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Deutsche Bank Collapse: The Most Important Bank In Europe Is Facing A Major ‘Liquidity Event’

toilet-paper-stock-market-collapse-public-domainThe largest and most important bank in the largest and most important economy in Europe is imploding right in front of our eyes.  Deutsche Bank is the 11th biggest bank on the entire planet, and due to the enormous exposure to derivatives that it has, it has been called “the world’s most dangerous bank“.  Over the past year, I have repeatedly warned that Deutsche Bank is heading for disaster and is a likely candidate to be “the next Lehman Brothers”.  If you would like to review, you can do so here, here and here.  On September 16th, the Wall Street Journal reported that the U.S. Department of Justice wanted 14 billion dollars from Deutsche Bank to settle a case related to the mis-handling of mortgage-backed securities during the last financial crisis.  As a result of that announcement, confidence in the bank has been greatly shaken, the stock price has fallen to record lows, and analysts are warning that Deutsche Bank may be facing a “liquidity event” unlike anything that we have seen since the collapse of Lehman Brothers back in 2008.

At one point on Friday, Deutsche Bank stock fell below the 10 euro mark for the first time ever before bouncing back a bit.  A completely unverified rumor that was spreading on Twitter that claimed that Deutsche Bank would settle with the Department of Justice for only 5.4 billion dollars was the reason for the bounce.

But the size of the fine is not really the issue now.  Shares of Deutsche Bank have fallen by more than half so far in 2016, and this latest episode seems to have been the final straw for the deeply troubled financial institution.  Old sources of liquidity are being cut off, and nobody wants to be the idiot that offers Deutsche Bank a new source of liquidity at this point.

As a result, Deutsche Bank is potentially facing a “liquidity event” on a scale that we have not seen since the financial crisis of 2008.  The following comes from Zero Hedge

It is not solvency, or the lack of capital – a vague, synthetic, and usually quite arbitrary concept, determined by regulators – that kills a bank; it is – as Dick Fuld will tell anyone who bothers to listen – the loss of (access to) liquidity: cold, hard, fungible (something Jon Corzine knew all too well when he commingled and was caught) cash, that pushes a bank into its grave, usually quite rapidly: recall that it took Lehman just a few days for its stock to plunge from the high double digits to zero.

It is also liquidity, or rather concerns about it, that sent Deutsche Bank stock crashing to new all time lows earlier today: after all, the investing world already knew for nearly two weeks that its capitalization is insufficient. As we reported earlier this week, it was a report by Citigroup, among many other, that found how badly undercapitalized the German lender is, noting that DB’s “leverage ratio, at 3.4%, looks even worse relative to the 4.5% company target by 2018″ and calculated that while he only models €2.9bn in litigation charges over 2H16-2017 – far less than the $14 billion settlement figure proposed by the DOJ – and includes a successful disposal of a 70% stake in Postbank at end-2017 for 0.4x book he still only reaches a CET 1 ratio of 11.6% by end-2018, meaning the bank would have a Tier 1 capital €3bn shortfall to the company target of 12.5%, and a leverage ratio of 3.9%, resulting in an €8bn shortfall to the target of 4.5%.

The more the stock price drops, the faster other financial institutions, investors and regular banking clients are going to want to pull their money out of Deutsche Bank.  And every time there is news about people pulling money out of the bank, that is just going to drive the stock price even lower.

In other words, Deutsche Bank may be entering a death spiral that may be impossible to stop without a government bailout, and the German government has already stated that there will be no bailout for Deutsche Bank.

Banking customers have a total of approximately 566 billion euros deposited with the bank, and even if a small fraction of those clients start demanding their money back it is going to cause a major, major crunch.

Deutsche Bank CEO John Cryan attempted to calm nerves on Friday by releasing a memo to employees that blamed “speculators” for the decline in the stock price

Instead of doing what many have correctly suggested he should be doing, namely focusing on ways to raise more capital for the undercapitalized Deutsche Bank in order to stem the slow (at first) liquidity leak, first thing this morning CEO John Cryan issued another morale-boosting note to employees of Deustche Bank who have been watching their stock price crash to another record low, dipping under €10 in early trading for the first time ever. In the memo the embattled CEO worryingly did what Dick Fuld and other chief executives did when they felt the situation slipping out of control, namely blaming evil “rumor-spreading” shorts, saying “our bank has become subject to speculation. Ongoing rumours are causing significant swings in our stock price. … Trust is the foundation of banking. Some forces in the markets are currently trying to damage this trust.

Just as important, Cryan confirms the Bloomberg report that “a few of our hedge fund clients have reduced some activities with us. That is causing unjustified concerns.” As we explained last night, the concerns are very much justified if they spread to the biggest risk-factor for the German bank: its depositors, which collectively hold over €550 billion in liquidity-providing instruments.

If you would like to ready the full memo, you can do so right here.

One of the reasons why Deutsche Bank is considered to be so systemically “dangerous” is because it has 42 trillion euros worth of exposure to derivatives.  That is an amount of money that is 14 times larger than the GDP of the entire nation of Germany.

Some firms that were derivatives clients of the bank have already gotten spooked and have moved their business to other institutions.  It was this report from Bloomberg that really helped drive down the stock price of Deutsche Bank earlier this week…

The funds, a small subset of the more than 800 clients in the bank’s hedge fund business, have shifted part of their listed derivatives holdings to other firms this week, according to an internal bank document seen by Bloomberg News. Among them are Izzy Englander’s $34 billion Millennium Partners, Chris Rokos’s $4 billion Rokos Capital Management, and the $14 billion Capula Investment Management, said a person with knowledge of the situation who declined to be identified talking about confidential client matters.

“The issue here is now one of confidence,” said Chris Wheeler, a financial analyst with Atlantic Equities LLP in London.

So what comes next?

Monday is a banking holiday for Germany, so we may not see anything major happen until Tuesday.

An announcement of a major reduction in the Department of Justice fine may buy Deutsche Bank some time, but any reprieve would likely only be temporary.

What appears to be more likely is the scenario that Jeffrey Gundlach is suggesting

But Jeffrey Gundlach, chief executive of DoubleLine Capital, said investors betting that Berlin would not rescue Deutsche could find themselves nursing big losses.

The market is going to push down Deutsche Bank until there is some recognition of support. They will get assistance, if need be,’ said Gundlach, who oversees more than $100 billion at Los Angeles-based DoubleLine.

It will be very interesting to see how desperate things become before the German government finally gives in to the pressure.

The complete and total collapse of Deutsche Bank would be an event many times more significant for the global financial system than the collapse of Lehman Brothers was.  Global leaders simply cannot afford for such a thing to happen, but without serious intervention it appears that is precisely where we are heading.

Personally, I don’t know exactly what will happen next, but it will be fascinating to watch.

The One Trillion Dollar Consumer Auto Loan Bubble Is Beginning To Burst

Soap Bubble - Public DomainDo you remember the subprime mortgage meltdown from the last financial crisis?  Well, this time around we are facing a subprime auto loan meltdown.  In recent years, auto lenders have become more and more aggressive, and they have been increasingly willing to lend money to people that should not be borrowing money to buy a new vehicle under any circumstances.  Just like with subprime mortgages, this strategy seemed to pay off at first, but now economic reality is beginning to be felt in a major way.  Delinquency rates are up by double digit percentages, and major auto lenders are bracing for hundreds of millions of dollars of losses.  We are a nation that is absolutely drowning in debt, and we are most definitely going to reap what we have sown.

The size of this market is larger than you may imagine.  Earlier this year, the auto loan bubble surpassed the one trillion dollar mark for the first time ever

Americans are borrowing more than ever for new and used vehicles, and 30- and 60-day delinquency rates rose in the second quarter, according to the automotive arm of one of the nation’s largest credit bureaus.

The total balance of all outstanding auto loans reached $1.027 trillion between April 1 and June 30, the second consecutive quarter that it surpassed the $1-trillion mark, reports Experian Automotive.

The average size of an auto loan is also at a record high.  At $29,880, it is now just a shade under $30,000.

In order to try to help people afford the payments, auto lenders are now stretching loans out for six or even seven years.  At this point it is almost like getting a mortgage.

But even with those stretched out loans, the average monthly auto loan payment is now up to a record 499 dollars.

That is the average loan size.  To me, this is absolutely infuriating, because only a very small percentage of wealthy Americans are able to afford a $499 monthly payment on a single vehicle.

Many middle class American families are only bringing in three or four thousand dollars a month (before taxes).  How in the world do they think that they can afford a five hundred dollar monthly auto loan payment on just one vehicle?

Just like with subprime mortgages, people are being taken advantage of severely, and the end result is going to be catastrophic for the U.S. financial system.

Already, auto loan delinquencies are rising to very frightening levels.  In July, 60 day subprime loan delinquencies were up 13 percent on a month-over-month basis and were up 17 percent compared to the same month last year.

Prime delinquencies were up 12 percent on a month-over-month basis and were up 21 percent compared to the same month last year.

We have a huge crisis on our hands, and major auto lenders are setting aside massive amounts of cash in order to try to cover these losses.  The following comes from USA Today

In a quarterly filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Ford reported in the first half of this year it allowed $449 million for credit losses, a 34% increase from the first half of 2015.

General Motors reported in a similar filing that it set aside $864 million for credit losses in that same period of 2016, up 14% from a year earlier.

Meanwhile, other big corporations are also alarmed about the economic health of average U.S. consumers.  Just check out what Dollar General CEO Todd Vasos had to say about this just the other day

I know that when we look at globally the overall U.S. population, it seems like things are getting better. But when you really start breaking it down and you look at that core consumer that we serve on the lower economic scale that’s out there, that demographic, things have not gotten any better for her, and arguably, they’re worse. And they’re worse, because rents are accelerating, healthcare is accelerating on her at a very, very rapid clip.

The stock market may seem to be saying that everything is fine (for the moment), but the hard economic numbers are telling a completely different story.  What we are experiencing right now looks so similar to 2008, and this includes big institutions just dropping dead seemingly out of the blue.  On Tuesday, we learned that ITT Technical Institute is immediately shutting down and permanently closing all locations.  This is from a Los Angeles Times report

The company that operates the for-profit chain, one of the country’s largest, announced that it was permanently closing all its campuses nationwide. It blamed the shutdown on the recent move by the U.S. Education Department to ban ITT from enrolling new students who use federal financial aid.

“Two quarters ago there were rumors about the school having problems, but they told us that anyone who was already a student would be allowed to finish,” said Wiggins, who works as the assistant manager for a family-run auto parts business and went to ITT to open new opportunities.

“Am I angry?” he said. “I’m like angry times 10 million.”

As a result of this shutdown, 35,000 students are suddenly left out in the cold and approximately 8,000 employees have lost their jobs.

This is what happens during a major economic downturn.  Large institutions that may have been struggling under the surface for quite a while suddenly give up and drop a bomb on those that were depending on them.  In the months ahead, there will be a lot more examples of this.

Already, some of the biggest corporate names in America have been laying off thousands of workers in 2016.  Mass layoffs are usually an early warning sign that big trouble is ahead, so keep a close eye on those companies.

The pace of the economic decline has been a bit slower than many (including myself) originally anticipated, but without a doubt it has continued.

And it is undeniable that the stage is set for a crisis that will absolutely dwarf 2008.  Our national debt has nearly doubled since the beginning of the last crisis, corporate debt has doubled, student loan debt has crossed the trillion dollar mark, auto loan debt has crossed the trillion dollar mark, and total household debt has crossed the 12 trillion dollar mark.

We are living in the greatest debt bubble in world history, and there are signs that this giant bubble is now starting to burst.  And when it does, the pain is going to be greater than most people would dare to imagine.

The Subprime Auto Loan Meltdown Is Here

Debt Loans Auto Loans - Public DomainUh oh – here we go again.  Do you remember the subprime mortgage meltdown during the last financial crisis?  Well, now a similar thing is happening with auto loans.  The auto industry has been doing better than many other areas of the economy in recent years, but this “mini-boom” was fueled in large part by customers with subprime credit.  According to Equifax, an astounding 23.5 percent of all new auto loans were made to subprime borrowers in 2015.  At this point, there is a total of somewhere around $200 billion in subprime auto loans floating around out there, and many of these loans have been “repackaged” and sold to investors.  I know – all of this sounds a little too close for comfort to what happened with subprime mortgages the last time around.  We never seem to learn from our mistakes, and a lot of investors are going to end up paying the price.

Everything would be fine if the number of subprime borrowers not making their payments was extremely low.  And that was true for a while, but now delinquency rates and default rates are rising to levels that we haven’t seen since the last recession.  The following comes from Time Magazine

People, especially those with shaky credit, are having a tougher time than usual making their car payments.

According to Bloomberg, almost 5% of subprime car loans that were bundled into securities and sold to investors are delinquent, and the default rate is even higher than that. (Depending on who’s counting, delinquency is up to three or four months behind in payments; default is what happens after that). At just over 12% in January, the default rate jumped one entire percentage point in just a month. Both delinquency and default rates are now the highest they’ve been since 2010, when the ripple effects of the recession still weighed heavily on many Americans’ finances.

The chart below was posted by David Stockman, and it shows how the delinquency rate for subprime borrowers has hit the highest level since 2009.  In fact, we are not too far away from totally smashing through the previous highs that were set during the last crisis…

Subprime Auto Loans

It is quite foolish to try to sell expensive cars to people with bad credit.  This is especially true now that the economy is slowing down significantly in many areas.  But people are greedy and they are going to do what they are going to do.

The most disturbing thing to me is that many of these loans are being “repackaged” and sold off to investors as “solid investments”.  The following description of what has been happening comes from Wolf Richter

The business of “repackaging” these loans, including subprime and deep-subprime loans, into asset backed securities has also been booming. These ABS are structured with different tranches, so that the highest tranches – the last ones to absorb any losses – can be stamped with high credit ratings and offloaded to bond mutual funds designed for retail investors.

Deep-subprime borrowers are high-risk. Typically they have credit scores below 550. To make it worth everyone’s while, they get stuffed into loans often with interest rates above 20%. To make payments even remotely possible at these rates, terms are often stretched to 84 months. Borrowers are typically upside down in their vehicle: the negative equity of their trade-in, along with title, taxes, and license fees, and a hefty dealer profit are rolled into the loan. When the lender repossesses the vehicle, losses add up in a hurry.

It almost makes you want to tear your hair out.

This is exactly the kind of thing that caused so much chaos with subprime mortgages.

When will we ever learn?

Meanwhile, we continue to get even more numbers that indicate that a substantial economic slowdown has already begun

We just got the clearest sign yet that something is wrong with the US economy.

Markit Economics’ monthly flash services purchasing manager’s index, a preliminary reading on the sector, fell into contraction for the first time in over two years.

The tentative February index was reported Wednesday at 49.8.

Statistic after statistic is telling us that a new recession is already here.  And of course some would argue that the last recession never actually ended.  According to John Williams of shadowstats.com, the U.S. economy has continually been in contraction mode since 2005.

If we do not learn from history, we are doomed to repeat it.  All over the world, “non-performing loans” are starting to become a major problem, and already some financial institutions are starting to get tighter with credit.

As credit conditions tighten up, this is going to cause economic activity to slow down even more.  And as economic activity slows down, it is going to become even harder for ordinary people to make their debt payments.

Deflationary forces are on the rise, and most global central banks are just about out of ammunition at this point.

Everyone knew that the global debt bubble could not keep expanding much faster than the overall rate of economic growth forever.

It was only a matter of time until the bubble burst.

Now we can see signs of crisis popping up all around us, and things are only going to get worse in the months ahead…

Most Americans Are Slaves And They Don’t Even Know It

Chain - Public DomainMost Americans spend their lives working for others, paying off debts to others and performing tasks that others tell them that they “must” do.  These days, we don’t like to think of ourselves as “servants” or “slaves”, but that is what the vast majority of us are.  It is just that the mechanisms of our enslavement have become much more sophisticated over time.  It has been said that the borrower is the servant of the lender, and most of us start going into debt very early into our adult years.  In fact, those that go to college to “get an education” are likely to enter the “real world” with a staggering amount of debt.  And of course that is just the beginning of the debt accumulation.  Today, when you add up all mortgage debt, all credit card debt and all student loan debt, the average American household is carrying a grand total of 203,163 dollars of debt.  Overall, American households are more than 11 trillion dollars in debt at this point.  And even though most Americans don’t realize this, over the course of our lifetimes the amount of money that we will repay on our debts is far greater than the amount that we originally borrowed.  In fact, when it comes to credit card debt you can easily end up repaying several times the amount of money that you originally borrowed.  So we work our fingers to the bone to pay off these debts, and the vast majority of us are not even working for ourselves.  Instead, our work makes the businesses that other people own more profitable.  So if we spend the best years of our lives building businesses for others, servicing debts that we owe to others and making others wealthier, what does that make us?

In 2015, the words “servant” and “slave” have very negative connotations, and we typically don’t use them very much.

Instead, we use words like “employee” because they make us feel so much better.

But is there really that much of a difference?

This is how Google defines “servant”…

“a person who performs duties for others, especially a person employed in a house on domestic duties or as a personal attendant.”

This is how Google defines “slave”…

“a person who is the legal property of another and is forced to obey them.”

This is how Google defines “employee”…

“a person employed for wages or salary, especially at nonexecutive level.”

Yes, most of us might not be “legal property” of someone else in a very narrow sense, but in a broader sense we all have to answer to someone.

We all have someone that we must obey.

And we all have obligations that we must meet or else face the consequences.

At this point, Americans are more dependent on the system than ever before.  Small business ownership in the U.S. is at a record low, and the percentage of Americans that are self-employed has fallen to unprecedented levels in recent years.  From a very early age, we are trained to study hard so that we can get a good “job” (“just over broke”) and be good cogs in the system.

But is that what life is about?

Is it about being a cog in a system that ultimately benefits others?

Perhaps you don’t think that any of this applies to you personally.

Well, if someone came up to you and asked you what you truly own, what would you say?

Do you own your vehicle?

Most Americans don’t.

In fact, today the average auto loan at signing is approximately $27,000, and many of them stretch on for six or seven years.

What about your home?

Do you own it?

Most Americans don’t.

In fact, overall the banks have a much greater “ownership” interest in our homes and our land than we do.

But even if you have your home totally “paid off”, does that mean that you actually “own” it?

Well, no, not really.

Just see what happens if you quit paying your property taxes (rent) to the proper authorities.

So if they can take your home away from you for not paying rent (property taxes), do you really own it?

That is something to think about it.

What about all of your stuff?

Do you own it?


But a very large percentage of us have willingly enslaved ourselves in order to acquire all of that stuff.

Today, the typical U.S. household that has at least one credit card has approximately $15,950 in credit card debt.

And if you do not pay off those credit card balances, the credit card companies will unleash the hounds on you.

Have you ever had an encounter with a debt collector?

They can be absolutely brutal.  And they use those tactics because they work.  In fact, they are so good at what they do that many of those that own debt collection companies have become exceedingly wealthy.  The following is from a recent CNN article

Yachts. Mansions. Extravagant dinner parties. Life is good for the founders of one of the nation’s biggest government debt collectors.

That firm, Linebarger Goggan Blair & Sampson, rakes in big money from government contracts that allow it to pursue debtors over toll violations, taxes and parking tickets. While the debts often start small, the Austin-based firm charges high fees, which can add hundreds or even thousands of dollars to the bill.

After growing this business from a small Texas law firm in the late 1970’s to a nationwide debt collection powerhouse, the firm’s founders and top brass have walked away with millions of dollars.

And I haven’t even mentioned our collective debts yet.

We have willingly chosen to collectively enslave ourselves on a local, a state and a national level.

It is bad enough that we are doing this to ourselves.  But we are also cruelly saddling future generations of Americans with the largest mountain of debt in the history of the planet.  The following is from my previous article entitled “Barack Obama Says That What America Really Needs Is Lots More Debt“…

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.

So can we really call ourselves the “home of the brave and the land of the free”?

Isn’t the truth that the vast majority of us are actually deeply enslaved?

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


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.

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