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20th Largest Bank In The World: 2016 Will Be A ‘Cataclysmic Year’ And ‘Investors Should Be Afraid’

Royal Bank Of ScotlandThe Royal Bank of Scotland is telling clients that 2016 is going to be a “cataclysmic year” and that they should “sell everything”.  This sounds like something that you might hear from The Economic Collapse Blog, but up until just recently you would have never expected to get this kind of message from one of the twenty largest banks on the entire planet.  Unfortunately, this is just another indication that a major global financial crisis has begun and that we are now entering a bear market.  The collective market value of companies listed on the S&P 500 has dropped by about a trillion dollars since the start of 2016, and panic is spreading like wildfire all over the globe.  And of course when the Royal Bank of Scotland comes out and openly says that “investors should be afraid” that certainly is not going to help matters.

It amazes me that the Royal Bank of Scotland is essentially saying the exact same thing that I have been saying for months.  Just like I have been telling my readers, RBS has observed that global markets “are flashing the same stress alerts as they did before the Lehman crisis in 2008″

RBS has advised clients to brace for a “cataclysmic year” and a global deflationary crisis, warning that the major stock markets could fall by a fifth and oil may reach US$16 a barrel.

The bank’s credit team said markets are flashing the same stress alerts as they did before the Lehman crisis in 2008.

So what should our response be to these warning signs?

According to RBS, the logical thing to do is to “sell everything” excerpt for high quality bonds…

“Sell everything except high quality bonds,” warned Andrew Roberts in a note this week.

He said the bank’s red flags for 2016 — falling oil, volatility in China, shrinking world trade, rising debt, weak corporate loans and deflation — had all been seen in just the first week of trading.

We think investors should be afraid,” he said.

And of course RBS is not the only big bank issuing these kinds of ominous warnings.

The biggest bank in America, J.P. Morgan Chase, is “urging investors to sell stocks on any bounce”

J.P. Morgan Chase has turned its back on the stock market: For the first time in seven years, the investment bank is urging investors to sell stocks on any bounce.

“Our view is that the risk-reward for equities has worsened materially. In contrast to the past seven years, when we advocated using the dips as buying opportunities, we believe the regime has transitioned to one of selling any rally,” Mislav Matejka, an equity strategist at J.P. Morgan, said in a report.

Aside from technical indicators, expectations of anemic corporate earnings combined with the downward trajectory in U.S. manufacturing activity and a continued weakness in commodities are raising red flags.

Major banks have not talked like this since the great financial crisis of 2008/2009.  Clearly something really big is going on.  Trillions of dollars of financial wealth were wiped out around the world during the last six months of 2015, and trillions more dollars have been wiped out during the first 12 days of 2016.  As I noted above, the collective market value of the S&P 500 is down by about a trillion dollars all by itself.

One of the big things driving all of this panic is the stunning collapse in the price of oil.  U.S. oil was trading as low as $29.93 a barrel on Tuesday, and this was the first time that oil has traded under 30 dollars a barrel since December 2003.

Needless to say, this collapse is absolutely killing energy companies.  The following comes from USA Today

There aren’t many people who feel bad for oil companies. But the implosion in oil prices is causing a profit decline that almost invokes pity.

The companies in the Standard & Poor’s 500 energy sector are expected to lose a collective $28.8 billion this calendar year, down from $95.4 billion in net income earned during the industry’s bonanza year of 2008, according to a USA TODAY analysis of data from S&P Capital IQ. That’s a $124 billion swing against energy companies – and one you’re probably enjoying at the pump. The analysis includes only the 36 S&P 500 energy companies that reported net income in 2008.

If we are to avoid a major global deflationary crisis, we desperately need the price of oil to get back above 50 dollars a barrel.  Unfortunately, that does not appear to be likely to happen any time soon.  In fact, Dallas Fed President Robert Kaplan says that the price of oil is probably going to stay very low for years to come

You’d expect at least some artificial optimism when the president of the Dallas Fed talks about oil. You’d expect some droplets of hope for that crucial industry in Texas. But when Dallas Fed President Robert Kaplan spoke on Monday, there was none, not for 2016, and most likely not for 2017 either, and maybe not even for 2018.

The wide-ranging speech included a blunt section on oil, the dismal future of the price of oil, the global and US causes for its continued collapse, and what it might mean for the Texas oil industry: “more bankruptcies, mergers and restructurings….”

The oil price plunge since mid-2014, with its vicious ups and downs, was bad enough. But since the OPEC meeting in December, he said, “the overall tone in the oil and gas sector has soured, as expectations have decidedly shifted to an ‘even lower for even longer’ price outlook.”

In recent articles I have discussed so many of the other signs that indicate that there is big trouble ahead, but today I just want to quickly mention another one that has just popped up in the news.

The amount of stuff being shipped across the U.S. by rail has been dropping dramatically.  The only times when we have seen similar large drops has been during previous recessions.  The following comes from Bloomberg

Railroad cargo in the U.S. dropped the most in six years in 2015, and things aren’t looking good for the new year.

“We believe rail data may be signaling a warning for the broader economy,” the recent note from Bank of America says. “Carloads have declined more than 5 percent in each of the past 11 weeks on a year-over-year basis. While one-off volume declines occur occasionally, they are generally followed by a recovery shortly thereafter. The current period of substantial and sustained weakness, including last week’s -10.1 percent decline, has not occurred since 2009.”

BofA analysts led by Ken Hoexter look at the past 30 years to see what this type of steep decline usually means for the U.S. economy. What they found wasn’t particularly encouraging: All such drops in rail carloads preceded, or were accompanied by, an economic slowdown (Note: They excluded 1996 due to an extremely harsh winter).

The “next economic downturn” is already here, and it is starting to accelerate.

Yes, the financial markets are starting to catch up with economic reality, but they still have a long, long way to go.  It is going to take another 30 percent drop or so just for them to get to levels that are considered to be “normal” or “average” by historical standards.

And the markets are so fragile at this point that any sort of a major “trigger event” could cause a sudden market implosion unlike anything that we have ever seen before.

So let us hope for the best, but let us also heed the advice of RBS and get prepared for a “cataclysmic” year.

This Is What A Financial Crisis Looks Like

Financial Crisis 2015 - Public DomainJust within the past few days, three major high yield funds have completely imploded, and panic is spreading rapidly on Wall Street.  Funds run by Third Avenue Management and Stone Lion Capital Partners have suspended payments to investors, and a fund run by Lucidus Capital Partners has liquidated its entire portfolio.  We are witnessing a race for the exits unlike anything that we have seen since the great financial crash of 2008, and many of those that choose to hesitate are going to end up getting totally wiped out.  In case you are wondering, this is what a financial crisis looks like.  In 2008, other global stock markets started to tumble, then junk bonds began to crash, and finally U.S. stocks followed.  The exact same pattern is playing out again, and the carnage that we have seen so far is just the tip of the iceberg.

Since the end of 2009, a high yield bond ETF that I watch very closely known as JNK has been trading in a range between 36 and 42.  I have been waiting all this time for it to dip below 35, because I knew that would be a sign that the next major financial crisis was imminent.

In September, it closed as low as 35.33 at one point, but that was not the signal that I was looking for.  Finally, early last week JNK broke below 35 for the very first time since the last financial crisis, and since then it has just kept on falling.  As I write this, JNK has plummeted all the way to 33.42, and Bloomberg is reporting that many bond managers “are predicting more carnage for high-yield investors”…

Top bond managers are predicting more carnage for high-yield investors amid a market rout that forced at least three credit funds in the past week to wind down.

Lucidus Capital Partners, a high-yield fund founded in 2009 by former employees of Bruce Kovner’s Caxton Associates, said Monday it has liquidated its entire portfolio and plans to return the $900 million it has under management to investors next month. Funds run by Third Avenue Management and Stone Lion Capital Partners have stopped returning cash to investors, after clients sought to pull too much money.

When it says that those firms “have stopped returning cash to investors”, what that means is that many of those investors will be lucky to get pennies on the dollar when it is all said and done.

Like I said, now that the crisis has started, the ones that are going to lose the most are those that hesitate.

And just check out some of the very big names that are “warning of more high-yield trouble ahead”

Scott Minerd, global chief investment officer at Guggenheim Partners, predicts 10 percent to 15 percent of junk bond funds may face high withdrawals as more investors worry about getting their money back. He joins money managers Jeffrey GundlachCarl Icahn, Bill Gross and Wilbur Ross in warning of more high-yield trouble ahead.

In this type of environment, the Federal Reserve would have to be completely insane to raise interest rates.

Unfortunately, that appears to be exactly what is going to happen.

If the Fed raises rates, that is going to make corporate debt defaults even more likely and will almost certainly drive high-yield bonds down even further…

Higher rates could make corporate bond defaults more likely and investors are already bailing out of the sector, pulling $3.8 billion out of high-yield funds in the week ended December 9, the biggest move in 15 weeks. The effective yield on U.S. junk bonds is now 17 percent, the highest level in five years, according to Bank of America Merrill Lynch data.

A whole host of prominent names are warning that the Fed is about to make a tragic mistake.  One of them is James Rickards

“The Fed should have raised interest rates in 2010 and 2011 and if they did that they would actually be in a position to cut them today,” said James Rickards, a central bank critic and chief global strategist at West Shore Funds. “The Fed is on the brink of committing a historic blunder that may rank with the mistakes it made in 1927 and 1929. By raising into weakness, they will likely cause a recession.”

In 2015, we have already seen stocks crash all over the globe.  Coming into December, more than half of the 93 largest stock market indexes in the world were down more than 10 percent year to date, and some of them were down by as much as 30 or 40 percent.  At this point, conditions are absolutely perfect for a frightening collapse of U.S. markets, and the Federal Reserve is about to pour gasoline on to the fire.

Anyone that says that “nothing is happening” is either completely misinformed or is totally crazy.

I like how James Howard Kunstler summarized what we are currently facing…

Equities barfed nearly four percent just last week, credit is crumbling (nobody wants to lend), junk bonds are tanking (as defaults loom), currencies all around the world are crashing, hedge funds can’t give investors their money back, “liquidity” is AWOL (no buyers for janky securities), commodities are in freefall, oil is going so deep into the sub-basement of value that the industry may never recover, international trade is evaporating, the president is doing everything possible in Syria to start World War Three, and the monster called globalism is lying in its coffin with a stake pointed over its heart.

The financial markets held together far longer than many people thought that they would, but now they are finally coming apart at the seams.

Moving forward, the “winners” are going to be the people that pull their money out the fastest.  This is especially true for high risk funds like the three that just imploded.  If you hesitate, you could end up losing everything.

And as this rush for the exits accelerates, sellers are going to greatly outnumber buyers, and this is going to push prices down at a very rapid pace.  We are going to hear a lot about a “lack of liquidity” in the days ahead, but the truth is that what we will really be looking at is a good old-fashioned panic.

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