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U.S. Economic Confidence Surges To The Highest Level That Gallup Has Ever Recorded

donald-trump-accepts-the-nomination-public-domainGallup’s U.S. Economic Confidence Index has never been higher than it is today.  The “Trumphoria” that has gripped the nation ever since Donald Trump’s miraculous victory on election night shows no signs of letting up.  Tens of millions of Americans that were deeply troubled by Barack Obama’s policies over the last eight years are feeling optimistic about the future for the first time in a very long time.  And it is hard to blame them, because what we have already seen happen since November 8th is nothing short of extraordinary.  The stock market keeps hitting record high after record high, the U.S. dollar is now the strongest that it has been in 14 years, and CEOs are personally promising Trump that they will bring jobs back to the United States.  These are things worth getting excited about, and so it makes perfect sense that Gallup’s U.S. Economic Confidence Index has now risen to the highest level that Gallup has ever seen

Americans’ confidence in the economy continues to gradually strengthen after last month’s post-election surge. Gallup’s U.S. Economic Confidence Index averaged +10 for the week ending Dec. 18, marking another new high in its nine-year trend.

The latest figure is up slightly from the index’s previous high of +8 recorded in both of the prior two weeks. The first positive double-digit index score since the inception of Gallup Daily tracking in 2008 reflects a stark change in Americans’ confidence in the U.S. economy from the negative views they expressed in most weeks over the past nine years.

And of course this booming level of confidence is not just reflected in Gallup’s numbers.  As I discussed in a previous article, the mammoth shift in the results of CNBC’s All-America Economic Survey after the election was nothing short of historic…

The CNBC All-America Economic Survey for the fourth quarter found that the percentage of Americans who believe the economy will get better in the next year jumped an unprecedented 17 points to 42 percent, compared with before the election. It’s the highest level since President Barack Obama was first elected in 2008.

The surge was powered by Republicans and independents reversing their outlooks. Republicans swung from deeply pessimistic, with just 15 percent saying the economy would improve in the next year, to strongly optimistic, with 74 percent believing in an economic upswing. Optimism among independents doubled but it fell by more than half for Democrats. Just 16 percent think the economy will improve.

On Tuesday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed at yet another all-time record high.

That was the 17th record close since election day, and overall the Dow is up a whopping 8 percent during that time span.

I don’t think that we have ever seen an extended post-election stock market rally quite like this one, and the U.S. dollar is rallying too.  On Tuesday, the U.S. dollar was the strongest that it has been in 14 years

The dollar hit a fresh 14-year high on Tuesday, boosted by upbeat comments from Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen that kept alive market expectations for swifter U.S. interest rate hikes next year than had been expected.

The greenback climbed broadly but its gains were strongest against the yen, which slid as much as 1 percent after the Bank of Japan kept monetary policy unchanged.

But of course not everything is rainbows and unicorns.  Signs of trouble continue to erupt all over the U.S. economy, and there are many that believe that Trump will be facing some very serious economic concerns very early in his presidency.

Just look at what is happening in the auto industry.  Unsold vehicles are piling up at an alarming pace at dealers all over the nation, and GM just announced that it is going to temporarily close five factories

GM has been reacting to its fabulously ballooning inventory glut by piling incentives on its vehicles. But that hasn’t worked all that well though it cost a lot of money. Now it’s time to get serious.

It will temporarily close five assembly plants in January and lay off over 10,000 employees, spokeswoman Dayna Hart said today.

And GM is definitely not alone.  Back in October, Ford made a similar announcement

In October, Ford announced that it would temporarily shut down production at one of its F-150 assembly plants (Kansas City), along with production at a plant that assembles the Escape and the Lincoln MKC (Louisville), plus two plants in Mexico. It would also lay off about 13,000 workers, 9,000 in the US and 4,000 in Mexico.

Another signal that the economy is slowing down is the tremendous difficulty that Uber is experiencing right now.  If you can believe it, they just announced that they lost a staggering 800 million dollars in the third quarter

Uber racked up pro-forma losses of more than $800m in the third quarter of this year as a price war with rival ride-hailing service Lyft in the US and heavy spending on new initiatives weighed on its figures, according to a person familiar with its recent financial performance, reports The Financial Times.

The third-quarter figures, first reported by tech news site The Information, show that Uber still faces steep losses even after pulling back from China.

I don’t understand how Uber could possibly lose 800 million dollars in three months.  Something is definitely very wrong over there.

Personally, I hope that things go as well as possible during the Trump administration.  If we truly are entering a new golden era of peace and prosperity, that would be more than okay with me.

But we should not forget that our economic fundamentals have continued to deteriorate all throughout the Obama years, and our nation has been steadily accumulating the largest mountain of debt the world has ever seen.

Unless there is some sort of unprecedented miracle, there is no way that this giant bubble that we are in at the moment is going to end well.  So it is definitely good to be optimistic, but we also need to be realistic about where we are right now and about the great challenges that we will soon be facing.

Trumphoria: Americans Are More Optimistic About The Economy Than They Have Been Since Obama’s Win In 2008

donald-trump-accepts-the-nomination-public-domainOptimism about the future of the U.S. economy has not been this strong since Barack Obama’s first presidential election victory in 2008. Donald Trump promised us an economic resurgence, and what is not to like so far? As I discussed earlier this week, stocks are soaring, businesses are already announcing that they are bringing jobs back to the United States, and the U.S. dollar has been lifted to levels that we haven’t seen in many years. Many are referring to this post-election surge as “Trumphoria”, and I think that is quite appropriate. Personally, I couldn’t imagine financial markets behaving this way if Hillary Clinton had won the election. Right now tens of millions of Americans are feeling deeply optimistic about the future for the first time in a very long time, and this is clearly reflected in the results of the most recent CNBC All-America Economic Survey

The CNBC All-America Economic Survey for the fourth quarter found that the percentage of Americans who believe the economy will get better in the next year jumped an unprecedented 17 points to 42 percent, compared with before the election. It’s the highest level since President Barack Obama was first elected in 2008.

The surge was powered by Republicans and independents reversing their outlooks. Republicans swung from deeply pessimistic, with just 15 percent saying the economy would improve in the next year, to strongly optimistic, with 74 percent believing in an economic upswing. Optimism among independents doubled but it fell by more than half for Democrats. Just 16 percent think the economy will improve.

It is funny how our political perspectives so greatly shape our view of the future. Because Trump won, Democrats now have an extremely dismal opinion of where the economy is heading, while Republicans suddenly believe that happy days are here again.

Of course the truth is that the president has far less power to influence the economy than the Federal Reserve does, and so most Americans greatly overestimate what a president can do to alter our economic trajectory.

But for now most Americans (excluding Democrats) are feeling really good about where things are headed. In fact, we just learned that the University of Michigan consumer confidence survey has soared to the highest level that we have seen since 2005.

And of course the financial markets continued to roll onward and upward on Friday. The Dow was up another 142 points, and it is now less than 250 points away from the magic number of 20,000.

I never thought that we would actually get to 20,000, but thanks to “Trumphoria” we may actually get there before the wheels start coming off.

This post-election run has really been unprecedented. The following comes from CNBC

All major indexes have been hitting record highs since the election. In fact, the Dow has notched 14 record closes since then and gains in 20 of the past 24 sessions.

The Dow, S&P 500, and Nasdaq also did something they haven’t done in more than five years: all three rose each day of this trading week. The last time all three rose every day during the same trading week was September 2011.

Wouldn’t it be great if every month during Trump’s presidency was like the last 30 days?

Trump promised that we would start winning so much that we would actually start getting tired of winning, and so far we are off to a tremendous start.

As I discussed yesterday, some of the biggest winners from “Trumphoria” have been the big banks

The shares of Wells Fargo, the most hated bank in America these days, soared 28% over the past 30 days, Citigroup 25%, JP Morgan 26%, Goldman Sachs, which is successfully placing its people inside the Trump administration, 37%.

But is this momentum in the financial markets sustainable?

Of course not.

There are signs of emerging economic trouble all around us. For instance, Sears just announced that it lost 748 million dollars last quarter and that it plans to liquidate even more stores.

How in the world do you lose three-quarters of a billion dollars in a single quarter? If you had employees in every store literally flushing dollar bills down the toilet all day I don’t think you could lose money that quickly.

And the moment that Trump takes office, he may immediately be faced with a major financial crisis in Europe which has been sparked by the meltdown of large Italian banks. The following comes from a Forbes article entitled “Italy’s Banking Crisis Is Nearly Upon Us“…

There is a high degree of probability (approaching 90%, I’d say) that Italy will experience a severe banking crisis in the next few quarters. Perhaps they can stave off the problem for a year, but something will have to be done about the banks.

Unfortunately, it looks like things are about to get very real for Italian banking giant Monte dei Paschi di Siena. According to Reuters, the European Central Bank has turned down their request for more time to raise needed capital…

The European Central Bank has rejected a request by Italy’s Monte dei Paschi di Siena (BMPS.MI) for more time to raise capital, a source said on Friday, a decision that piles pressure on the Rome government to bail out the lender.

Italy’s third-largest bank, and the world’s oldest, had asked for a three-week extension until January 20 to try to wrap up a privately funded, 5 billion euro ($5.3 billion) rescue plan in the face of fresh political uncertainty.

The ECB’s supervisory board turned down the request at a meeting on Friday on the grounds that a delay would be of little use and that it was time for Rome to step in, the source said.

But most Americans have no idea what is unfolding in Europe right now.

As Americans, we tend to be largely oblivious to what is going on in the rest of the world, and at this moment “Trumphoria” has gripped our nation.

It is certainly not wrong to celebrate the fact that we are getting Donald Trump instead of Hillary Clinton, but let us also not lose sight of the fact that we are likely to be facing some tremendous challenges very early in 2017.

Economists: The U.S. Economy Shrank In Q1, But Better Days Are Just Around The Corner

Smiley Face - Photo by FlyingtigersiteDuring the first three months of this year, the U.S. economy contracted at a 1 percent annual rate.  Despite this, mainstream economists flooded the mainstream media with assurances that much better days are just around the corner on Thursday.  In fact, many of them boldly predicted that U.S. GDP would grow at a 3 or 4 percent annual rate in the second quarter.  None of them seem the least bit concerned that another major recession is rapidly approaching.  Instead, they just blamed the bad number for the first quarter on a “severe winter“, and the financial markets responded to the GDP news quite cheerfully.  In fact, the S&P 500 soared to another brand new record high.  No matter how bad the numbers get, almost everyone in the financial world seems quite optimistic.  But is there actually good reason to have such optimism?

As Zero Hedge has pointed out, if it wasn’t for dramatically increased healthcare spending due to the implementation of Obamacare, U.S. GDP would have actually dropped at a 2 percent annual rate during the first quarter of 2014.

That would have been an absolutely disastrous number.

But within a very short time of the revised U.S. GDP number being released, the mainstream media was inundated with positive stories about the news.

For example, CNN published a story entitled “U.S. economy shrinks, but it’s not a big deal” and CNBC released a survey of nine prominent economists that showed that their consensus forecast for the second quarter of 2014 is GDP growth at a 3.74 percent annual rate.

It just seems like almost everyone wants to forget about what happened during the first quarter and wants to look ahead to a great number for quarter two.

Joseph Lavorgna, the chief U.S. economist at Deutsche Bank, is boldly forecasting a 4 percent growth rate for the second quarter.  So is Jim O’Sullivan.  In fact, it is hard to find any “expert” in the mainstream media that does not expect rip-roaring economic growth this quarter.

For example, just check out these quotes…

Stuart Hoffman, the chief economist for PNC Bank: “The first quarter was disappointing, but rather than view that as an omen of a recession or the first of a down leg in the economy, I see the seeds of a big bounce back in spring.”

Paul Ashworth of Capital Economics: “For those worried about a recession, it’s worth remembering that employment increased by nearly 300,000 in April.”

The Bank of Tokyo’s Chris Rupkey: “2Q growth seen at nearly 4%… Weak 1Q is stone cold dead as an indicator of where the economy is headed.”

Jan Hatzius of Goldman Sachs: “Because of weaker inventory investment in Q1, we increased our Q2 GDP tracking estimate by two-tenths to 3.9%.”

Dun & Bradstreet Credibility Corp. CEO Jeffrey Stibel: “Using an alternative model for projecting job growth, we see an entirely different scenario, one in which the U.S. unemployment rate will fall below 5 percent by no later than the middle of next year.”

Hopefully they are right.

Hopefully we are not heading into another recession.

But as I discussed in an article earlier this week, evidence continues to mount that another recession has already begun for much of the country.

And there was another number that was released today that seems to confirm this.  According to CNBC, there was a 6 percent drop in exports in the first quarter of 2014 when compared to the first quarter of 2013…

The U.S. economic reversal was led by a 6 percent drop in exports year over year, until recently hailed as a key driver of the U.S. recovery, and which had risen 9.5 percent in the last three months of 2013.

The slackening of trade has spread to the developing world, where emerging economies are seeing less demand from the U.S., Europe and China for raw materials and other exports.

We saw a similar decline happen in mid-2008 as the U.S. economy plunged into recession.

And Bloomberg’s Consumer Comfort index has fallen to the lowest level that we have seen in six months.  U.S. consumers are increasingly tapped out, and the ongoing “retail apocalypse” is evidence of that fact.

A declining middle class simply cannot support the massive retail infrastructure that America has developed.  As the middle class has fallen to pieces, it was just a matter of time before big trouble started erupting for the retail industry.  This is something that David Stockman recently wrote about…

It does not take much analysis to see that these bell ringers do not represent sustainable prosperity unfolding across the land. For example, around 1990 real median income was $56k per household and now, 25 years later, its just $51k—-meaning that main street living standards have plunged by about 9% during the last quarter century. But what has not dropped is the opportunity for Americans to drop shopping: square footage per capita during the same period more than doubled, rising from 19 square feet per capita at the earlier date to 47 at present.

This complete contradiction—declining real living standards and soaring investment in retail space—did not occur due to some embedded irrational impulse in America to speculate in real estate, or because capitalism has an inherent tendency to go off the deep-end. The fact that in equally “prosperous” Germany today there is only 12 square feet of retail space per capita is an obvious tip-off, and this is not a teutonic aberration. America’s prize-winning number of 47 square feet of retail space per capita is 3-8X higher than anywhere else in the developed world!

Without middle class jobs, you can’t have a middle class.  That is why our employment crisis is at the very heart of our economic problems.  Even using the government’s highly manipulated unemployment figures, there are still quite a few cities out there that have official unemployment rates in the double digits

The unemployment rate in Yuma, Ariz., is 23.8%. In El Centro, Calif., it is 21.6%. El Centro sits in an area of California in which unemployment in many metro areas is double the national average. In Merced the figure is 14.3%, in Yuba City the figure is 14.5%, in Hanford it is 13.1% and in Visalia it is 13.4%. In several metros close to these, the figure is above 10%. Most of them are inland from San Francisco and the area just south of it, which also happens to be among the nation’s most drought-plagued regions. This means jobs recovery is highly unlikely.

But of course the truth is that if the government actually used honest numbers, the unemployment rate for the entire nation would be in double digits.

And as I like to remind people, according to the government’s own numbers approximately 20 percent of the families in the entire nation do not have a single member that is employed.

So how is it possible that the “unemployment rate” is just a little above 6 percent?

It is a giant sham.

But that is what they want.

They want us feeling good and thinking that everything is going to be okay.

Unfortunately, they used the same approach back in 2007 and 2008, and we all remember how that turned out.

Four Reasons To Be Even Less Optimistic About The Global Financial System Than You Were Last Month

The cracks in the ice are getting bigger.  At this point it is really hard to have much confidence in the global financial system at all.  They told us that MF Global was an isolated incident.  Well, the horrific financial scandal over at PFGBest is essentially MF Global all over again.  They told us that we would not see a huge wave of municipal bankruptcies in the United States.  Well, three California cities have declared bankruptcy in less than a month.  They told us that we could have faith in the integrity of the global financial system.  Well, now we are finding out that global interest rates have been fixed by insiders for years.  They told us that Greece was an isolated problem and that none of the larger European nations would experience anything remotely similar.  Well, what is happening in Spain right now looks like an instant replay of exactly what happened in Greece.  So who are we supposed to believe?  Why does it seem like nearly everything that “the authorities” tell us turns out to be a lie?   What else haven’t they been telling us?

The following are four reasons to be even less optimistic about the global financial system than you were last month….

#1 PFGBest Is MF Global All Over Again

Do you remember that whole MF Global thing?

Do you remember how hundreds of millions of dollars of customer funds were “missing” due to “accounting irregularities”?

Well, it is happening again.

PFGBest is a brokerage firm in Cedar Falls, Iowa that mostly handles agricultural futures.

All hell broke loose when the National Futures Association discovered that a bank account that was supposed to be holding 225 million dollars of customer funds was only holding about 5 million dollars instead.

So where is the other 220 million dollars?

That is a very good question.

Of course it is not a promising sign that the head of PFGBest tried to commit suicide when this news came out.

A lot of PFGBest clients are going to be absolutely devastated by this scandal.  The following is from a recent Reuters article….

Farmers on Tuesday fumed at the prospect of financial losses, or at a minimum a lengthy wait for the return of frozen funds, due to alleged mismanagement at brokerage PFGBest, and some said they had been burned for the last time.

The U.S. futures industry reeled as regulators accused Iowa-based PFGBest of misappropriating more than $200 million in customer funds for more than two years, a new blow to trader trust just months after MF Global’s collapse.

Centered in the heart of farm belt, the firm handled agricultural futures accounts for a number of clients who grow corn, soybeans and cotton.

But it is not just PFGBest clients that are going to feel the pain of this scandal.

The truth is that this is going to deeply shake confidence in the entire global financial system.

Many dismissed what happened at MF Global as an “isolated incident”.

But now it is happening again.

Fool me once, shame on you.

Fool me twice, shame on me.

#2 A Third California City Goes Bankrupt In Less Than A Month

First it was Stockton.

Then it was Mammoth Lakes.

Now it is San Bernardino’s turn.

On Tuesday, the city council of San Bernardino, California voted to file for bankruptcy.

An article in the Los Angeles Times detailed the issues at the heart of San Bernardino’s financial problems….

The city’s fiscal crisis has been years in the making, compounded by the nation’s crushing recession and exacerbated by escalating pension costs, lucrative labor agreements, Sacramento’s raid on redevelopment funds and a city reserve that is tapped out, officials said.

While it would be easy to dump on the state of California (and that is something I have done quite often), the truth is that we are seeing municipal debt problems erupting all over the United States.

For example, the city of Scranton, Pennsylvania has such severe financial problems that the mayor of Scranton has ordered that all city employees be paid minimum wage until a solution to the crisis is found.

If this was television, Dwight Schrute would find a way to save the day for Scranton.

Unfortunately, this is real life and Dwight Schrute does not exist in real life.

#3 The Liborgate Scandal Keeps Getting Worse

We have been taught that we should all have faith in the integrity of the global financial system.

What a bunch of baloney that turned out to be.

It turns out that banksters have been colluding to fix global interest rates for years.

“Liborgate” is being called the biggest financial scandal in history.  Libor is important because it is one of the key benchmarks used to set prices for hundreds of trillions of dollars of loans, securities and derivatives.

British banking giant Barclays has already admitted that they were involved in manipulating Libor.

Barclays has already agreed to pay $453 million in fines to British and U.S. authorities.

But the truth is that it would have been totally impossible for Barclays to have manipulated Libor by themselves.

So who else was involved?

That was a question that was discussed in a recent article in The Economist….

Over the past week damning evidence has emerged, in documents detailing a settlement between Barclays and regulators in America and Britain, that employees at the bank and at several other unnamed banks tried to rig the number time and again over a period of at least five years. And worse is likely to emerge. Investigations by regulators in several countries, including Canada, America, Japan, the EU, Switzerland and Britain, are looking into allegations that LIBOR and similar rates were rigged by large numbers of banks. Corporations and lawyers, too, are examining whether they can sue Barclays or other banks for harm they have suffered. That could cost the banking industry tens of billions of dollars. “This is the banking industry’s tobacco moment,” says the chief executive of a multinational bank, referring to the lawsuits and settlements that cost America’s tobacco industry more than $200 billion in 1998. “It’s that big,” he says.

As many as 20 big banks have been named in various investigations or lawsuits alleging that LIBOR was rigged. The scandal also corrodes further what little remains of public trust in banks and those who run them.

So what does all of this mean?

The Wall Street Journal says that the credibility of the entire global financial system is at stake….

At stake is both the integrity of the world’s financial system and the credibility of the U.K. authorities to police it. Long before the current scandal, many European policy makers had concluded that London during the boom was the Wild West, whose loose standards are a threat to European financial stability. The Libor scandal suggests U.S. regulators have reached similar conclusions. The Commodities Futures Trading Commission, the U.S. regulatory body that first started investigating rate-fixing, left little doubt how seriously it regards the abuses it uncovered.

Once faith is shattered, it is incredibly difficult to rebuild.

And right now it is really hard to come up with a decent argument why anyone should trust their money to such a corrupt system.

#4 Spain Is Turning Into Greece

A central government drowning in debt?

Check.

A banking system on the verge of collapse?

Check.

Politicians pushing a forced austerity program that includes much higher taxes, much lower government spending and greatly reduced pay for government workers?

Check.

Wild rioting in the streets by protesters?

Check.

Let’s see….where have we seen this before?

Can anyone still possibly deny that Spain is going down the exact same road that Greece has gone?

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy is proposing a huge slate of tough austerity measures including a 3 point increase in the Value Added Tax on goods and services.  If that 3 point hike is implemented, the Value Added Tax will rise to 21 percent.

Could you imagine going to the store and paying a 21 percent sales tax?

Ouch.

Rajoy is promising that these measures will get Spain back on the right track.

Of course we have already seen how well such austerity measures have worked in Greece.

The unemployment rate in Spain is already up to 24.4 percent, and now these austerity measures will slow the economy down even more.

No wonder there is rioting in the streets.  You can see high quality footage of the rioting that has been going on in Spain this week right here.  At one point police were seen firing rubber bullets at the protesters.

But of course the citizens of Spain could not live way above their means forever.  At some point every debt bubble ends, and when that happens the results are often incredibly painful.

This is a lesson that the United States has not learned either.  When we stop racking up more than a trillion dollars of additional government debt every year our “adjustment” will be exceedingly painful as well.

A little over a week ago, I wrote an article entitled “17 Reasons To Be EXTREMELY Concerned About The Second Half Of 2012“. I never imagined that things would get so much worse in just a week.

Everything seems to be accelerating these days.

That includes the decay that is happening in society.  A few days ago I made a list of 25 signs that society is falling apart, but then another story came along after I had finished my article that topped all of the examples in my list.  The following is how one man in West Virginia has been treating his wife….

During the conversation, according to the criminal complaint, Lizon’s wife told the woman that her husband had kept her chained up with metal padlocks and chains for about 10 years. The woman noticed scar tissue on the victim’s hands and ankles. Lizon’s wife told the woman that the scars were from the chains tearing into her skin.

Lizon’s wife told the woman that she and her husband were originally from Czechoslovakia, and that they live in Leroy, W.Va.

According to the complaint, the woman told investigators that the feet of Lizon’s wife were “mutilated and swollen,” one of which was missing a considerable amount of skin. Lizon’s wife told the woman that her husband smashed her foot with a bucket or scoop attachment of a farm tractor.

Lizon’s wife also told the woman Lizon called her his “slave,” and that whenever her husband entered the room she had to kneel down before him, according to the complaint.

Can you imagine anyone doing that?

Can you imagine any husband chaining his wife up for 10 years?

That is so sick that it is beyond words to describe it.

Unfortunately, that is not just one isolated incident of depravity in a world filled with goodness.

The truth is that the entire world system is saturated with depravity and corruption.

If anyone is willing to stand up for “the integrity of the global financial system”, I challenge you to leave a comment below explaining to the rest of us why we should still have blind faith in the system after everything that has happened.

I don’t imagine that too many people will even attempt to take me up on that challenge.

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