We are really starting to see the price of oil weigh very heavily on the economy and on the stock market. On Tuesday, the Dow was down 291 points, and the primary reason for the decline was disappointing corporate sales numbers. For example, heavy equipment manufacturer Caterpillar is blaming the “dramatic decline in the price of oil” for much lower than anticipated sales during the fourth quarter of 2014. Even though Caterpillar is not an “energy company”, the price of oil is critical to their success. And the same could be said about thousands of other companies. That is why I have repeatedly stated that anyone who believes that collapsing oil prices are good for the U.S. economy is crazy. The key to how much damage this oil collapse is going to do to our economy is not how low prices ultimately go. Rather, the key is how long they stay at these low levels. If the price of oil went back to $80 a barrel next week, the damage would be fairly minimal. But if the price of oil stays at this current level for the remainder of 2015, the damage will be absolutely catastrophic. Just think of the price of oil like a hot iron. If you touch it for just a fraction of a second, it won’t do too much damage. But if you press it against your skin for an hour, you will be severely damaged for the rest of your life at the very least.
So the damage that we are witnessing right now is just the very beginning unless the price of oil goes back up substantially.
When the price of oil first started crashing, most analysts focused on the impact that it would have on energy companies. And without a doubt, quite a few of them are likely to be wiped out if things don’t change soon.
But of even greater importance is the ripple effects that the price of oil will have throughout our entire economy. The oil price crash is not that many months old at this point, and yet big companies are already blaming it for causing significant problems. The following is how Caterpillar explained their disappointing sales numbers on Tuesday…
“The recent dramatic decline in the price of oil is the most significant reason for the year-over-year decline in our sales and revenues outlook. Current oil prices are a significant headwind for Energy & Transportation and negative for our construction business in the oil producing regions of the world. In addition, with lower prices for copper, coal and iron ore, we’ve reduced our expectations for sales of mining equipment. We’ve also lowered our expectations for construction equipment sales in China. While our market position in China has improved, 2015 expectations for the construction industry in China are lower”
We also learned on Tuesday that orders for durable goods were extremely disappointing. Many analysts believe that this is another area where the oil price crash is having an impact…
Orders for business equipment unexpectedly fell in December for a fourth month, signaling a global growth slowdown is weighing on American companies. Bookings for non-military capital goods excluding aircraft dropped 0.6 percent for a second month, data from the Commerce Department showed. Demand for all durable goods − items meant to last at least three years − declined 3.4 percent, the worst performance since August.
Let’s keep an eye on the durable goods numbers in coming months. Usually, when the economy is heading into a recession durable goods numbers start declining.
Meanwhile, a bunch of other big companies reported disappointing sales numbers on Tuesday as well. The following summary comes from the Crux…
Microsoft lost 9.9 percent as software-license sales to businesses were below forecasts. Caterpillar plunged 7.3 percent after forecasting 2015 results that trailed estimates as plunging oil prices signal lower demand from energy companies. DuPont Co. dropped 2.8 percent as a stronger dollar cuts into the chemical maker’s profit. Procter & Gamble Co. and United Technologies Corp. declined at least 2 percent after saying the surging greenback will lower full-year earnings.
What the economy could really use right now is a huge rebound in the price of oil.
Unfortunately, as I wrote about the other day, that is not likely to happen any time soon.
In fact, a top executive for Goldman Sachs recently told CNBC that he believes that the price of oil could ultimately go as low as 30 dollars a barrel.
And hedge fund managers are backing up their belief that oil is heading even lower with big money…
Hedge funds boosted bearish wagers on oil to a four-year high as US supplies grew the most since 2001.
Money managers increased short positions in West Texas Intermediate crude to the highest level since September 2010 in the week ended January 20, US Commodity Futures Trading Commission data show. Net-long positions slipped for the first time in three weeks.
US crude supplies rose by 10.1 million barrels to 397.9 million in the week ended January 16 and the country will pump the most oil since 1972 this year, the Energy Information Administration says. Saudi Arabia’s King Salman, the new ruler of the world’s biggest oil exporter, said he will maintain the production policy of his predecessor despite a 58 percent drop in prices since June.
Sadly, the truth is that anyone that thought that the stock market would go up forever and that the U.S. economy would be able to avoid a major downturn indefinitely was just being delusional.
Our economy goes through cycles, and every financial bubble eventually bursts.
For example, did you know that the S&P 500 has never had seven up years in a row? The following comes from a CNBC article that was posted on Tuesday…
Doubleline Capital founder Jeff Gundlach, more known for his bond prowess than as an equity market expert, pointed out that the S&P 500 has never had seven consecutive up years.
Of course, records are made to be broken, and each year is supposed to stand on its own.
But in a market that faces an uncertain future regarding monetary policy, the specter of a global economic slowdown, and an oil price plunge that is dampening capital investment, Gundlach’s little factoid sparked a lot of chatter at ETF.com’s InsideETFs conference in Hollywood, Florida.
Hmm – that reminds me of the seven year cycles that I discussed in my article yesterday.
If the price of oil stays this low for the rest of 2015, there is no way that we are going to avoid a recession.
If the price of oil stays this low for the rest of 2015, there is no way that we are going to avoid a stock market crash.
So let’s hope that the price of oil starts going back up.
If it doesn’t, the damage that is inflicted on our economy is going to get progressively worse.
Did you know that we buy nearly five times as much stuff from the Chinese as they buy from us? According to government numbers that were just released, we imported 44.9 billion dollars worth of stuff from China in September but we only exported 9.3 billion dollars worth of stuff to them. And this is not happening because our economy is so much larger than China’s. In fact, the IMF says that China now has the largest economy on the entire planet on a purchasing power basis. No, the truth is that this is happening because our economy is broken. Every month, we consume far more wealth than we produce. Because the outflow of money is far greater than the inflow, we have to go to major exporting nations and beg them to lend our dollars back to us so that we can pay our bills. Meanwhile, the quality of the jobs in this country continues to go down and our formerly great manufacturing cities are rotting and decaying. We are committing national economic suicide, and most Americans don’t seem to care.
Barack Obama is constantly hyping a “manufacturing resurgence” in America, but the numbers don’t lie. In September, our manufactured goods trade deficit with the rest of the world soared to a new all-time record high of 69.16 billion dollars. For the year, we are nearly 12 percent ahead of last year’s record pace.
When we buy far more things than we sell, we get poorer as a nation.
How do you think that we ever got into a position of owing China more than a trillion dollars?
We just kept buying far more from them than they bought from us, and their money just kept piling up. Now it has gotten to the point where our politicians literally beg them to lend our money back to us. They are the head and we are the tail.
And we did this to ourselves.
Once upon a time, the United States was the greatest manufacturing powerhouse that the world had ever seen. But now China manufactures more stuff than us and China also accounts for more total global trade (imports plus exports) than us.
This should never have happened. Several decades ago, the Chinese economy was a complete joke. But decades of incredibly foolish decisions by our politicians have resulted in the loss of tens of thousands of manufacturing facilities, millions of good paying jobs and the destruction of vast stretches of our economic infrastructure.
During the same time frame, gleaming new manufacturing facilities have gone up all over China.
China is literally wiping the floor with us on the global economic stage and most Americans don’t even understand what is happening. Here is more on the trade deficit numbers that were just released from the RealityChek Blog…
>The China goods deficit of $35.56 billion blew past the old mark of $30.86 billion, set in July, by 15.23 percent. The new deficit also represented a 17.77 percent increase over the August level of $30.20 billion.
>U.S. goods exports to the still strongly growing Chinese economy fell on month in September from $9.63 billion to $9.33 billion (3.12 percent). U.S. merchandise imports from China jumped by 12.70 percent over August levels, from $39.83 billion to $44.89 billion – itself an all-time high.
>The U.S. goods deficit with China this year is now so far running 5.62 percent ahead of 2014’s record pace.
>The longstanding U.S. manufacturing trade shortfall shot up from $59.10 billion in August to $69.16 billion in September. This 17.02 percent jump resulted in a beat of the old record of $67.33 billion, also set in July, by 2.72 percent.
And it isn’t just cheap plastic trinkets that China is selling to us.
In fact, their number one export to us is computer equipment.
Meanwhile, one of our main exports to them is “scrap and trash”.
For much more on how China is absolutely dominating us, please see my previous article entitled “Not Just The Largest Economy – Here Are 26 Other Ways China Has Surpassed America“.
Sadly, there are a couple of factors that will probably make our trade deficit with the rest of the world even worse in the months ahead.
Number one, the currency war that I wrote about earlier this week will probably push the U.S. dollar even higher against the yen and the euro.
You might think that a rising dollar sounds good, but the truth is that it will make our exports less competitive in the global marketplace.
Nations such as Japan devalue their currencies so that they can sell more stuff to us. But that hurts our own domestic industries. And when our own domestic industries suffer, that means less jobs for American workers.
Secondly, the collapse in the price of oil could have very serious implications for the shale oil industry.
In recent years, the shale oil revolution has caused local economic booms in states such as Texas and North Dakota. But shale oil tends to be quite expensive to extract. As I write this, the price of U.S. oil has fallen to about 77 dollars a barrel. If it stays at that level or keeps going down, shale oil production in the United States will slow down dramatically.
In other words, a lot of these shale oil “boom towns” could go “bust” very rapidly.
If that happens, the amount of oil that we import will rise substantially and that will add to our overall trade deficit.
But of course the biggest factor fueling our trade deficit is that the vast majority of Americans simply do not care that we are committing national economic suicide.
When we buy products made in America, we support American businesses and American workers.
When we buy products made overseas, we hurt American businesses, we kill American jobs and we make ourselves poorer as a nation.
Of course there is nothing wrong with buying a foreign-made product once in a while. But this holiday season, most people will fill their shopping carts to the brim with foreign-made goods without even thinking twice about it.
The next time that you go into a huge retail establishment such as Wal-Mart, start picking up products and look to see where they were made.
I think that you will be shocked at how few of them are actually made inside the United States.
When are Americans going to get sick and tired of making China wealthier at our expense?
We are willing participants in the destruction of the U.S. economy, and yet only a small minority of people seem to care.
What is it going to take for people to finally wake up?
Barack Obama and the Federal Reserve are lying to you. The “economic recovery” that we all keep hearing about is mostly just a mirage. The percentage of Americans that are employed has barely budged since the depths of the last recession, the labor force participation rate is at a 36 year low, the overall rate of homeownership is the lowest that it has been in nearly 20 years and approximately 49 percent of all Americans are financially dependent on the government at this point. In a recent article, I shared 12 charts that clearly demonstrate the permanent damage that has been done to our economy over the last decade. The response to that article was very strong. Many people were quite upset to learn that they were not being told the truth by our politicians and by the mainstream media. Sadly, the vast majority of Americans still have absolutely no idea what is being done to our economy. For those out there that still believe that we are doing “just fine”, here are 19 more facts about the messed up state of the U.S. economy…
#1 After accounting for inflation, median household income in the United States is 8 percent lower than it was when the last recession started in 2007.
#2 The number of part-time workers in America has increased by 54 percent since the last recession began in December 2007. Meanwhile, the number of full-time jobs has dropped by more than a million over that same time period.
#3 More than 7 million Americans that are currently working part-time jobs would actually like to have full-time jobs.
#4 The jobs gained during this “recovery” pay an average of 23 percent less than the jobs that were lost during the last recession.
#5 The number of unemployed workers that have completely given up looking for work is twice as high now as it was when the last recession began in December 2007.
#6 When the last recession began, about 17 percent of all unemployed workers had been out of work for six months or longer. Today, that number sits at just above 34 percent.
#7 Due to a lack of decent jobs, half of all college graduates are still relying on their parents financially when they are two years out of school.
#8 According to a new method of calculating poverty devised by the U.S. Census Bureau, the state of California currently has a poverty rate of 23.4 percent.
#9 According to the New York Times, the “typical American household” is now worth 36 percent less than it was worth a decade ago.
#10 In 2007, the average household in the top 5 percent had 16.5 times as much wealth as the average household overall. But now the average household in the top 5 percent has 24 times as much wealth as the average household overall.
#11 In an absolutely stunning development, the rate of small business ownership in the United States has plunged to an all-time low.
#12 Subprime loans now make up 31 percent of all auto loans in America. Didn’t that end up really badly when the housing industry tried the same thing?
#13 The average cost of producing a barrel of shale oil in the United States is approximately 85 dollars. Now that the price of oil is starting to slip under that number, the “shale boom” in America could turn into a bust very rapidly.
#14 On a purchasing power basis, China now actually has a larger economy than the United States does.
#15 It is hard to believe, but there are 49 million people that are dealing with food insecurity in America today.
#16 There are six banks in the United States that pretty much everyone agrees fit into the “too big to fail” category. Five of them have more than 40 trillion dollars of exposure to derivatives.
#17 The 113 top earning employees at the Federal Reserve headquarters in Washington D.C. make an average of $246,506 a year. It turns out that ruining the U.S. economy is a very lucrative profession.
#18 We are told that the federal deficit is under control, but the truth is that the U.S. national debt increased by more than a trillion dollars during fiscal year 2014.
#19 An astounding 40 million dollars has been spent just on vacations for Barack Obama and his family. Perhaps he figures that if we are going down as a nation anyway, he might as well enjoy the ride.
If our economy truly was “recovering”, there would be lots of good paying middle class jobs available.
But that is not the case at all.
I know so many people in their prime working years that spend day after day searching for a job. Most of them never seem to get anywhere. It isn’t because they don’t have anything to offer. It is just that the labor market is absolutely saturated with qualified job seekers.
For example, USA Today recently shared the story of 42-year-old Alex Gomez…
“I’ve had to seriously downgrade my living situation,” said Alex Gomez, a 42-year-old with a master’s degree in entrepreneurship. Gomez lost his last full-time job in 2009 and has been looking for work since a short-term contract position ended in 2012.
Gomez’s home was foreclosed on, so the Tampa resident lives with three roommates in a college neighborhood. He drained his 401(k) trying to save his house, and he has around $150,000 in student loans. His mother is tapping her 401(k) to pay his rent. Gomez subsists on that and about $200 a month in food stamps.
“I have been applying and looking for pretty much anything at this stage,” he said. Although he’s looking for work in engineering or data management, “I applied to a supermarket as a deli clerk because I used to be a deli clerk as a teenager,” he said. He was told he was overqualified and turned down.
Does Alex Gomez have gifts and abilities to share with our society?
Of course he does.
So why can’t he find a job?
It is because we have a broken economy.
We are in the midst of a long-term economic decline and the system simply does not work properly anymore.
And thanks to decades of very foolish decisions, this is only the start of our problems.
Things are only going to get worse from here.
Most people that discuss the “economic collapse” focus on what is coming in the future. And without a doubt, we are on the verge of some incredibly hard times. But what often gets neglected is the immense permanent damage that has been done to the U.S. economy by the long-term economic collapse that we are already experiencing. In this article I am going to share with you 12 economic charts that show that we are in much, much worse shape than we were five or ten years ago. The long-term problems that are eating away at the foundations of our economy like cancer have not been fixed. In fact, many of them continue to get even worse year after year. But because unprecedented levels of government debt and reckless money printing by the Federal Reserve have bought us a very short window of relative stability, most Americans don’t seem too concerned about our long-term problems. They seem to have faith that our “leaders” will be able to find a way to muddle through whatever challenges are ahead. Hopefully this article will be a wake up call. The last major wave of the economic collapse did a colossal amount of damage to our economic foundations, and now the next major wave of the economic collapse is rapidly approaching.
The mainstream media is constantly telling us about the “employment recovery” that is happening in the United States, but the truth is that it is just an illusion. As the chart below demonstrates, just prior to the last recession about 63 percent of all working age Americans had a job. During the last wave of the economic collapse, that number dropped to below 59 percent and stayed there for a very long time. In the past few months we have finally seen the employment-population ratio tick back up to 59 percent, but we are still far, far below where we used to be. To call the tiny little bump at the end of this chart a “recovery” is really an insult to our intelligence…
#2 The Labor Force Participation Rate
The percentage of Americans that are either employed or currently looking for a job started to fall during the last recession and it has not stopped falling since then. The labor force participation rate has now fallen to a 36 year low, and this is a sign of a very, very sick economy…
#3 The Inactivity Rate For Men In Their Prime Years
Some blame the decline in the labor force participation rate on the aging of our population. But it isn’t just elderly people that are dropping out of the labor force. In fact, the inactivity rate for men in their prime working years (25 to 54) continues to rise and is now at the highest level that has ever been recorded…
#4 Manufacturing Employees
Once upon a time in America, anyone that was reliable and willing to work hard could easily find a manufacturing job somewhere. But we have stood by and allowed millions upon millions of good paying manufacturing jobs to be shipped out of the country, and now many of our formerly great manufacturing cities have been transformed into ghost towns. Over the past few years, there has been a slight “recovery”, but we are still well below where we were at just previous to the last recession…
#5 Our Current Account Balance
As a nation, we buy far more from the rest of the world than they buy from us. In other words, we perpetually consume far more wealth than we produce. This is a recipe for national economic suicide. Our current account balance soared to obscene levels just prior to the last recession, and now we have almost gotten back to those levels…
#6 Existing Home Sales
Our economy has never fully recovered from the housing crash of 2007-2008. As you can see from the chart below, the number of existing home sales is still far below the level that we hit back in 2006. At this point we are just getting back to the level we were at in 2000, but our population today is far larger than it was back then…
#7 New Home Sales
Things are even more dramatic when you look at new home sales. This is an industry that have been absolutely emasculated. The number of new home sales in the United States is just a little more than half of what it was back in 2000, and it isn’t even worth comparing to what we experienced during the peak of 2006.
#8 The Monetary Base
In a desperate attempt to get the economy going again, the Federal Reserve has been wildly printing money. It has been so reckless that it is hard to put it into words. When I look at this chart, the phrase “Weimar Republic” comes to mind…
#9 Food Inflation
Thankfully, much of the money that the Federal Reserve has been injecting into the system has not made it into the real economy. But enough of it has gotten into the system to force food prices significantly higher. For example, my wife went to the store today and paid just a shade under 10 bucks for just four pieces of chicken. And as you can see from the chart below, food prices have been steadily going up in America for a very long time…
#10 The Velocity Of Money
One of the reasons why we have not seen even more inflation is because the velocity of money is extraordinarily low. In general, when an economy is healthy money tends to flow through the system rapidly. People are buying and selling and money changes hands frequently. But when an economy is sick, money tends to stagnate. And that is exactly what is happening in the United States right now. In fact, at this point the velocity of the M2 money stock has dropped to the lowest level ever recorded…
#11 The National Debt
As our economic fundamentals have deteriorated, our politicians have attempted to prop up our standard of living by borrowing from the future. The U.S. national debt is on pace to approximately double during the Obama years, and it increased by more than a trillion dollars in fiscal year 2014 alone. Despite assurances that “the deficit is under control”, the federal government borrows about a trillion dollars a year to fund new spending in addition to borrowing about 7 trillion dollars to pay off old debt that is coming due. What we are doing to future generations of Americans is absolutely criminal, and it is just a matter of time before this Ponzi scheme totally collapses…
#12 Total Debt
Of course it is not just the federal government that is gorging on debt. When you add up all forms of debt in our society (government, business, consumer, etc.) it comes to a grand total of more than 57 trillion dollars. This total has more than doubled since the year 2000…
If you know anyone that believes that we are in good economic shape, just show them these charts.
The numbers do not lie. Our economy is sick and it is getting sicker by the day.
And of course the next major financial crisis could strike at any time. U.S. stocks just experienced their worst week in three years, and if cases of Ebola start popping up around the country the fear that would cause could collapse our economy all by itself.
The debt-fueled prosperity that we are enjoying today is not real. We are living on the fumes of our past, and every single day our long-term problems get even worse.
Anyone with half a brain should be able to see what is coming.
Sadly, most Americans will continue to deny the truth until it is far too late.
If you are fortunate enough to have a job in America today, the phrase “just over broke” probably describes you. Yes, there are a handful of jobs that certainly pay very well, but most Americans that work for somebody else are just barely making it from month to month. More than half of all working Americans are living paycheck to paycheck, and more than half of all working Americans make less than $30,000 a year. That is an amazing statistic but it is actually true. Once upon a time, anyone that was responsible and that was willing to work hard could get a good job in America. But now those days are long gone. Instead, we live at a time when good jobs are disappearing and when the middle class is getting smaller with each passing year. In some homes, the husband and the wife are both working multiple jobs and they can still barely pay their bills. Something has gone horribly wrong, and yet our leaders just keep telling us how wonderful our economy is.
One of the biggest things that has killed jobs in this country is the fact that the U.S. economy has been steadily merged into the emerging one world economic system over the past several decades. They call it “free trade”, but they never told us that we would be merged into a single global labor pool where we would be competing directly for jobs with workers on the other side of the planet that live in nations where it is legal to pay slave labor wages.
According to Gallup, only about 1.3 billion people around the world work full-time for an employer at this point.
But overall there are more than 7 billion people.
That means that there are a whole lot of really poor, really desperate people that need to be employed.
This has been wonderful for the big corporations. They can just take jobs away from American workers and give them to people who are willing to work for less than a tenth of what an American worker would make. This has resulted in the systematic deindustrialization of the United States and horrific decline in dozens of formerly great manufacturing cities.
At the same time, we have also been losing millions of middle class jobs to technology. At this point, robots are even starting to replace warehouse workers and fast food employees. As robots become even more advanced and become even cheaper to produce, there will be less jobs available for the rest of us.
And what happens when robots can do everything better than us?
Because there are fewer middle class jobs available, the competition for the remaining jobs has become incredibly intense. In recent years, millions of Americans have been forced to take just about anything that they can get. For those Americans, “just over broke” has become “just trying to survive” as they scratch and claw their way through life.
A recent CNBC article profiled one such individual. His name is Ken Bowman, and his job at a guitar shop just barely enables him to pay his rent and feed himself…
Ken Bowman joins the line for a free lunch in the Youngstown Salvation Army canteen, just like he does every Friday.
Looking younger than his 21 years, his hair dyed jet black and wearing big, battered boots, Bowman plays heavy metal on his cell phone. He chooses a seat at the end of a table and sits hunched over his tray, his blues eyes furtively sweeping the room. The others sit in packs, regulars who’ve formed lunchtime friendships over their burnt coffee and peppered corn, discussing the jobs they once had and the government benefits they no longer get.
Bowman is sensitive to the stigma of accepting handouts like lunch. “[It] doesn’t mean you’re homeless or poor, people have standards but they struggle,” he said, his chin jutting out, his eyes glowering.
After paying his rent, Bowman says his job in a guitar shop leaves him with $50 a month to live on — if he can get shifts. He is one of America’s “underemployed,” a group of as many as 11 million Americans struggling to survive in society’s shadows on wages that put them below the federal poverty line.
There are millions of others out there just like Bowman. In fact, as I mentioned in a previous article, one out of every four part-time workers in America is living below the poverty line. The “working poor” is a phrase that describes a very large segment of the U.S. population today.
And the cold, hard truth of the matter is that most of the country is steadily getting poorer. According to a study recently discussed in the New York Times, the “typical American household” is now worth 36 percent less than it was worth a decade ago. That is a staggering decline in just ten years.
Meanwhile, the cost of living continues to rise. This is something that I have discussed repeatedly, but sometimes a picture can say things far better than any words can.
The photo posted below has been floating around on Twitter. It is of a McDonald’s menu from the 1960s. As you can see, prices have gone up a little bit since then…
Most people think that I am crazy when I tell them that I can remember a cup of coffee being sold for a quarter when I was young. But it is true. Over the long-term, our purchasing power has been systematically destroyed by the insane polices of the Federal Reserve.
Sadly, most Americans don’t understand any of this. They just trust that our leaders actually know what they are doing. Meanwhile, they just keep on struggling to survive in an economic system that is stacked against them.
According to one recent study, 40 percent of all households in the United States are experiencing financial stress right now and the homeownership rate for Americans under the age of 35 is at an all-time low.
In the old days, if you got your education, worked hard and did all the right things, it was just about an automatic ticket to the middle class.
Today it doesn’t work like that.
Instead, more Americans than ever are being forced to become dependent on the government. If you can believe it, Americans received more than 2 trillion dollars in benefits from the federal government last year alone.
So it astounds me whenever I hear anyone say that the economy is in “good shape”.
How can it be in “good shape” when one out of every three adults in the United States has an unpaid debt that is “in collections” and there are 49 million Americans that are dealing with food insecurity?
The truth is that we are in the midst of a long-term economic decline that is the result of decades of incredibly foolish decisions.
Until the American people start understanding what has happened to us, they are never going to demand real change that actually accomplishes something.