as much debt as possible.

There are many people out there that believe that the Federal Reserve is an “agency” of the federal government.  But that is not true at all.  The Federal Reserve is an unelected, unaccountable central banking cartel, and it has argued in federal court that it is “not an agency” of the federal government and therefore not subject to the Freedom of Information Act.  The 12 regional Federal Reserve banks are organized “much like private corporations“, and they actually issue shares of stock to the “member banks” that own them.  100 percent of the shareholders of the Federal Reserve are private banks.  The U.S. government owns zero shares.

Many people also assume that the federal government “issues money”, but that is not true at all either.  Under our current system, what the federal government actually does is borrow money that the Federal Reserve creates out of thin air.  The big banks, the ultra-wealthy and other countries purchase the debt that is created, and we end up as debt servants to them.  For a detailed explanation of how this works, please see my previous article entitled “Where Does Money Come From? The Giant Federal Reserve Scam That Most Americans Do Not Understand“.  When it is all said and done, the elite end up holding the debt instruments and we end up being collectively responsible for the endlessly growing mountain of debt.  Our politicians always promise to get the debt under control, but there is never enough money to both fund the government and pay the interest on the constantly expanding debt.  So it always becomes necessary to borrow even more money.  When it was created back in 1913, the Federal Reserve system was designed to create a perpetual government debt spiral from which it would never be possible to escape, and that is precisely what has happened.

Just look at the chart that I have posted below.  Forty years ago, the U.S. national debt was less than half a trillion dollars.  Today, it has exploded up to nearly 18 trillion dollars…

National Debt

But the national debt is only part of the story.  The big banks which control the Federal Reserve also seek to individually dominate our lives with debt.  We have become a “buy now, pay later” society and the results have been absolutely catastrophic.  40 years ago, the total amount of debt in our system was just a shade over 2 trillion dollars.  Today it is over 57 trillion dollars

Total Debt

The big banks do not loan you money because they want to help you achieve “the American Dream”.  The elitists loan you money because it will make them wealthier.  For example, if you only make the minimum payment on a credit card each month, you will end up paying back several times as much money as you originally borrowed.  It is a very insidious form of debt enslavement that most Americans simply do not understand.

Meanwhile, the Federal Reserve is also systematically destroying the wealth that you already have.  If you try to buck the system and actually save money, the purchasing power of that money is continually being eroded by the Federal Reserve’s inflationary policies.  The following chart comes directly from the Federal Reserve and it shows how the value of the U.S. dollar has plummeted over the past 40 years…

Purchasing Power Of The Dollar

Overall, the U.S. dollar has lost approximately 98 percent of its value since the Fed was first established in 1913.

Most people seem to assume that if we could just send the “right politicians” to Washington D.C. that we could get our economy back on the right track.

What those people do not understand is that our system is fundamentally broken.  We are trapped in a perpetual debt spiral that is destined to end in a horrifying collapse.  Just “tweaking” a few things here or there and adjusting tax rates a bit is not going to fix anything.  The vast majority of the “economic solutions” that our politicians talk about are basically equivalent to rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.

And of course the elite don’t want the rest of us to truly understand what is going on.  Just think about it.  Even though the Federal Reserve is one of the most important institutions in our society, and even though it is at the very heart of our economic system, our kids are taught next to nothing about the Fed in school.  The vast majority of them have absolutely no idea where money comes from.

Isn’t that pathetic?

But the elite know that if we did understand what they were doing to us that most of us would start to get very upset.  Henry Ford, the founder of Ford Motor Company, once said the following…

“It is well enough that people of the nation do not understand our banking and money system, for if they did, I believe there would be a revolution before tomorrow morning.”

Please share this article with as many people as you can.  The truth sets people free, so let us do what we can to wake our fellow Americans up to this insidious debt enslavement system which dominates our society.

Guess How Much Americans Plan To Spend On Christmas And Halloween This Year…

Credit Card - Public DomainIt is that magical time of the year for retailers.  The period between mid-October and late December can often make the difference between success or failure in the retail industry, and this year will be no exception.  As you will see below, it is being projected that Americans will spend a massive amount of money this holiday season.  In fact, what Americans plan to spend on Christmas this year is greater than the yearly GDP of the entire nation of Sweden.  So isn’t this good economic news?  Shouldn’t we be happy that Americans are opening up their wallets so eagerly?  Well, it depends how you look at it.  Even though our spending is increasing, our incomes are not.  As I discussed the other day, 50 percent of American workers make less than 28,031 dollars a year and incomes have been stagnant for years.  That means that any increases in spending must be funded by more debt, and that is not good news at all.

In 2014, approximately 70 percent of all Americans will participate in Halloween.  It seems like with each passing year this dark holiday become even more popular, and before it is all said and done it is being projected that Americans will spend a whopping 7.4 billion dollars this time around…

Kicking off the end of year spending season is Halloween. Just how much do Americans spend on trick-or-treating and other Halloween festivities? The National Retail Federation (NRF) forecasts total Halloween spending—including candy, costumes, and decorations—to come in at $7.4 billion this year.

That 7.4 billion dollars includes 2 billion dollars for Halloween candy and 350 million dollars for pet Halloween costumes.

Yes, you read that correctly.  We are collectively going to spend 350 million dollars on Halloween costumes for our cats and dogs.

Overall, spending on Halloween has risen by more than 55 percent since 2005.  It just seems like Americans can’t get enough of this particular holiday.

But of course what Americans spend on Halloween is not even worth comparing to what Americans spend on Christmas.

According to the National Retail Federation, more than 90 percent of Americans celebrate either Christmas, Kwanza or Hanukkah.

And Christmas in particular has become virtually synonymous with materialism.  This year, the National Retail Federation is projecting that Americans will spend more than 600 billion dollars just on Christmas.

That represents a huge chunk of our GDP as a nation.

Most of that money will be spent on Christmas gifts.  According to a Gallup survey that was just released, the average U.S. adult plans to spend 781 dollars on Christmas gifts this year, which is significantly up from last year…

Americans’ initial estimates of the total amount they will spend on Christmas gifts this year point to an above-average holiday season for the nation’s retailers. While Gallup’s October spending forecast is a warm-up to its key measure in November, it finds Americans expecting to spend $781, on average, up from $704 last November.

Of course holiday spending does not end there.  There are trees to put up, packages to send out and decorations to buy.  The following numbers are from a Forbes article about what an average American typically spends during a Christmas season…

Christmas Tree: $41.50

Cards And Postage: $32.43

Floral Arrangements: $22.61

Food And Candy: $95.04

Decorations: $51.43

Travel: $960.50

So where is all of this money coming from?

That is a key question.

If our incomes were going up, all of this spending might be good news.  But as the following chart from the Federal Reserve demonstrates, that is not the case…

Median Household Income Since 2005

Our incomes are stagnant at best.  But Americans always like to party as if it were the best of times.  So they will pull out their credit cards and spend what they feel they need to spend in order to feel happy once again this year.

But deep down most people realize that this debt-fueled party cannot last forever.

Deep down most people realize that we have some incredibly serious long-term problems that need to be fixed.

Sadly, no matter which political party occupies the White House, and no matter which political party controls Congress, our long-term problems only seem to get even worse.

As our problems have multiplied, over time Americans have become angrier and angrier.

And right now is election season, and so that is very bad news for Democrats

Nearly 7 in 10 Americans are angry at the direction the country is headed and 53% of Americans disapprove of President Barack Obama’s job performance, two troubling signs for Democrats one week before the midterm elections, a new CNN/ORC International Poll shows.

Democrats are battling to try and save the Senate majority, while hoping to prevent more losses in the House, which the GOP controls by a 234 to 201 margin.

In the Senate, Republicans need a net gain of six seats, and several state polls in the past month of contested races show that Democrats are in danger of losing control of the majority, and thus Congress.

If the Republicans do take control of both houses of Congress, will that fundamentally change the direction of the country?

I wish that I could believe that, but at this point most Republicans are virtually indistinguishable from most Democrats.

In other words, it is very hard to tell them apart.

As a nation, we are steamrolling toward a date with oblivion, but everyone is trying to put such a happy face on things.

Well, enjoy this time of relative stability while you can, because it is going to end way too soon.

17 Signs That A Full-Blown Economic Depression Is Raging In Southern Europe – Is The U.S. Next?

17 Signs That A Full-Blown Economic Depression Is Raging In Southern Europe - Photo by GgiaWhen you get into too much debt, eventually really bad things start to happen.  This is a very painful lesson that southern Europe is learning right now, and it is a lesson that the United States will soon learn as well.  It simply is not possible to live way beyond your means forever.  You can do it for a while though, and politicians in the U.S. and in Europe keep trying to kick the can down the road and extend the party, but the truth is that debt is a very cruel master and at some point it inevitably catches up with you.  And when it catches up with you, the results can be absolutely devastating.  Greece, Italy, Spain and Portugal all tried to just slow down the rate at which their government debts were increasing, and look at what happened to their economies.  In each case, GDP is shrinking, unemployment is skyrocketing, credit is freezing up and manufacturing is declining.  And you know what?  None of those countries has even gotten close to a balanced budget yet.  They are all still going into even more debt.  Just imagine what would happen if they actually tried to only spend the money that they brought in?

I have always said that the next wave of the economic collapse would start in Europe and that is exactly what is happening.  So keep watching Europe.  What is happening to them will eventually happen to us.

The following are 17 signs that a full-blown economic depression is raging in southern Europe…

#1 The Italian economy is in the midst of a horrifying “credit crunch” that is causing thousands of companies to go bankrupt…

Confindustria, the business federation, said 29pc of Italian firms cannot meet “operational expenses” and are starved of liquidity. A “third phase of the credit crunch” is underway that matches the shocks in 2008-2009 and again in 2011.

In a research report the group said the economy was caught in a “vicious circle” where banks are too frightened to lend, driving more companies over the edge. A thousand are going bankrupt every day.

#2 During the 4th quarter of 2012, the unemployment rate in Greece was 26.4 percent.  That was 2.6 percent higher than the third quarter of 2012, and it was 5.7 percent higher than the fourth quarter of 2011.

#3 During the 4th quarter of 2012, the youth unemployment rate in Greece was 57.8 percent.

#4 The unemployment rate in Spain has reached 26 percent.

#5 In Spain there are 107 unemployed workers for every available job.

#6 The unemployment rate in Italy is now 11.7 percent.  That is the highest that it has been since Italy joined the euro.

#7 The youth unemployment rate in Italy has risen to a new all-time record high of 38.7 percent.

#8 Unemployment in the eurozone as a whole has reached a new all-time high of 11.9 percent.

#9 Italy’s economy is starting to shrink at a frightening pace

Data from Italy’s national statistics institute ISTAT showed that the country’s economy shrank by 0.9pc in the fourth quarter of last year and gross domestic product was down a revised 2.8pc year-on-year.

#10 The Greek economy is contracting even faster than the Italian economy is…

Greece also sank further into recession during the fourth quarter of 2012, with figures on Monday showing the economy contracted by 5.7pc year-on-year.

#11 Overall, the Greek economy has contracted by more than 20 percent since 2008.

#12 Manufacturing activity is declining just about everywhere in Europe except for Germany

Research group Markit said its index of activity in UK manufacturing – where 50 is the cut off between growth and decline – sank from 50.5 in January to 47.9 in February. It left Britain on the brink of a third recession in five years after the economy shrank by 0.3 per cent in the final quarter of 2012.

Chris Williamson, chief economist at Markit, said: ‘This represents a major setback to hopes that the UK economy can return to growth in the first quarter and avoid a triple-dip recession.’

The eurozone manufacturing index also read 47.9. Germany scored 50.3 but Spain hit 46.8, Italy 45.8 and France 43.9.

#13 The percentage of bad loans in Italian banks has risen to 12.2 percent.  Back in 2007, that number was sitting at just 4.5 percent.

#14 Bank deposits experienced significant declines all over Europe during the month of January.

#15 Private bond default rates are soaring all over southern Europe…

S&P said the default rate for Italian non-investment grade bonds jumped to 9.5pc last year from 5.7pc in 2012 as local banks shut off funding. It was even worse in Spain, doubling to 14.3pc.

The default rate in France rocketed from 0.8pc to 8.7pc, the latest in a blizzard of bad news from the country as the delayed effects of tax rises, fiscal tightening, and the strong euro do their worst.

#16 Lars Feld, a key economic adviser to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, recently said the following

“The sustainability of Italian public finances is in jeopardy. The euro crisis will therefore return shortly with a vengeance.”

#17 Things have gotten so bad in Greece that the Greek government plans to sell off 28 state-owned buildings – including the main police headquarters in Athens.

One of the few politicians in Europe that actually understands what is happening in Europe is Nigel Farage.  A video of one of his recent rants is posted below.  Farage believes that “the Eurozone has been a complete economic disaster” and that the worst is yet to come…

Most people believe that the eurozone has been “saved”, but that is not even close to the truth.

In fact, it becomes more likely that we will see the eurozone break up with each passing day.

So who would leave first?

Well, recently there have been rumblings among some German politicians that Greece should be the first to leave.  The following is from a recent Reuters article

Greece remains the biggest risk for the euro zone despite a calming of its economic and political crisis and may still have to leave the common currency, a senior conservative ally of German Chancellor Angela Merkel said.

But there is also a chance that Germany could eventually be the first nation that decides to leave the euro.  In fact, a new political party is forming in Germany that is committed to getting Germany out of the euro.  The following is a brief excerpt from a recent article by Ambrose Evans-Pritchard

A new party led by economists, jurists, and Christian Democrat rebels will kick off this week, calling for the break-up of monetary union before it can do any more damage.

“An end to this euro,” is the first line on the webpage of Alternative für Deutschland (AfD). “The introduction of the euro has proved to be a fatal mistake, that threatens the welfare of us all. The old parties are used up. They stubbornly refuse to admit their mistakes.”

They propose German withdrawl from EMU and return to the D-Mark, or a breakaway currency with the Dutch, Austrians, Finns, and like-minded nations. The French are not among them. The borders run along the ancient line of cleavage dividing Latins from Germanic tribes.

However this all plays out, the reality is that things are about to get much more interesting in Europe.

No debt bubble lasts forever.  The Europeans are finding that out right now, and the U.S. won’t be too far behind.

But for the moment, most Americans assume that everything is going to be okay because the Dow keeps setting new all-time record highs.

Well, enjoy this little bubble of debt-fueled false prosperity while you can, because it won’t last for long.

A massive wake up call is coming, and it will be exceedingly painful for those that are not ready for it.

Greek Economic Riot - Photo by Ggia

12 Things That Just Happened That Show The Next Wave Of The Economic Collapse Is Almost Here

12 Things That Just Happened That Show The Next Wave Of The Economic Collapse Is Almost HereAre we running out of time?  For the last several years, we have been living in a false bubble of hope that has been fueled by massive amounts of debt and bailout money.  This illusion of economic stability has convinced most people that the great economic crisis of 2008 was just an “aberration” and that now things are back to normal.  Unfortunately, that is not the case at all.  The truth is that the financial crash of 2008 was just the first wave of our economic troubles.  We have not even come close to recovering from that wave, and the next wave of the economic collapse is rapidly approaching.  Our economy is like a giant sand castle that has been built on a foundation of debt and toilet paper currency.  As each wave of the crisis hits us, the solutions that our leaders will present to us will involve even more debt and even more money printing.  And each time, those “solutions” will only make our problems even worse.  Right now, events are unfolding in Europe and in the United States that are pushing us toward the next major crisis moment.  I sincerely hope that we have some more time before the next crisis overwhelms us, but as you will see, time is rapidly running out.

The following are 12 things that just happened that show the next wave of the economic collapse is almost here…

#1 According to TrimTab’s CEO Charles Biderman, corporate insider purchases of stock have hit an all-time low, and the ratio of corporate insider selling to corporate insider buying has now reached an astounding 50 to 1….

While retail is being told to buy-buy-buy, Biderman exclaims that “insiders at U.S. companies have bought the least amount of shares in any one month,” and that the ratio of insider selling to buying is now 50-to-1 – a monthly record.

#2 On Friday we learned that personal income in the United States experienced its largest one month decline in 20 years

Personal income decreased by $505.5 billion in January, or 3.6%, compared to December (on a seasonally adjusted and annualized basis). That’s the most dramatic decline since January 1993, according to the Commerce Department.

#3 In a stunning move, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder says that he will appoint an emergency financial manager to take care of Detroit’s financial affairs…

Snyder, 54, took a step he avoided a year ago, empowering an emergency financial manager who can sweep aside union contracts, sell municipal assets, restructure services and reorder finances. He announced the move yesterday at a public meeting in Detroit.

If this does not work, Detroit will almost certainly have to declare bankruptcy.  If that happens, it will be the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history.

#4 On Friday it was announced that the unemployment rate in Italy had risen to 11.7 percent.  That was a huge jump from 11.3 percent the previous month, and Italy now has the highest unemployment rate that it has experienced in 21 years.

#5 The youth unemployment rate in Italy has risen to a new all-time record high of 38.7 percent.

#6 On Friday it was announced that the unemployment rate in the eurozone as a whole had just hit a brand new record high of 11.9 percent.

#7 On Friday it was announced that the unemployment rate in Greece has now reached 27 percent, and it is being projected that it will reach 30 percent by the end of the year.

#8 The youth unemployment rate in Greece is now an almost unbelievable 59.4 percent.

#9 On Saturday, hundreds of thousands of protesters filled the streets of Lisbon and other Portuguese cities to protest the austerity measures that are being imposed upon them.  It was reportedly the largest protest in the history of Portugal.

#10 According to Goldman Sachs, bank deposits declined all over Europe during the month of January.

#11 Over the weekend, the deputy governor of China’s central bank declared that China is prepared for a “currency war“…

A top Chinese banker said Beijing is “fully prepared” for a currency war as he urged the world to abide by a consensus reached by the G20 to avert confrontation, state media reported on Saturday.

Yi Gang, deputy governor of China’s central bank, issued the call after G20 finance ministers last month moved to calm fears of a looming war on the currency markets at a meeting in Moscow.

Those fears have largely been fuelled by the recent steep decline in the Japanese yen, which critics have accused Tokyo of manipulating to give its manufacturers a competitive edge in key export markets over Asian rivals.

#12 Italy is an economic basket case at this point, and the political gridlock in Italy is certainly not helping matters.  Former comedian Beppe Grillo’s party could potentially tip the balance of power one way or the other in Italy, and over the weekend he made some comments that are really shaking things up over in Europe.  For one thing, he is suggesting that Italy should hold a referendum on the euro…

“I am a strong advocate of Europe. I am in favor of an online referendum on the euro,” Beppe Grillo told Bild am Sonntag.

Such a vote would not be legally binding in Italy, where referendums can only be used to repeal laws or parts of laws, but would carry political weight. Grillo has said in the past that membership of the euro should be up to the Italian people.

In addition, Grillo is also suggesting that Italy’s debt has gotten so large that renegotiation is the only option…

In an interview with a German magazine published on Saturday, Mr Grillo said that “if conditions do not change” Italy “will want” to leave the euro and return to its former national currency.

The 64-year-old comic-turned-political activist also said Italy needs to renegotiate its €2 trillion debt.

At 127 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP), it is the highest in the euro zone after Greece.

“Right now we are being crushed, not by the euro, but by our debt. When the interest payments reach €100 billion a year, we’re dead. There’s no alternative,” he told Focus, a weekly news magazine.

He said Italy was in such dire economic straits that “in six months, we will no longer be able to pay pensions and the wages of public employees.”

And of course government debt has taken center stage in the United States as well.

The sequester cuts have now gone into effect, and they will definitely have an effect on the U.S. economy.  Of course that effect will not be nearly as dramatic as many Democrats are suggesting, but without a doubt those cuts will cause the U.S. economy to slow down a bit.

And of course the U.S. economy has already been showing plenty of signs of slowing down lately.  If you doubt this, please see my previous article entitled “Consumer Spending Drought: 16 Signs That The Middle Class Is Running Out Of Money“.

So what comes next?

Well, everyone should keep watching Europe very closely, and it will also be important to keep an eye on Wall Street.  There are a whole bunch of indications that the stock market is at or near a peak.  For example, just check out what one prominent stock market analyst recently had to say

“Every reliable technical tool is warning of major peaking action,” said Walter Zimmerman, the senior technical analyst at United-ICAP. “This includes sentiment, momentum, classical chart patterns, and Elliott wave analysis.

“Most of the rally in the stock market since 2009 can be chalked up to the Federal Reserve’s attempt to create a ‘wealth effect’ through higher stock market prices. This only exacerbates the downside risk. Why? The stock market no is longer a lead indicator for the economy. It is instead reflecting  Fed manipulation. Pushing the stock market higher while the real economy languishes has resulted in another bubble.

“The next leg down will not be a partial correction of the advance since the 2009 lows. It will be another major financial crisis. The worst is yet to come.”

Sadly, most people will continue to deny that anything is wrong until it is far too late.

Many areas of Europe are already experiencing economic depression, and it is only a matter of time before the U.S. follows suit.

Time is running out, and I hope that you are getting ready.

So what do you think?

How much time do you believe that we have left before the next wave of the economic collapse strikes?

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

Jeff Rowley Big Wave Surfer wipeout Photo Jaws Peahi by Xvolution Media

Say Goodbye To The Good Life

Say Goodbye To The Good Life - The U.S. Capitol With A Babylonian Holiday Tree In The ForegroundWill this be the last normal holiday season that Americans ever experience?  To many Americans, such a notion would be absolutely inconceivable.  After all, in the affluent areas of the country restaurants and malls are absolutely packed.  Beautiful holiday decorations are seemingly everywhere this time of the year and children all over the United States are breathlessly awaiting the arrival of Santa Claus.  Even though poverty is exploding to unprecedented levels, most families will still have mountains of presents under their Christmas trees.  Of course a whole lot of those presents were purchased with credit cards, but people don’t like to talk about that.  It kind of spoils the illusion.  Sadly, the truth is that our entire economy is a giant illusion.  The extreme prosperity that we have been enjoying has been fueled by debt, and any future prosperity that we will experience is completely dependent on our ability to go into even more debt.  The total amount of debt in our economy is almost 10 times larger than it was just 30 years ago, but we don’t like to think about that too much.  Most Americans are way too busy living the good life to be bothered with “doom and gloom”.  Well, get ready to say goodbye to normal.  As history has shown us, no financial bubble lasts forever, and time is rapidly running out for us.

You know that the hour is late when even mainstream news sources start publishing articles with titles such as this: “Will 2013 Mark the Beginning of American Decline?

That article appeared on Bloomberg.com the other day, and it was written by Simon Johnson, a former chief economist at the International Monetary Fund.  He is convinced that a day of reckoning is coming for U.S. government finances, and he seems resigned to the fact that we will not be ready when that day arrives…

“Sooner or later, it will be America’s turn to fall out of favor with investors and to see its own interest rates rise. It is hard to know when that day will come, or precisely what pressures the country will face.

Let me only venture one forecast: We will not be ready.”

Other analysts are far more pessimistic.  For example, the following is what Gerald Celente said about the “bond bubble” during a recent interview with King World News

Eric King: “Gerald, I wanted to take a look at this upcoming issue you have coming out. (In here it says,) ‘Bonds Away! The bond bomb is ready to explode … threatening to make the real estate and dot-com bubbles, and even the Great Recession, look like market corrections.’ Can you talk about that?”

Celente: “Yes. This piece is being penned by Dr. Paul Craig Roberts, the former Assistant Treasury Secretary under Ronald Reagan. And he is convinced that the bond bubble is about to burst. This cannot continue to go on the way it is. Everyone knows that the whole game is rigged, and so is this….”

“The whole game is rigged. It’s ready to go down, and Dr. Paul Craig Roberts believes it’s ‘Bonds Away’ in 2013 as the bond bubble explodes and brings about a financial disaster even worse than the Great Depression.”

Eric King: “He’s saying here it’s a road to financial collapse that we are going to head down when this thing bursts.”

Celente: “It is. Because the whole world is being propped up by these phony bonds and it’s going to collapse. It has to happen. Interest rates are going to start going up, and when they do the bond bubble explodes. You cannot keep interest rates at zero for this amount of time and expect anything other than disaster to follow.”

For much more on all this, you can listen to another excellent interview with Gerald Celente right here.

Our politicians just assume that we will be able to borrow trillions upon trillions of dollars far into the future at super low interest rates, but that is a very dangerous assumption.

As I noted the other day, the average rate of interest on U.S. government debt was 2.534 percent at the end of November.  If that number just rose to where it was about a decade earlier we would be in a massive amount of trouble.

Back in the year 2000, the average rate of interest on U.S. government debt was 6.638 percent.  If we were at that level today, the U.S. government would be paying out more than a trillion dollars a year just in interest on the national debt.

But our politicians just keep borrowing and spending as if we could do this forever.

From the time that George Washington was inaugurated (1789) to the time that George W. Bush was inaugurated (2001), the U.S. government accumulated about 5.7 trillion dollars of debt.

During the first four years of the Obama administration, the U.S. government accumulated about 5.7 trillion dollars of debt.

How can anyone support this kind of insanity?

You can see an excellent video demonstrating the vastness of our national debt right here.  In the end, all of this debt will absolutely destroy the U.S. dollar, our economic system and the bright futures that our children and our grandchildren were supposed to have.

As if all of that was not enough to be concerned about, there is also the threat that Wall Street could implode at any time.  Most Americans have no idea that Wall Street has been transformed into the largest casino in the history of the world.  The “too big to fail” banks are the ringleaders, and the derivatives bubble hangs over our financial system like a “sword of Damocles” that could fall at virtually any moment.

Everything will remain fine as long as the spiral of derivatives that our bankers have constructed remains perfectly balanced.  But if something happens and it becomes unbalanced and starts to collapse, the consequences could be unlike anything we have ever seen before.

A recent Zero Hedge article entitled “1000x Systemic Leverage: $600 Trillion In Gross Derivatives ‘Backed’ By $600 Billion In Collateral” detailed how there is barely any collateral backing up the hundreds of trillions of dollars of derivatives that are out there…

But a bigger question is what is the actual collateral backing this gargantuan market which is about 10 times greater than the world’s combined GDP, because as the “derivative” name implies all this exposure is backed on some dedicated, real assets, somewhere. Luckily, the IMF recently released a discussion note titled “Shadow Banking: Economics and Policy” where quietly hidden in one of the appendices it answers precisely this critical question. The bottom line: $600 trillion in gross notional derivatives backed by a tiny $600 billion in real assets: a whopping 0.1% margin requirement! Surely nothing can possibly go wrong with this amount of unprecedented 1000x systemic leverage.

Our entire economy has become a giant pyramid of debt, risk and leverage.  At some point there is going to be a giant crash.  When that happens, people are going to become very desperate.

When people become very desperate, they often accept “solutions” that they were not willing to consider previously.

We need to learn some lessons from history.  This is exactly the kind of thing that happened back in the 1930s.

For example, an elderly woman named Kitty Werthmann is telling audiences what life was like in Austria back in the late 1930s…

“In 1938, Austria was in deep Depression. Nearly one-third of our workforce was unemployed. We had 25 percent inflation and 25 percent bank loan interest rates.”

“Farmers and business people were declaring bankruptcy daily. Young people were going from house to house begging for food. Not that they didn’t want to work; there simply weren’t any jobs.”

The Austrian people were really hurting and they were desperate for answers.  When Hitler came to them with “solutions”, they were ready to embrace him with open arms…

“We looked to our neighbor on the north, Germany, where Hitler had been in power since 1933.” she recalls. “We had been told that they didn’t have unemployment or crime, and they had a high standard of living.”

“Nothing was ever said about persecution of any group – Jewish or otherwise. We were led to believe that everyone in Germany was happy. We wanted the same way of life in Austria. We were promised that a vote for Hitler would mean the end of unemployment and help for the family. Hitler also said that businesses would be assisted, and farmers would get their farms back.””Ninety-eight percent of the population voted to annex Austria to Germany and have Hitler for our ruler.”

“We were overjoyed,” remembers Kitty, “and for three days we danced in the streets and had candlelight parades. The new government opened up big field kitchens and everyone was fed.”

Sadly, America is already starting to go down the same path in many ways.  If you doubt this, you can read the rest of her account right here.

Right now, things are still relatively good in America.  Yes, there are a whole host of economic numbers that look really bad, but what we are experiencing right now is nothing compared to the horrific economic pain that is coming.

When our economy finally crashes, nobody is going to be able to press a button and restore things to how they were previously.  We will be told that we have to “adjust” and consider “new solutions” to our “new challenges”.  Someday we will look back on the good life that we were enjoying in 2010, 2011 and 2012 and wish that we could go back to those days.

So enjoy the relative peacefulness and prosperity of these times while you still can.  A horrific economic collapse is on the way, and once it strikes none of our lives will ever be the same.

Santa Claus - A Symbol Of Our Materialism

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