The Beginning Of The End
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Does This Look Like A Housing Recovery To You?

Homeownership Rate 2014We just learned that the homeownership rate in the United States has fallen to the lowest level in 19 years.  But of course this is not a new trend.  As you will see in this article, the homeownership rate in the United States has been in a continual decline for more than 7 years.  Obviously this is not a sign of a healthy economy.  Traditionally, homeownership has been one of the key indicators that you belong to the middle class.  When people define “the American Dream”, it is usually one of the first things mentioned.  So if the percentage of Americans that own a home has been steadily going down for 7 years in a row, what does that tell us about the health of the middle class in this country?

The chart that you are about to view is clear evidence that we are in the midst of a long-term economic decline.  It shows what has happened to the homeownership rate in the U.S. since the year 2000, and as you can see it has been collapsing since the peak of the housing market back in 2007.  Does this look like a housing recovery to you?…

Homeownership Rate 2014

So many people get caught up in what is happening on Wall Street, but this is the “real economy” that affects people on a day to day basis.

Most Americans just want to be able to buy a home and provide a solid middle class living for their families.

The fact that the percentage of people that are able to achieve this “American Dream” is falling rapidly is very troubling.

There are some that blame this stunning decline in the homeownership rate on the Millennials.

And without a doubt, they are a significant part of the story.  They are moving back home with their parents at record rates, and many that are striking out on their own are renting apartments in the big cities.

This is one area where the decline of marriage in America is really hitting the economy.  Back in 1968, well over 50 percent of Americans in the 18 to 31-year-old age bracket were already married and living on their own.  Today, that number is below 25 percent.

But that is not all there is to this story.

In fact, the homeownership rate for Americans in the 35 to 44-year-old age bracket has been falling even faster than it has for Millennials…

In the first quarter of 2008, nearly 67% of people aged 35-44 owned homes. Now the number is barely above 59%. The percentage of people under 35 owning homes only fell five percentage points, to 36% from 41%.

So why is this happening?

Well, it is fairly simple actually.

In order to buy homes, people need to have good jobs.  And at this point, the percentage of Americans that are employed is still about where it was during the depths of the last recession.

In addition, wages in the United States have stagnated and the quality of our jobs continues to go down.  As I wrote about the other day, half of all American workers make less than $28,031 a year.  Needless to say, if you make less than $28,031  a year, you are going to have a really hard time getting approved for a home loan or making mortgage payments.

Things have been changing for a long time in this country, and not for the better.  Our economic problems have taken decades to develop, and the underlying causes of these problems is still not being addressed.

Meanwhile, middle class families continue to suffer.  One very surprising new survey discovered that more than half of all Americans now consider themselves to be “lower-middle class or working class with low economic security”.  While Wall Street has been celebrating in recent years, economic pessimism has become deeply ingrained on Main Street…

Optimism may be harder to come by these days. More than half of Americans surveyed in a Harris poll released Tuesday identified themselves as being lower-middle class or working class with low economic security. And 75 percent said they’re being held back financially by roadblocks like the cost of housing (24 percent), health care (21 percent) and credit-card debt (20 percent).

And that’s not the kicker.

“The most disappointing aspect is that 45 percent think they’ll never get their finances back to where they were before the financial crisis,” said Ken Rees, CEO of the Elevate credit service company, which commissioned the survey. “And a third are losing sleep over it.”

The only “recovery” that we have experienced since the last recession has been a temporary recovery on Wall Street.

For the rest of the country, our long-term economic decline has continued.

When I was growing up, my father was serving in the U.S. Navy and we lived in a fairly typical middle class neighborhood.  Everyone that I went to school with lived in a nice home and I never heard of any parent struggling to find work.  Of course life was not perfect, but it seemed to me like living a middle class lifestyle was “normal” for most people.

How times have changed since then.

Today, it seems like we are all part of a giant reality show where people are constantly being removed from the middle class and everyone is wondering who will be next.

So what do you think?

Is there hope for the middle class, or are the economic problems that we are facing just beginning?

Please feel free to share your opinion by posting a comment below…

 

14 Reasons Why The U.S. Economy’s Bubble Of False Prosperity May Be About To Burst

Bubbles - Public DomainDid you know that a major event just happened in the financial markets that we have not seen since the financial crisis of 2008?  If you rely on the mainstream media for your news, you probably didn’t even hear about it.  Just prior to the last stock market crash, a massive amount of money was pulled out of junk bonds.  Now it is happening again.  In fact, as you will read about below, the market for high yield bonds just experienced “a 6-sigma event”.  But this is not the only indication that the U.S. economy could be on the verge of very hard times.  Retail sales are extremely disappointing, mortgage applications are at a 14 year low and growing geopolitical storms around the world have investors spooked.  For a long time now, we have been enjoying a period of relative economic stability even though our underlying economic fundamentals continue to get even worse.  Unfortunately, there are now a bunch of signs that this period of relative stability is about to end.  The following are 14 reasons why the U.S. economy’s bubble of false prosperity may be about to burst…

#1 The U.S. junk bond market just experienced “a 6-sigma event” earlier this month.  In other words, it is an event that is only supposed to have a chance of 1 in 500 million of happening.  Billions of dollars are being pulled out of junk bonds right now, and that has some analysts wondering if a financial crash is right around the corner.

#2 The last time that we saw a junk bond rout of this magnitude was back during the financial crash of 2008.  In fact, as the Telegraph recently explained, bonds usually crash before stocks do…

The credit market usually leads the equity market during turning points, as happened when credit markets cracked first in 2008.

Will the same thing happen this time around?

#3 Retail sales have missed expectations for three months in a row and we just had the worst reading since January.

#4 Things have gotten so bad that even Wal-Mart is really struggling.  Same-store sales at Wal-Mart have declined for five quarters in a row and the outlook for the future is not particularly promising.

#5 The four week moving average for mortgage applications just hit a 14 year low.  It is now even lower than it was during the worst moments of the financial crisis of 2008.

#6 The tech industry is supposed to be booming, but mass layoffs in the tech industry are actually 68 percent ahead of last year’s pace.

#7 According to the Federal Reserve, 40 percent of all households in the United States are currently showing signs of financial stress.

#8 The U.S. homeownership rate has fallen to the lowest level since 1995.

#9 According to one survey, 76 percent of Americans do not have enough money saved to cover six months of expenses.

#10 Rumblings of a stock market correction have become so loud that even the mainstream media is reporting on it.  For example, just check out this CNN headline from earlier this month: “Is a correction near? Wall Street on edge“.

#11 The civil war in Iraq is spiraling out of control, and Barack Obama has just announced that he is going to send 130 troops to the country in a “humanitarian” capacity.  Iraq is the 7th largest oil producing nation on the entire planet, and if the flow of oil is disrupted that could have serious consequences.

#12 As a result of the conflict in Ukraine, the United States, Canada and the European Union have slapped sanctions on Russia.  In return, Russia has slapped sanctions on them.  Will this slowdown in global trade significantly harm the U.S. economy?

#13 The three day cease-fire between Hamas and Israel is about to end, and Hamas officials are saying that they are preparing for a “long battle“.  If a resolution is not found soon, we could potentially see a full-blown regional war erupt in the Middle East.

#14 The number of Ebola deaths continues to grow at an exponential rate, and if the virus starts spreading inside the United States it has the potential to pretty much shut down our entire economy.

Meanwhile, things look even more dire in much of the rest of the globe.

For example, the economic slowdown has gotten so bad in some nations over in Europe that they are actually experiencing deflation

Portugal has crashed into deep deflation and Italy’s inflation rate has fallen to zero as the eurozone flirts with recession, automatically pushing these countries further towards a debt compound spiral.

The slide comes amid signs of a deepening slowdown in the eurozone core, with even Germany flirting with possible recession. Germany’s ZEW index of investor confidence plunged from 27.1 to 8.6 in July, the sharpest fall since June 2012, during the European sovereign debt crisis. “The European Central Bank has to act now,” said Andrew Roberts, credit chief at RBS.

And in Japan, GDP just contracted at a 6.8 percent annual rate during the second quarter…

Japan’s economy suffered its worst contraction since 2011 in the second quarter as consumer spending on big items slumped in the wake of a sales tax rise.

Gross domestic product shrunk by an annualized 6.8% in the three months ended June, Japan’s Cabinet Office said Wednesday. The result was actually better than the 7% contraction expected by economists.

On a quarterly basis, Japan’s GDP dropped by 1.7% as business and housing investment declined. Japan’s economy last suffered a hit of this magnitude after the 2011 tsunami and nuclear disaster.

There is no way that this bubble of false prosperity was going to last forever.  It was never real to begin with.  It was just based on a pyramid of debt and false promises.  In fact, the condition of the global financial system is now far worse than it was just prior to the financial crisis of 2008.

Sadly, most people do not understand these things.  Most people just assume that our leaders have fixed whatever caused the problems last time.  And when the next crisis arrives, they will be totally blindsided by it.

Half The Country Makes Less Than $27,520 A Year And 15 Other Signs The Middle Class Is Dying

Depressed - Photo by Sander van der WelIf you make more than $27,520 a year at your job, you are doing better than half the country is.  But you don’t have to take my word for it, you can check out the latest wage statistics from the Social Security administration right here.  But of course $27,520 a year will not allow you to live “the American Dream” in this day and age.  After taxes, that breaks down to a good bit less than $2,000 a month.  You can’t realistically pay a mortgage, make a car payment, afford health insurance and provide food, clothing and everything else your family needs for that much money.  That is one of the reasons why both parents are working in most families today.  In fact, sometimes both parents are working multiple jobs in a desperate attempt to make ends meet.  Over the years, the cost of living has risen steadily but our paychecks have not.  This has resulted in a steady erosion of the middle class.  Once upon a time, most American families could afford a nice home, a couple of cars and a nice vacation every year.  When I was growing up, it seemed like almost everyone was middle class.  But now “the American Dream” is out of reach for more Americans than ever, and the middle class is dying right in front of our eyes.

One of the things that was great about America in the post-World War II era was that we developed a large, thriving middle class.  Until recent times, it always seemed like there were plenty of good jobs for people that were willing to be responsible and work hard.  That was one of the big reasons why people wanted to come here from all over the world.  They wanted to have a chance to live “the American Dream” too.

But now the American Dream is becoming a mirage for most people.  No matter how hard they try, they just can’t seem to achieve it.

And here are some hard numbers to back that assertion up.  The following are 15 more signs that the middle class is dying…

#1 According to a brand new CNN poll, 59 percent of Americans believe that it has become impossible for most people to achieve the American Dream…

The American Dream is impossible to achieve in this country.

So say nearly 6 in 10 people who responded to CNNMoney’s American Dream Poll, conducted by ORC International. They feel the dream — however they define it — is out of reach.

Young adults, age 18 to 34, are most likely to feel the dream is unattainable, with 63% saying it’s impossible. This age group has suffered in the wake of the Great Recession, finding it hard to get good jobs.

#2 More Americans than ever believe that homeownership is not a key to long-term wealth and prosperity…

The great American Dream is dying. Even though many Americans still desire to own a home, they are losing faith in homeownership as a key to prosperity.

Nearly two-thirds of Americans, or 64%, believe they are less likely to build wealth by buying a home today than they were 20 or 30 years ago, according to a survey sponsored by non-profit MacArthur Foundation. And nearly 43% said buying a home is no longer a good long-term investment.

#3 Overall, the rate of homeownership in the United States has fallen for eight years in a row, and it has now dropped to the lowest level in 19 years.

#4 52 percent of Americans cannot even afford the house that they are living in right now…

“Over half of Americans (52%) have had to make at least one major sacrifice in order to cover their rent or mortgage over the last three years, according to the “How Housing Matters Survey,” which was commissioned by the nonprofit John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and carried out by Hart Research Associates. These sacrifices include getting a second job, deferring saving for retirement, cutting back on health care, running up credit card debt, or even moving to a less safe neighborhood or one with worse schools.”

#5 According to the U.S. Census Bureau, only 36 percent of Americans under the age of 35 own a home.  That is the lowest level that has ever been measured.

#6 Right now, approximately one out of every six men in the United States that are in their prime working years (25 to 54) do not have a job.

#7 The labor force participation rate for Americans from the age of 25 to the age of 29 has fallen to an all-time record low.

#8 The number of working age Americans that are not employed has increased by 27 million since the year 2000.

#9 According to the government’s own numbers, about 20 percent of the families in the entire country do not have a single member that is employed at this point.

#10 This may sound crazy, but 25 percent of all American adults do not even have a single penny saved up for retirement.

#11 As I noted in one recent article, total consumer credit in the United States has increased by 22 percent over the past three years, and 56 percent of all Americans have “subprime credit” at this point.

#12 Major retailers are shutting down stores at the fastest pace that we have seen since the collapse of Lehman Brothers.

#13 It is hard to believe, but more than one out of every five children in the United States is living in poverty in 2014.

#14 According to one recent report, there are 49 million Americans that are dealing with food insecurity right now.

#15 Overall, the U.S. poverty rate is up more than 30 percent since 1966.  It looks like LBJ’s war on poverty didn’t work out too well after all.

Sadly, it does not appear that there is much hope on the horizon for the middle class.  More good jobs are being shipped out of the country and are being lost to technology every single day, and our politicians seem convinced that “business as usual” is the right course of action for our nation.

Unless something dramatic happens, it is going to become increasingly difficult to eke out a middle class existence as a “worker bee” in American society.  The truth is that most big companies these days do not have any loyalty to their workers and really do not care what ends up happening to them.

To thrive in this kind of environment, new and different thinking is required.  The paradigm of “go to college, get a job, stay loyal and retire after 30 years” has been shattered.  The business world is more unstable now than it has been during any point in the post-World War II era, and we are all going to have to adjust.

So what advice would you give to people that are struggling out there right now?  Please feel free to share your thoughts by posting a comment below…

9 Of The Top 10 Occupations In America Pay An Average Wage Of Less Than $35,000 A Year

CashierAccording to stunning new numbers just released by the federal government, nine of the top ten most commonly held jobs in the United States pay an average wage of less than $35,000 a year.  When you break that down, that means that most of these workers are making less than $3,000 a month before taxes.  And once you consider how we are being taxed into oblivion, things become even more frightening.  Can you pay a mortgage and support a family on just a couple grand a month?  Of course not.  In the old days, a single income would enable a family to live a very comfortable middle class lifestyle in most cases.  But now those days are long gone.  In 2014, both parents are expected to work, and in many cases both of them have to get multiple jobs just in order to break even at the end of the month.  The decline in the quality of our jobs is a huge reason for the implosion of the middle class in this country.  You can’t have a middle class without middle class jobs, and we have witnessed a multi-decade decline in middle class jobs in the United States.  As long as this trend continues, the middle class is going to continue to shrink.

The following is a list of the most commonly held jobs in America according to the federal government.  As you can see, 9 of the top 10 most commonly held occupations pay an average wage of less than $35,000 a year

  1. Retail salespersons, 4.48 million workers earning  $25,370
  2. Cashiers  3.34 million workers earning $20,420
  3. Food prep and serving staff, 3.02 million workers earning $18,880
  4. General office clerk, 2.83 million working earning $29,990
  5. Registered nurses, 2.66 million workers earning $68,910
  6. Waiters and waitresses, 2.40 million workers earning $20,880
  7. Customer service representatives, 2.39 million workers earning $33,370
  8. Laborers, and freight and material movers, 2.28 million workers earning $26,690
  9. Secretaries and admins (not legal or medical),  2.16 million workers earning $34,000
  10. Janitors and cleaners (not maids),  2.10 million workers earning, $25,140

Overall, an astounding 59 percent of all American workers bring home less than $35,000 a year in wages.

So if you are going to make more than $35,000 this year, you are solidly in the upper half.

But that doesn’t mean that you will always be there.

More Americans are falling out of the middle class with each passing day.

Just consider the case of a 47-year-old woman named Kristina Feldotte.  Together with her husband, they used to make about $80,000 a year.  But since she lost her job three years ago, their combined income has fallen to about $36,000 a year

Three years ago, Kristina Feldotte, 47, and her husband earned a combined $80,000. She considered herself solidly middle class. The couple and their four children regularly vacationed at a lake near their home in Saginaw, Michigan.

But in August 2012, Feldotte was laid off from her job as a special education teacher. She’s since managed to find only part-time teaching work. Though her husband still works as a truck salesman, their income has sunk by more than half to $36,000.

“Now we’re on the upper end of lower class,” Feldotte said.

There is a common assumption out there that if you “have a job” that you must be doing “okay”.

But that is not even close to the truth.

The reality of the matter is that you can even have two or three jobs and still be living in poverty.  In fact, you can even be working for the government or the military and still need food stamps

Since the start of the Recession, the dollar amount of food stamps used at military commissaries, special stores that can be used by active-duty, retired, and some veterans of the armed forces has quadrupled, hitting $103 million last year. Food banks around the country have also reported a rise in the number of military families they serve, numbers that swelled during the Recession and haven’t, or have barely, abated.

There are so many people that are really hurting out there.

Today, someone wrote to me about one of my recent articles about food price increases and told me about how produce prices were going through the roof in that particular area.  This individual wondered how ordinary families were going to be able to survive in this environment.

That is a very good question.

I don’t know how they are going to survive.

In some cases, the suffering that is going on behind closed doors is far greater than any of us would ever imagine.

And often, it is children that suffer the most

A Texas couple kept their bruised, malnourished 5-year-old son in a diaper and locked in a closet of their Spring home, police said in a horrifying case of abuse.

The tiny, blond-haired boy was severely underweight, his shoulder blades, ribs and vertebrae showing through his skin, when officers found him late last week.

You can see some photos of that poor little boy right here.

I hope that those abusive parents are put away for a very long time.

Sadly, there are lots of kids that are really suffering right now.  There are more than a million homeless schoolchildren in America, and there are countless numbers that will go to bed hungry tonight.

But if you live in wealthy enclaves on the east or west coasts, all of this may sound truly bizarre to you.  Where you live, you may look around and not see any poverty at all.  That is because America has become increasingly segregated by wealth.  Some are even calling this the “skyboxification of America”

The richest Americans—the much-talked about 1 percent—are a cloistered class. As the Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz scathingly put it, they “have the best houses, the best educations, the best doctors, and the best lifestyles, but there is one thing that money doesn’t seem to have bought: an understanding that their fate is bound up with how the other 99 percent live.” The Harvard political philosopher Michael Sandel has similarly lamented the “skyboxification” of American life, in which “people of affluence and people of modest means lead increasingly separate lives.”

The substantial and growing gap between the rich and everyone else is increasingly inscribed on our geography. There have always been affluent neighborhoods, gated enclaves, and fabled bastions of wealth like Greenwich, Connecticut; Grosse Pointe, Michigan; Potomac, Maryland; and Beverly Hills, California. But America’s bankers, lawyers, and doctors didn’t always live so far apart from teachers, accountants, and small business owners, who themselves weren’t always so segregated from the poorest, most struggling Americans.

Nobody should talk about an “economic recovery” until the middle class starts growing again.

Even as the stock market has soared to unprecedented heights over the past year, the decline of middle class America has continued unabated.

And most Americans know deep inside that something is deeply broken.  For example, a recent CNBC All-America Economic Survey found that over 80 percent of all Americans consider the economy to be “fair” or “poor”.

Yes, for the moment things are going quite well for the top 10 percent of the nation, but that won’t last long either.  None of the problems that caused the last great financial crisis have been fixed.  In fact, they have gotten even worse.  We are steamrolling toward another great financial crisis and our leaders are absolutely clueless.

When the next crisis strikes, the economic suffering in this nation is going to get even worse.

As bad as things are now, they are not even worth comparing to what is coming.

So I hope that you are getting prepared.  Time is running out.

 

The Taper Is On – 8 Ways That This Is Going To Affect You And Your Family

Janet Yellen Ben Bernanke Swearing InThe unelected central planners at the Federal Reserve have decided that the time has come to slightly taper the amount of quantitative easing that it has been doing.  On Wednesday, the Fed announced that monthly purchases of U.S. Treasury bonds will be reduced from $45 billion to $40 billion, and monthly purchases of mortgage-backed securities will be reduced from $35 billion to $30 billion.  When this news came out, it sent shockwaves through financial markets all over the planet.  But the truth is that not that much has really changed.  The Federal Reserve will still be recklessly creating gigantic mountains of new money out of thin air and massively intervening in the financial marketplace.  It will just be slightly less than before.  However, this very well could represent a very important psychological turning point for investors.  It is a signal that “the party is starting to end” and that the great bull market of the past four years is drawing to a close.  So what is all of this going to mean for average Americans?  The following are 8 ways that “the taper” is going to affect you and your family…

1. Interest Rates Are Going To Go Up

Following the announcement on Wednesday, the yield on 10 year U.S. Treasuries went up to 2.89% and even CNBC admitted that the taper is a “bad omen for bonds“.  Thousands of other interest rates in our economy are directly affected by the 10 year rate, and so if that number climbs above 3 percent and stays there, that is going to be a sign that a significant slowdown of economic activity is ahead.

2. Home Sales Are Likely Going To Go Down

Mortgage rates are heavily influenced by the yield on 10 year U.S. Treasuries.  Because the yield on 10 year U.S. Treasuries is now substantially higher than it was earlier this year, mortgage rates have also gone up.  That is one of the reasons why the number of mortgage applications just hit a new 13 year low.  And now if rates go even higher that is going to tighten things up even more.  If your job is related to the housing industry in any way, you should be extremely concerned about what is coming in 2014.

3. Your Stocks Are Going To Go Down

Yes, I know that stocks skyrocketed today.  The Dow closed at a new all-time record high, and I can’t really provide any rational explanation for why that happened.  When the announcement was originally made, stocks initially sold off.  But then they rebounded in a huge way and the Dow ended up close to 300 points.

A few months ago, when Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke just hinted that a taper might be coming soon, stocks fell like a rock.  I have a feeling that the Fed orchestrated things this time around to make sure that the stock market would have a positive reaction to their news.  But of course I absolutely cannot prove this at all.  I hope someday we learn the truth about what actually happened on Wednesday afternoon.  I have a feeling that there was some direct intervention in the markets shortly after the announcement was made and then the momentum algorithms took over from there.

In any event, what we do know is that when QE1 ended stocks fell dramatically and the same thing happened when QE2 ended.  If you doubt this, just check out this chart.

Of course QE3 is not being ended, but this tapering sends a signal to investors that the days of “easy money” are over and that we have reached the peak of the market.

And if you are at the peak of the market, what is the logical thing to do?

Sell, sell, sell.

But in order to sell, you are going to need to have buyers.

And who is going to want to buy stocks when there is no upside left?

4. The Money In Your Bank Account Is Constantly Being Devalued

When a new dollar is created, the value of each existing dollar that you hold goes down.  And thanks to the Federal Reserve, the pace of money creation in this country has gone exponential in recent years.  Just check out what has been happening to M1.  It has nearly doubled since the financial crisis of 2008…

M1 Money Supply 2013

The Federal Reserve has been behaving like the Weimar Republic, and this tapering does not change that very much.  Even with this tapering, the Fed is still going to be creating money out of thin air at an absolutely insane rate.

And for those that insist that what the Federal Reserve is doing is “working”, it is important to remember that the crazy money printing that the Weimar Republic did worked for them for a little while too before ending in complete and utter disaster.

5. Quantitative Easing Has Been Causing The Cost Of Living To Rise

The Federal Reserve insists that we are in a time of “low inflation”, but anyone that goes to the grocery store or that pays bills on a regular basis knows what a lie that is.  The truth is that if the inflation rate was still calculated the same way that it was back when Jimmy Carter was president, the official rate of inflation would be somewhere between 8 and 10 percent today.

Most of the new money created by quantitative easing has ended up in the hands of the very wealthy, and it is in the things that the very wealthy buy that we are seeing the most inflation.  As one CNBC article recently stated, we are seeing absolutely rampant inflation in “stocks and bonds and art and Ferraris and farmland“.

6. Quantitative Easing Did Not Reduce Unemployment And Tapering Won’t Either

The Federal Reserve actually first began engaging in quantitative easing back in late 2008.  As you can see from the chart below, the percentage of Americans that are actually working is lower today than it was back then…

Employment-Population Ratio 2013

The mainstream media continues to insist that quantitative easing was all about “stimulating the economy” and that it is now okay to cut back on quantitative easing because “unemployment has gone down”.  Hopefully you can see that what the mainstream media has been telling you has been a massive lie.  According to the government’s own numbers, the percentage of Americans with a job has stayed at a remarkably depressed level since the end of 2010.  Anyone that tries to tell you that we have had an “employment recovery” is either very ignorant or is flat out lying to you.

7. The Rest Of The World Is Going To Continue To Lose Faith In Our Financial System

Everyone else around the world has been watching the Federal Reserve recklessly create hundreds of billions of dollars out of thin air and use it to monetize staggering amounts of government debt.  They have been warning us to stop doing this, but the Fed has been slow to listen.

The greatest damage that quantitative easing has been causing to our economy does not involve the short-term effects that most people focus on.  Rather, the greatest damage that quantitative easing has been causing to our economy is the fact that it is destroying worldwide faith in the U.S. dollar and in U.S. debt.

Right now, far more U.S. dollars are used outside the country than inside the country.  The rest of the world uses U.S. dollars to trade with one another, and major exporting nations stockpile massive amounts of our dollars and our debt.

We desperately need the rest of the world to keep playing our game, because we have become very dependent on getting super cheap exports from them and we have become very dependent on them lending us trillions of our own dollars back to us.

If the rest of the world decides to move away from the U.S. dollar and U.S. debt because of the incredibly reckless behavior of the Federal Reserve, we are going to be in a massive amount of trouble.  Our current economic prosperity greatly depends upon everyone else using our dollars as the reserve currency of the world and lending trillions of dollars back to us at ultra-low interest rates.

And there are signs that this is already starting to happen.  In fact, China recently announced that they are going to quit stockpiling more U.S. dollars.  This is one of the reasons why the Fed felt forced to do something on Wednesday.

But what the Fed did was not nearly enough.  It is still going to be creating $75 billion out of thin air every single month, and the rest of the world is going to continue to lose more faith in our system the longer this continues.

8. The Economy As A Whole Is Going To Continue To Get Even Worse

Despite more than four years of unprecedented money printing by the Federal Reserve, the overall U.S. economy has continued to decline.  If you doubt this, please see my previous article entitled “37 Reasons Why ‘The Economic Recovery Of 2013′ Is A Giant Lie“.

And no matter what the Fed does now, our decline will continue.  The tragic downfall of small cities such as Salisbury, North Carolina are perfect examples of what is happening to our country as a whole…

During the three-year period ending in 2009, Salisbury’s poverty rate of 16% was about 3% higher than the national rate. In the following three-year period between 2010 and 2012, the city’s poverty rate was approaching 30%. Salisbury has traditionally relied heavily on the manufacturing sector, particularly textiles and fabrics. In recent decades, however, manufacturing activity has declined significantly and continues to do so. Between 2010 and 2012, manufacturing jobs in Salisbury — as a percent of the workforce — shrank from 15.5% to 8.3%.

But the truth is that you don’t have to travel far to see evidence of our economic demise for yourself.  All you have to do is to go down to the local shopping mall.  Sears has experienced sales declines for 27 quarters in a row, and at this point Sears is a dead man walking.  The following is from a recent article by Wolf Richter

The market share of Sears – including K-Mart – has dropped to 2% in 2013 from 2.9% in 2005. Sales have declined for years. The company lost money in fiscal 2012 and 2013. Unless a miracle happens, and they don’t happen very often in retail, it will lose a ton in fiscal 2014, ending in January: for the first three quarters, it’s $1 billion in the hole.

Despite that glorious track record, and no discernible turnaround, the junk-rated company has had no trouble hoodwinking lenders into handing it a $1 billion loan that matures in 2018, to pay off an older loan that would have matured two years earlier.

And J.C. Penney is suffering a similar fate.  According to Richter, the company has lost a staggering 1.6 billion dollars over the course of the last year…

Then there’s J.C. Penney. Sales plunged 27% over the last three years. It lost over $1.6 billion over the last four quarters. It installed a revolving door for CEOs. It desperately needed to raise capital; it was bleeding cash, and its suppliers and landlords had already bitten their fingernails to the quick. So the latest new CEO, namely its former old CEO Myron Ullman, set out to extract more money from the system, borrowing $1.75 billion and raising $785 million in a stock sale at the end of September that became infamous the day he pulled it off.

So don’t believe the hype.

The economy is getting worse, not better.

Quantitative easing did not “rescue the economy”, but it sure has made our long-term problems a whole lot worse.

And this “tapering” is not a sign of better things to come.  Rather, it is a sign that the bubble of false prosperity that we have been enjoying for the past few years is beginning to end.

Dent, Faber, Celente, Maloney, Rogers – What Do They Say Is Coming In 2014?

Earth From SpaceSome of the most respected prognosticators in the financial world are warning that what is coming in 2014 and beyond is going to shake America to the core.  Many of the quotes that you are about to read are from individuals that actually predicted the subprime mortgage meltdown and the financial crisis of 2008 ahead of time.  So they have a track record of being right.  Does that guarantee that they will be right about what is coming in 2014?  Of course not.  In fact, as you will see below, not all of them agree about exactly what is coming next.  But without a doubt, all of their forecasts are quite ominous.  The following are quotes from Harry Dent, Marc Faber, Gerald Celente, Mike Maloney, Jim Rogers and nine other respected economic experts about what they believe is coming in 2014 and beyond…

-Harry Dent, author of The Great Depression Ahead: “Our best long-term and intermediate cycles suggest another slowdown and stock crash accelerating between very early 2014 and early 2015, and possibly lasting well into 2015 or even 2016. The worst economic trends due to demographics will hit between 2014 and 2019. The U.S. economy is likely to suffer a minor or major crash by early 2015 and another between late 2017 and late 2019 or early 2020 at the latest.”

-Marc Faber, editor and publisher of the Gloom, Boom & Doom Report: “You have to say that we are again in a massive financial bubble in bonds, in equities, in [other] asset prices that have gone up dramatically.”

-Gerald Celente: “Any self-respecting adult that hears McConnell, Reid, Boehner, Ryan, one after another, and buys this baloney… they deserve what they get.

And as for the international scene… the whole thing is collapsing.

That’s our forecast.

We are saying that by the second quarter of 2014, we expect the bottom to fall out… or something to divert our attention as it falls out.”

-Mike Maloney, host of Hidden Secrets of Money: “I think the crash of 2008 was just a speed bump on the way to the main event… the consequences are gonna be horrific… the rest of the decade will bring us the greatest financial calamity in history.”

-Jim Rogers: “You saw what happened in 2008-2009, which was worse than the previous economic setback because the debt was so much higher. Well now the debt is staggeringly much higher, and so the next economic problem, whenever it happens and whatever causes it, is going to be worse than in the past, because we have these unbelievable levels of debt, and unbelievable levels of money printing all over the world. Be worried and get prepared. Now it [a collapse] may not happen until 2016 or something, I have no idea when it’s going to happen, but when it comes, be careful.”

-Lindsey Williams: “There is going to be a global currency reset.”

-CLSA’s Russell Napier: “We are on the eve of a deflationary shock which will likely reduce equity valuations from very high to very low levels.”

-Oaktree Capital’s Howard Marks: “Certainly risk tolerance has been increasing of late; high returns on risky assets have encouraged more of the same; and the markets are becoming more heated. The bottom line varies from sector to sector, but I have no doubt that markets are riskier than at any other time since the depths of the crisis in late 2008 (for credit) or early 2009 (for equities), and they are becoming more so.

-Financial editor Jeff Berwick: “If they allow interest rates to rise, it will effectively make the U.S. government bankrupt and insolvent, and it would make the U.S. government collapse. . . . They are preparing for a major societal collapse.  It is obvious and it will happen, and it will be very scary and very dangerous.”

-Michael Pento, founder of Pento Portfolio Strategies: “Disappointingly, it is much more probable that the government has brought us out of the Great Recession, only to set us up for the Greater Depression, which lies just on the other side of interest rate normalization.”

-Boston University Economics Professor Laurence Kotlikoff: “Eventually somebody recognizes this and starts dumping the bonds, and interest rates go up, and inflation takes off, and were off to the races.”

-Mexican Billionaire Hugo Salinas Price: “I think we are going to see a series of bankruptcies.  I think the rise in interest rates is the fatal sign which is going to ignite a derivatives crisis.   This is going to bring down the derivatives system (and the financial system).

There are (over) one quadrillion dollars of derivatives and most of them are related to interest rates.  The spiking of interest rates in the United States may set that off.  What is going to happen in the world is eventually we are going to come to a moment where there is going to be massive bankruptcies around the globe.”

-Robert Shiller, one of the winners of the 2013 Nobel prize for economics: “I’m not sounding the alarm yet.  But in many countries the stock price levels are high, and in many real estate markets prices have risen sharply…that could end badly.”

-David Stockman, former Director of the Office of Management and Budget under President Ronald Reagan: “We have a massive bubble everywhere, from Japan, to China, Europe, to the UK.  As a result of this, I think world financial markets are extremely dangerous, unstable, and subject to serious trouble and dislocation in the future.”

And certainly there are already signs that the U.S. economy is slowing down as we head into the final weeks of 2013.  For example, on Thursday we learned that the number of initial claims for unemployment benefits increased by 68,000 last week to a disturbingly high total of 368,000.  That was the largest increase that we have seen in more than a year.

In addition, as I wrote about the other day, rail traffic is way down right now.  In fact, for the week ending November 30th, U.S. rail traffic was down 16.3 percent from the same week one year earlier.  That is a very important indicator that economic activity is getting slower.

And we continue to get more evidence that the middle class is being steadily eroded and that poverty in America is rapidly growing.  For example, a survey that was just released found that requests for food assistance and the level of homelessness have both risen significantly in major U.S. cities over the past year…

A survey of 25 American cities, including many of the nation’s largest, showed yearly increases in food aid and homelessness.

The cities, located throughout 18 states, saw requests for emergency food aid rise by an average of seven percent compared with the previous period a year earlier, according to the US Conference of Mayors study, published Wednesday.

All but four cities reported an increase in demand for assistance between the period of September 2012 through August 2013.

Unfortunately, if the economic experts quoted above are correct, this is just the beginning of our problems.

The next wave of the economic collapse is rapidly approaching, and things are going to get much worse than this.

So what do you think?

Which of the individuals quoted above do you think are right on the money and which ones do you think are way off base?

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

Prepare For Tough Times If Your Job Has Anything To Do With Real Estate Or Mortgages

Housing Crash 2013If you have a job that involves building homes, buying homes, selling homes or that is in any way related to the mortgage industry, you might want to start searching for alternate employment.  Seriously.  Interest rates are starting to rise dramatically, and mortgage lenders such as Bank of America, Wells Fargo and JPMorgan Chase are all cutting thousands of mortgage-related jobs.  Last week, mortgage refinance activity plunged to the lowest level that we have seen since June 2009 and total mortgage activity dropped to the lowest level since October 2008.  Unfortunately, this is only the beginning.  Mortgage rates closely mirror the yield on 10 year U.S. Treasuries, the the yield on 10 year U.S. Treasuries has nearly doubled since early May.  But it is still only sitting at about 3 percent right now.  As I have written about previously, it has a ton of room to go up before it hits “normal” historical levels, and so do mortgage rates.  As I noted the other day, some analysts believe that the yield on 10 year U.S. Treasuries is going to hit 7 percent eventually.  If that happens, mortgage rates will be more than double what they are today.  And we have already seen the average rate on a 30 year fixed rate mortgage go from 3.35 percent in May to 4.57 percent last week.  If interest rates continue to rise we could be heading for a “housing Armageddon” that will make the last housing crash look like a Sunday picnic.

The mini-housing bubble that we have been enjoying for the last couple of years is coming to an abrupt end.  It doesn’t matter what the mainstream media is telling you about a “sustainable” housing recovery.  Just look at how the big mortgage lenders are behaving.  They know the gig is up.  According to Bloomberg, Bank of America has just announced that they will be eliminating 2,100 mortgage-related jobs…

Bank of America Corp., the second-largest U.S. lender, will eliminate about 2,100 jobs and shutter 16 mortgage offices as rising interest rates weaken loan demand, said two people with direct knowledge of the plans.

Would they be doing that if we were really heading into a “sustainable housing recovery”?

And Wells Fargo and JPMorgan Chase are also both eliminating thousands of mortgage-related jobs

Mortgage lenders are paring staff as higher interest rates discourage refinancing and cast doubt on how long the housing market rebound will last. Wells Fargo & Co., the biggest U.S. home lender, plans more than 2,300 job cuts, and JPMorgan Chase & Co. may dismiss 15,000.

Would they be doing this if they thought that brighter days were ahead?

Of course not.

In fact, Well Fargo just announced that it expects to make 30 percent fewer home loans this quarter because of rapidly rising interest rates.

It’s over folks.

The mini-housing bubble that the mainstream media has been hyping so much is over.

If your job has anything to do with real estate or mortgages, it is time to start thinking about a career change.

This is especially true if your job is related to refinancing mortgages.  All of the smart people have already refinanced.  As rates continue to rise rapidly, the only ones that will be refinancing are really stupid people.  According to Zero Hedge, mortgage refinance activity has already dropped by a whopping 70 percent since early May…

For the 16th of the last 18 weeks, mortgage refinance activity plunged (dropping 20% this week alone). Since early May, when the dreaded word “Taper” was first uttered, refis have collapsed over 70%. With mortgage servicers and providers large and small laying people off, it seems hard for even the most egregiously biased bull to still suggest that the housing recovery is sustainable.

And this rise in interest rates is just getting started.  The Federal Reserve has not even begun to “taper” yet.  Once that starts happening, the consequences could be quite dramatic

“In early 1994, when the U.S. recovery gained strength, the Fed started a tightening cycle and bond markets crashed not only in the U.S. but also around the world,” European Central Bank Executive Board member Joerg Asmussen said on Tuesday.

“If spillovers were large in 1994, we can expect them to be even larger today in an even more deeply interconnected world,” he added in the text of a speech for delivery in Brussels.

Of course when the Federal Reserve “tapers” their quantitative easing it won’t really be “tightening” as much as it will be slowing down the pace at which they are recklessly creating tens of billions of dollars out of thin air.  But the effect will be similar to what we saw back in 1994.

As interest rates rise, it will become much more expensive to buy a home and much more difficult to sell a home.  To give you an idea of how dramatically interest rates can affect housing affordability, I wanted to share some numbers from one of my previous articles

A year ago, the 30 year rate was sitting at 3.66 percent.  The monthly payment on a 30 year, $300,000 mortgage at that rate would be $1374.07.

If the 30 year rate rises to 8 percent, the monthly payment on a 30 year, $300,000 mortgage at that rate would be $2201.29.

Does 8 percent sound crazy to you?

It shouldn’t.  8 percent was considered to be normal back in the year 2000.

Are you starting to get the picture?

As interest rates go up, home prices will have to fall.  Otherwise, nobody will be able to afford them.

In the end, we could end up with tens of millions more homeowners that are substantially “underwater” on their mortgages.

So who is to blame?

The Federal Reserve of course.

They created this bubble by forcing interest rates down to record low levels.

At some point it was inevitable that interest rates would start reverting back to more “normal” levels, and that “adjustment” is going to be immensely painful for the U.S. economy.

As we saw back in 2008 and 2009, when the housing industry suffers the entire economy suffers.

And the higher that interest rates go, the more suffering there will be.

So let us hope and pray that interest rates do not go any higher, but let us also start preparing for the very worst.

How Big Banks Can Steal Your Home From You Even If Your Mortgage Is Totally Paid Off

Foreclosure - Photo by respresDid you know that the big banks have a way to legally steal your house from you even if you don’t owe a single penny on your mortgage?  Big banks and hedge funds are buying billions of dollars worth of tax liens from local governments all over the nation, and they are ruthlessly foreclosing on homeowners when they can’t pay the absolutely ridiculous penalties and legal fees that are tacked on to the original tax bill.  As you will see below, one 76-year-old man lost his $197,000 home that he fully owned over a $134 tax bill.  A 95-year-old woman lost her $300,000 home over a $44.79 tax bill.  This is a very, very dirty way to make money, and the predatory financial institutions that are involved in this business definitely do not want to talk about it.

Of course much of the blame should also be shouldered by the local governments that are coldly selling these tax liens to these ruthless predators.  If local governments want to collect their tax bills, they should do it themselves.  They should not be auctioning off their tax liens to cold-hearted financial institutions that are very eager to commit a legal version of highway robbery.

A few days ago, the Washington Post reported on the tragic story of a 76-year-old former Marine named Bennie Coleman.  Coleman had originally purchased his home with cash, but that didn’t stop tax lien predators from stealing his home over an unpaid $134 property tax bill…

On the day Bennie Coleman lost his house, the day armed U.S. marshals came to his door and ordered him off the property, he slumped in a folding chair across the street and watched the vestiges of his 76 years hauled to the curb.

Movers carted out his easy chair, his clothes, his television. Next came the things that were closest to his heart: his Marine Corps medals and photographs of his dead wife, Martha. The duplex in Northeast Washington that Coleman bought with cash two decades earlier was emptied and shuttered. By sundown, he had nowhere to go.

All because he didn’t pay a $134 property tax bill.

So why couldn’t he pay such a small bill?

Well, as the Post explained, these big banks and hedge funds keep tacking on interest, penalties and legal fees until the tax bills are many times the size that they originally were.  When the distressed homeowners can’t come up with thousands of dollars to pay off the debts, the big banks and the hedge funds move in for the kill…

For decades, the District placed liens on properties when homeowners failed to pay their bills, then sold those liens at public auctions to mom-and-pop investors who drew a profit by charging owners interest on top of the tax debt until the money was repaid.

But under the watch of local leaders, the program has morphed into a predatory system of debt collection for well-financed, out-of-town companies that turned $500 delinquencies into $5,000 debts — then foreclosed on homes when families couldn’t pay, a Washington Post investigation found.

In particular, hedge funds have discovered that this is a great way to make huge piles of money.  The following is a short excerpt from a CNN article that was published back in May

With buyers identified only by numbers or unrelated names, the fragmented, unregulated industry is opaque. Even the market’s size is debated — $15 billion a year, according to Howard Liggett, the chief executive of Distressed Real Estate Consulting Services, or $5 billion a year, according to the National Tax Lien Association, a trade group. While returns are a closely kept secret, investors typically make between 2.5% and 10% a year, or in the low teens for larger buys.

“The hedge funds are chasing yield in this business” says Albert Friedman, a principal at Alterna Capital, an alternative investment firm in Boca Raton that buys tax liens.

Insiders estimate hedge funds now control 40% of the tax-lien market, from under 5% five years ago, with regional banks, obscure partnerships sporting names like God’s ATM LLC, and mom-and-pop investors making up the rest.

And a number of “too big to fail” banks are involved in this business as well.

In a previous article, I described exactly how this works…

1) The big Wall Street banks set up or invest in shell companies that will disguise who they really are.

2) These shell companies run around and buy up all of the tax liens that they can get their hands on.

3) Predatory levels of interest (in some states as high as 18 percent), fees and penalties rapidly pile up on these unpaid tax liens.  The affected homeowners quickly end up owing much, much more than what the original tax bills were for.

4) If the collecting firm has to hire a lawyer, then that gets charged to the homeowner as well.  The bloated legal fees for some of these lawyers can end up being the biggest expense of all.

5) If the tax liens do not get paid, the collecting firms move in to foreclose as quickly as legally possible.

According to the Huffington Post, Wall Street banks such as Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase have been gobbling up several hundred thousand tax liens from local governments.  It appears that “distressed housing markets” are being particularly targeted.

Many of these tax liens are sold in online auctions, so it is unclear if many local government officials even realize who the big money behind many of these shell companies is.

These big financial institutions may consider this to be “good business”, but the truth is that they are absolutely shattering lives in the process.  This is particularly true when it comes to older people that do not fully understand what is happening to them.  Just consider the following examples from a recent Washington Post article

A 48-year-old math teacher paid his taxes in 2007, but the tax office took his $1,400 payment and applied it to the wrong house, crediting an entirely different taxpayer.

A 58-year-old bank employee almost lost her house in 2010 because the tax office mistakenly sent bills and notices to a wooded lot across from a strip shopping center in Virginia — 12 times.

A 69-year-old hat designer was given the wrong payoff amount and ended up in court to save her property, owned by her family since 1943.

Those homeowners found out about the mistakes in time to fight. Ninety-five-year-old Daisy Dolsey, living in a nursing home and struggling with Alzheimer’s, wasn’t so lucky: She lost her $300,000 house over a $44.79 tax debt even after she paid her taxes.

Doesn’t that just sicken you?

And then the big banks and the hedge funds have the gall to wonder why people dislike them so much.

In this day and age, large financial institutions have become more cold-hearted than ever before.

Always make sure that your property taxes are fully paid, and always keep a paper record of all financial transactions involving your home.

If you do slip up and make a mistake at some point, there is a very good chance that a ruthless financial institution will try to swoop in and steal your home right out from under your nose.

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