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The Dow Peaked At 14,000 Before The Last Stock Market Crash, And Now Dow 24,000 Is Here

The absurdity that we are witnessing in the financial markets is absolutely breathtaking.  Just recently, a good friend reminded me that the Dow peaked at just above 14,000 before the last stock market crash, and stock prices were definitely over-inflated at that time.  Subsequently the Dow crashed below 7,000 before rebounding, and now thanks to this week’s rally we on the threshold of Dow 24,000.  When you look at a chart of the Dow Jones Industrial Average, you would be tempted to think that we must be in the greatest economic boom in American history, but the truth is that our economy has only grown by an average of just 1.33 percent over the last 10 years.  Every crazy stock market bubble throughout our history has always ended badly, and this one will be no exception.

And even though the Dow showed a nice gain on Wednesday, the Nasdaq got absolutely hammered.  In fact, almost every major tech stock was down big.  The following comes from CNN

Meanwhile, big tech stocks — which have propelled the market higher all year — were tanking. The Nasdaq fell more than 1%, led by big drops in Google (GOOGL, Tech30) owner Alphabet, Amazon (AMZN, Tech30), Apple (AAPL, Tech30), Facebook (FB, Tech30) and Netflix (NFLX, Tech30).

Momentum darlings Nvidia (NVDA, Tech30) and PayPal (PYPL, Tech30) and red hot gaming stocks Electronic Arts (EA, Tech30) and Activision Blizzard (ATVI, Tech30) plunged too. They have been some of the market’s top stocks throughout most of 2017.

Many believe that the markets are about to turn down in a major way.  What goes up must eventually come down, and at this point even Goldman Sachs is warning that a bear market is coming

“It has seldom been the case that equities, bonds and credit have been similarly expensive at the same time, only in the Roaring ’20s and the Golden ’50s,” Goldman Sachs International strategists including Christian Mueller-Glissman wrote in a note this week. “All good things must come to an end” and “there will be a bear market, eventually” they said.

As central banks cut back their quantitative easing, pushing up the premiums investors demand to hold longer-dated bonds, returns are “likely to be lower across assets” over the medium term, the analysts said. A second, less likely, scenario would involve “fast pain.” Stock and bond valuations would both get hit, with the mix depending on whether the trigger involved a negative growth shock, or a growth shock alongside an inflation pick-up.

Nobody believes that this crazy stock market party can go on forever.

These days, the real debate seems to be between those that are convinced that the markets will crash violently and those that believe that a “soft landing” can be achieved.

I would definitely be in favor of a “soft landing”, but those that have followed my work for an extended period of time know that I do not think that this will happen.  And with each passing day, more prominent voices in the financial world are coming to the same conclusion.  Here is one recent example

Vanguard’s chief economist Joe Davis said investors need to be prepared for a significant downturn in the stock market, which is now at a 70 percent chance of crashing.  That chance is significantly higher than it has been over the past 60 years.

The economist added, It’s unreasonable to expect rates of returns, which exceeded our own bullish forecast from 2010, to continue.”

A stock market crash has followed every major stock bubble in our history, and right at this moment we are in the terminal phase of one of the greatest stock market bubbles ever.  There are so many indicators that are screaming that we are in danger, and one of the favorite ones that I like to point to is margin debt.  The following commentary and chart were recently published by Wolf Richter

This chart shows margin debt (red line, left scale) and the S&P 500 (blue line, right scale), both adjusted for inflation to tune out the effects of the dwindling value of the dollar over the decades (chart by Advisor Perspectives):

Stock market leverage is the big accelerator on the way up. Leverage supplies liquidity that has been freshly created by the lender. This isn’t money moving from one asset to another. This is money that is being created to be plowed into stocks. And when stocks sink, leverage becomes the big accelerator on the way down.

Markets tend to go down much faster than they go up, and I have a feeling that when this market crashes it is going to happen very, very rapidly.

The only reason stock prices ever got this high in the first place was due to unprecedented intervention by global central banks.  They created trillions of dollars out of thin air and plowed those funds directly into the financial markets, and of course that was going to inflate asset prices.

But now global central banks are putting on the brakes simultaneously, and this has got to be one of the greatest sell signals that we have ever witnessed in modern financial history.

Even Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen says that she is concerned about causing “a boom-bust condition in the economy”, and yet she insists that the Fed is going to continue to gradually raise rates anyway

Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen said the central bank is concerned with growth get out of hand and thus is committed to continuing to raise rates in a gradual manner.

“We don’t want to cause a boom-bust condition in the economy,” Yellen told Congress in her semiannual testimony Wednesday.

While Yellen did not specifically commit to a December rate hike, her comments indicated that her views have not changed with her desire for the central bank to continue normalizing policy after years of historically high accommodation.

I never thought that this stock market bubble would get this large.  We are way, way overdue for a financial correction, but right now we are in a party that never seems to end.

But end it will, and when that happens the pain that will be experienced on Wall Street will be unlike anything that we have ever seen before.

Michael Snyder is a Republican candidate for Congress in Idaho’s First Congressional District, and you can learn how you can get involved in the campaign on his official website. His new book entitled “Living A Life That Really Matters” is available in paperback and for the Kindle on Amazon.com.

Bank Of America Analyst: A ‘Flash Crash’ In Early 2018 ‘Seems Quite Likely’

Is the stock market bubble about to burst?  I know that I have been touching on this theme over and over and over again in recent weeks, but I can’t help it.  Red flags are popping up all over the place, and the last time so many respected experts were warning about an imminent stock market crash was just before the last major financial crisis.  Of course nobody can guarantee that global central banks won’t find a way to prolong this bubble just a little bit longer, but at this point they are all removing the artificial support from the markets in coordinated fashion.  Without that artificial support, it is inevitable that financial markets will experience a correction, and the only real question is what the exact timing will be.

For example, Bank of America’s Michael Hartnett originally thought that the coming correction would come a bit sooner, but now he is warning of a “flash crash” during the first half of 2018

Having predicted back in July that the “most dangerous moment for markets will come in 3 or 4 months“, i.e., now, BofA’s Michael Hartnett was – in retrospect – wrong (unless of course the S&P plunges in the next few days). However, having stuck to his underlying logic – which was as sound then as it is now – Hartnett has not given up on his “bad cop” forecast (not to be mistaken with the S&P target to be unveiled shortly by BofA’s equity team and which will probably be around 2,800), and in a note released overnight, the Chief Investment Strategist not only once again dares to time his market peak forecast, which he now thinks will take place in the first half of 2018, but goes so far as to predict that there will be a flash crash “a la 1987/1994/1998” in just a few months.

That certainly sounds quite ominous.

Just so that there is no confusion, let me give you his exact quote

“A flash crash (à la ’87/’94/’98) in H1 2018 seems quite likely, in our view, as the major sedative of volatility, the central banks, start to withdraw liquidity.”

Hartnett is making the same point that I have made repeatedly in recent weeks.  As the central banks withdraw the artificial support that has been propping up the markets ever since the last financial crisis, we will see if the markets can really maintain these absolutely ridiculous price levels on their own.

And we are not just talking about stock prices either.  In fact, Bill Blain believes that the coming crash will actually originate in the bond market

The 2008 crisis, which was about consumer debt, was triggered by mortgages. We still have consumer debt crisis problems ahead, warns Blain, adding the next financial crisis is likely to be in corporate debt.

“More immediately, the realization a crisis is coming feels very similar to June 2007 when the first mortgage-backed funds in the US started to wobble.” He said it explains why “we’re seeing the highly levered sector of the junk bond markets struggle, and companies correlated to struggling highly levered consumers (such as health and telecoms) also in trouble.”

Stock markets don’t matter, according to the strategist. “The truth is in bond markets. And that’s where I’m looking for the dam to break. The great crash of 2018 is going to start in the deeper, darker depths of the credit market,” he said.

Asset prices of all classes have been pushed to absolutely absurd levels by the central banks.

If it wasn’t for central bank manipulation, stock prices would have never gotten this high, and the bond market would have never been pushed to such irrational extremes.

And it isn’t just the Federal Reserve that has been intervening directly in U.S. markets.

For example, did you know that the Swiss National Bank is now the eighth largest public holder of U.S. stocks in the entire world?

According to John Mauldin, the Swiss central bank has poured 17 billion dollars into our stock market so far this year, and overall they now own approximately 80 billion dollars worth of our stocks…

The SNB owns about $80 billion in US stocks today (June, 2017) and a guesstimated $20 billion or so in European stocks (this guess comes from my friend Grant Williams, so I will go with it).

They have bought roughly $17 billion worth of US stocks so far this year. And they have no formula; they are just trying to manage their currency.

Think about this for a moment: They have about $10,000 in US stocks on their books for every man, woman, and child in Switzerland, not to mention who knows how much in other assorted assets, all in the effort to keep a lid on what is still one of the most expensive currencies in the world.

Switzerland is now the eighth-largest public holder of US stocks. And apparently they are concentrating on the largest of the large-cap stocks. The own 19 million shares of Apple (as of March 31).

They have made these purchases with money that they have literally created out of thin air.

If that sounds like “cheating” to you, that is because that is exactly what it is.

How in the world can stock prices possibly fall when global central banks are creating colossal mountains of money out of thin air and are using that money to buy stocks?

The central banks created this ridiculous stock market bubble, and they can also burst the bubble by pulling back on the level of artificial support, and that is precisely what we see happening right now.

So don’t buy into the hype.  All that really matters is what the central banks choose to do, and if they wanted to continue to pump enormous amounts of money into the financial markets they could continue to pump up this absurd financial bubble that we are currently witnessing.

But at the moment they appear to be pulling back, and that makes a very “interesting” 2018 for the financial markets much more likely.

Michael Snyder is a Republican candidate for Congress in Idaho’s First Congressional District, and you can learn how you can get involved in the campaign on his official website. His new book entitled “Living A Life That Really Matters” is available in paperback and for the Kindle on Amazon.com.

The Yield Curve Has Not Been This Flat In 10 Years, And Many Believe This Is A Sign That A Recession Is Imminent

Whenever we see an inverted yield curve, a recession almost always follows, and that is why many analysts are deeply concerned that the yield curve is currently the flattest that it has been in about a decade.  In other words, according to one of the most reliable indicators that we have, we are closer to another recession than we have been at any point since the last financial crisis.  And when you combine this with all of the other indicators that are screaming that a new crisis is on the horizon, a very troubling picture emerges.  Hopefully this will turn out to be a false alarm, but it is looking more and more like big economic trouble is coming in 2018.

The professionals on Wall Street take the yield curve very, very seriously, and the fact that it has gotten so flat has many of them extremely concerned.  The following comes from Business Insider

In the past, including before the Great Recession of 2007-2009, an inverted yield curve, where long-term interest rates fall below their short-term counterparts, has been a reliable predictor of recessions. The bond market is not there yet, but a sharp recent flattening of the yield curve has many in the markets watchful and concerned.

The US yield curve is now at its flattest in about 10 years — in other words, since around the time a major credit crunch of was gaining steam. The gap between two-year note yields and their 10-year counterparts has shrunk to just 0.63 percentage point, the narrowest since November 2007.

If the yield curve continues to get even flatter, it will spark widespread selling on Wall Street, and if it actually inverts that will set off total panic.

And with each passing day, even more of the “experts” are warning of imminent market trouble.  For example, just consider what Art Cashin told CNBC the other day…

Investors may want to take cover soon.

Art Cashin, UBS’ director of floor operations at the New York Stock Exchange, says a “split personality” is manifesting itself in the stock market, and it could hit Wall Street where it hurts at any moment.

“We’ve been setting record new highs, and often the breadth has been negative. We’ve had more declines than advances,” Cashin said Thursday on CNBC’s “Futures Now.”

When the financial markets finally do crash, it won’t exactly be a surprise.

In fact, we are way, way overdue for financial disaster.

Since the last financial crisis, we have been on the greatest debt binge in human history.  U.S. government debt has gone from $10 trillion to $20 trillion, corporate debt has doubled, and U.S. consumer debt has now risen to nearly $13 trillion.

Debt brings consumption from the future into the present, and so it increases short-term economic activity at the expense of long-term financial health.

But we simply cannot continue to grow debt much, much faster than the overall economy is growing.  I have never talked to anyone that believes that our debt binge is sustainable, and I doubt that I ever will.

The only reason why we have even gotten this far is because interest rates have been pushed to historically low levels.  If the average rate of interest on U.S. government debt even returned to the long-term average, we would be paying more than a trillion dollars a year in interest on the national debt and the game would be over.  Unprecedented intervention by the Federal Reserve and other global central banks has pushed interest rates way below the real rate of inflation, and that has bought us extra time.

But now the Federal Reserve and other global central banks are reversing course in unison, and global financial markets are already starting to decline.

The only way we can keep putting off the next financial crisis is if we continue our unprecedented debt binge and if global central banks continue to artificially prop up the financial markets.

Of course more debt and more central bank manipulation would just make the eventual financial disaster even worse, but that is what we are faced with at this point.

Most people simply don’t understand the gravity of the situation.  Nothing was ever fixed after the last financial crisis.  Instead, we went on the greatest debt binge that humanity has ever seen, and central banks started creating trillions of dollars out of thin air and recklessly injected that hot money into the financial system.

So now we are in the terminal phase of the largest financial bubble in human history, and there is no easy way out.

We basically have two choices.  We can have a horrific financial crisis now, or we can have one a little bit later.

Usually the choice is “later”, and that is why our leaders have been piling on the debt and global central banks have been recklessly creating money.

But it is inevitable that our bad choices will catch up with us eventually, and when that happens the pain that we are going to experience is going to be absolutely off the charts.

Michael Snyder is a Republican candidate for Congress in Idaho’s First Congressional District, and you can learn how you can get involved in the campaign on his official website. His new book entitled “Living A Life That Really Matters” is available in paperback and for the Kindle on Amazon.com.

The Last Time These 3 Ominous Signals Appeared Simultaneously Was Just Before The Last Financial Crisis

We have not seen a “leadership reversal”, a “Hindenburg Omen” and a “Titanic Syndrome signal” all appear simultaneously since just before the last financial crisis.  Does this mean that a stock market crash is imminent?  Not necessarily, but as I have been writing about quite a bit recently, the markets are certainly primed for one.  On Wednesday, the Dow fell another 138 points, and that represented the largest single day decline that we have seen since September.  Much more importantly, the downward trend that has been developing over the past week appears to be accelerating.  Just take a look at this chart.  Could we be right on the precipice of a major move to the downside?

John Hussman certainly seems to think so.  He is the one that pointed out that we have not seen this sort of a threefold sell signal since just before the last financial crisis.  The following comes from Business Insider

On Tuesday, the number of New York Stock Exchange companies setting new 52-week lows climbed above the number hitting new highs, representing a “leadership reversal” that Hussman says highlights the deterioration of market internals. Stocks also received confirmation of two bearish market-breadth readings known as the Hindenburg Omen and the Titanic Syndrome.

Hussman says these three readings haven’t occurred simultaneously since 2007, when the financial crisis was getting underway. It happened before that in 1999, right before the dot-com crash. That’s not very welcome company.

In fact, every time we have seen these three signals appear all at once there has been a market crash.

Will things be different this time?

We shall see.

If you are not familiar with a “Hindenburg Omen” or “the Titanic Syndrome”, here are a couple of pretty good concise definitions

  • Hindenburg Omen: A sell signal that occurs when NYSE new highs and new lows each exceed 2.8% of advances plus declines on the same day. On Tuesday, they totaled more than 3%.
  • Titanic Syndrome: A sell signal triggered when NYSE 52-week lows outnumber 52-week highs within seven days of an all-time high in equities. Stocks most recently hit a record on November 8.

You can see the other times in recent decades when these three signals have appeared simultaneously on this chart right here.

Once again, past patterns do not guarantee that the same thing will happen in the future, but if the market does crash it should not surprise anyone.

10 days ago, I published an article entitled “The Federal Reserve Has Just Given Financial Markets The Greatest Sell Signal In Modern American History”.  I pointed out that this stock market bubble was created by unprecedented central bank intervention, and now global central banks are reversing the process that created the bubble in unison.  There is no possible way that stock prices can stay at these absolutely absurd levels without central bank help, and if global central banks stay on the sidelines a market decline would seem to be virtually inevitable.

Meanwhile, we are also witnessing a very alarming flattening of the yield curve

Hogan said the market is nervous about the “flattening” difference between the 2-year yield and the 10-year Treasury yield, which have been moving closer together. The curve dipped to 68 basis points Tuesday, a 10-year low. Hogan said 70 has become a line in the sand, and when it falls below that traders get nervous.

A flattening curve can signal that the curve will invert, which historically means a recession is on the horizon.

If the yield curve does end up inverting, that will be a major red flag.

But the experts assure us that we have nothing to worry about.

For example, just check out what Karyn Cavanaugh of Voya Financial is saying

“Now that the earnings season is wrapped up, markets are more beholden to macro data. Weakness in oil prices and skepticism about the passing of the tax bill are also weighing on sentiment,” said Karyn Cavanaugh, senior market strategist at Voya Financial.

Despite the drop on the day, major indexes remain within 1.5 percentage points of record levels.

Any pullback at this stage should be viewed as an opportunity to buy, however. Earnings outlook for U.S. stocks, especially with the synchronized global growth environment is still good,” Cavanaugh said.

And U.S. consumers continue to pile on more debt as if there is no tomorrow.  This week we learned that U.S. household debt has almost reached the 13 trillion dollar threshold

Americans’ debt level rose during the third quarter, driven by an increase in mortgage loans, according to a Federal Reserve Bank of New York report published on Tuesday.

Total U.S. household debt was $12.96 trillion in the three months to September, up $116 billion from the prior three months. Debt levels were $605 billion higher than during the third quarter of 2016.

The fundamentals do not support this kind of irrational optimism.

What the fundamentals have been telling us is that in the absence of central bank support we should see the markets start to decline, and that it is quite likely that a painful recession is on the horizon.

As the next crisis erupts, the mainstream media is going to respond with shock and horror.  But the only real surprise is that this ridiculous bubble lasted for as long as it did.

The truth is that a market decline is way overdue.  If central banks had not pumped trillions upon trillions of dollars into the global financial system, there is no possible way that stock prices would have ever gotten so high, and now that the central banks are removing the artificial life support we shall see how the markets do on their own.

Michael Snyder is a Republican candidate for Congress in Idaho’s First Congressional District, and you can learn how you can get involved in the campaign on his official website. His new book entitled “Living A Life That Really Matters” is available in paperback and for the Kindle on Amazon.com.

This Is What A Pre-Crash Market Looks Like

The only other times in our history when stock prices have been this high relative to earnings, a horrifying stock market crash has always followed.  Will things be different for us this time?  We shall see, but without a doubt this is what a pre-crash market looks like.  This current bubble has been based on irrational euphoria that has been fueled by relentless central bank intervention, but now global central banks are removing the artificial life support in unison.  Meanwhile, the real economy continues to stumble along very unevenly.  This is the longest that the U.S. has ever gone without a year in which the economy grew by at least 3 percent, and many believe that the next recession is very close.  Stock prices cannot stay completely disconnected from economic reality forever, and once the bubble bursts the pain is going to be unlike anything that we have ever seen before.

If you think that these ridiculously absurd stock prices are sustainable, there is something that I would like for you to consider.  The only times in our history when the cyclically-adjusted return on stocks has been lower, a nightmarish stock market crash happened soon thereafter

The Nobel-Laureate, Robert Shiller, developed the cyclically-adjusted price/earnings ratio, the so-called CAPE, to assess whether stocks are likely to be over- or under-valued. It is possible to invert this measure to obtain a cyclically-adjusted earnings yield which allows one to measure prospective real returns. If one does this, the answer for the US is that the cyclically-adjusted return is now down to 3.4 percent. The only times it has been still lower were in 1929 and between 1997 and 2001, the two biggest stock market bubbles since 1880. We know now what happened then. Is it going to be different this time?

Since the market bottomed out in early 2009, the S&P 500 has been on a historic run.  If this rally had been based on a booming economy that would be one thing, but the truth is that the U.S. economy has not seen 3 percent yearly growth since the middle of the Bush administration.  Instead, this insane bubble has been almost entirely fueled by central bank manipulation, and now that manipulation is being dramatically scaled back.

And the guys on Wall Street know what is coming.  For example, Joe Zidle says that this bull market is now in “the ninth inning”

Joe Zidle, of Richard Bernstein Advisors, is arguing that the bull market has entered the bottom of the ninth inning.

“This is a late-cycle environment,” Zidle said on CNBC’s “Futures Now” recently.

“In innings terms, they’re not time dependent. An inning could be shorter or they could be longer. It just really depends,” the strategist said.

This bubble has lasted for much longer than it ever should have, and everyone understands that a day of reckoning is coming.

In fact, earlier today I came across an article on Zero Hedge that contained an absolutely remarkable quote from Eric Peters…

“We are investing as if 1987 will happen tomorrow, because it will,” said the CIO. “But we need to be long, or we’ll be out of business,” he explained, under pressure to perform. “So we construct option trades that are binary bets.” Which pay X profit if stocks rally, and cost Y if markets fall. No more and no less.

“What you do not want is a portfolio whose losses multiply depending on the severity of a decline.” That’s what most people have today. “At the last stage of the cycle, you want lots of binary bets. Many small wins. Before the big loss.”

Are we at the start or the end of the ‘Don’t know what I’m buying’ cycle?” asked the same CIO. “No one knows.” But we’re definitely within it.

“When their complex swaps drop 40%, and prime brokers demand more margin, investors will cry ‘It’s not possible!’ But anything is possible.” The prime brokers will hang up and stop them out.

In case you don’t remember, in 1987 we witnessed the largest one day percentage decline in U.S. stock market history.

When it finally happens, millions upon millions of ordinary Americans will be completely shocked, but most insiders know that the other shoe is going to drop at some point.

In particular, watch financial stock prices very closely.  Last month, Richard Bove issued a chilling warning about bank stocks…

One of Wall Street’s most vocal bank analysts is troubled by the rally in financials.

The Vertical Group’s Richard Bove warns that the overall market is just as dangerous as the late 1990s, and he cites momentum — not fundamentals — as what’s driving bank stocks to all-time highs.

“If we don’t get some event in the economy or in politics or in somewhere that is going to create more loan volume and better margins for the banks, then yes, they would come crashing down,” Bove said Monday on CNBC’s “Trading Nation.” “I think that the risk in these stocks is very high at the present time.”

It isn’t going to take much to set off an unstoppable chain of events.  Our financial markets are even more vulnerable than they were in 2008, and the right trigger could unleash a crisis unlike anything we have ever seen in modern American history.

Unfortunately, most Americans keep getting fooled by the artificial boom and bust cycles that the central banks create.  Right now most people seem to have been lulled into a false sense of security, and they truly believe that everything is going to be okay.

But every time before when the market has looked like this a crash has always followed, and this time will be no exception.

Michael Snyder is a Republican candidate for Congress in Idaho’s First Congressional District, and you can learn how you can get involved in the campaign on his official website. His new book entitled “Living A Life That Really Matters” is available in paperback and for the Kindle on Amazon.com.

The Stock Market Has Gone Up More Than 5 Trillion Dollars Since Donald Trump Was Elected

One year ago we witnessed the greatest miracle in political history, and since that time we have also witnessed one of the greatest miracles in financial history.  On November 8th, 2016 the Dow closed at 18,332.74. On Wednesday, it closed at 23,563.36.  U.S. stocks have increased in value by about 5.4 trillion dollars since Donald Trump was elected, and I don’t think that we have seen anything quite like this ever before.  So does Donald Trump deserve the credit for this unprecedented stock market run?  Many experts are at least giving him part of the credit

Greg Valliere, chief global strategist at Horizon Investments, says outgoing Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen deserves “much of the credit” because the Fed’s policy of low interest rates has helped maintain a good economy and “favors stocks over other investments.”

But Trump, he adds, “gets some credit for establishing a pro-business climate in Washington.” Trump also gets kudos for rolling back business regulations and pushing for a big tax cut for U.S. corporations, which investors say will boost corporate profitability.

Without a doubt, a Trump victory was a good thing for the financial markets, but politicians need to be careful not to take too much credit for soaring stock prices.

Because if they take credit when stocks go up, then they also have to be willing to take the blame when they go down.

The primary reason why stock prices have gone up so much over the past several years is due to unprecedented intervention by global central banks.  They have literally pumped trillions of dollars that they have created out of thin air into the financial markets, and of course that was going to drive up asset prices.

But now global central banks are reversing course in unison, and we will see if financial markets around the world can maintain these dizzying levels without artificial support.

Because the truth is that whenever price/earnings ratios have ever gotten this high throughout history, a horrifying stock market crash has always followed.  There is no way that stock prices can stay at these levels without central bank support, and the trillions of dollars in paper gains that we have seen up to now can potentially be wiped out very rapidly.

Just look at a company like Snapchat.  This is a company that is supposedly worth 15.4 billion dollars at the moment, and yet it is bleeding hundreds of millions of dollars a quarter.  The following numbers come from Wolf Richter

Snap Inc., the parent company of Snapchat, reported late Tuesday that its revenues in the third quarter rose 62% from a year ago, to $208 million, while its net loss more than tripled to $443 million. How? It wasn’t easy, but here’s how they did it:

  • Cost of revenues, $211 million, exceeds revenues, a troublesome indicator. Most of it is what Snap pays Alphabet for hosting its content in the Google Cloud.
  • Research and development expenses, $239 million, also exceed revenues.
  • Sales and marketing expenses, $102 million, to push those Snapchat Spectacles? More on those in a moment.
  • General and administrative expenses: $118 million

Total expenses of $670 million, against revenues of $208 million. That’s what I call a business model.

I want to be very clear about what I am going to say next.

Snapchat’s business model is terribly broken, and this is a company that is going to zero.

Ultimately, those that hold Snapchat stock to the very end will lose everything.  Instead of 15 billion dollars, this is a company that won’t be worth 15 cents.

Speaking of going to zero, Sears just announced that they are getting rid of up to 140 more stores.  We have already set an all-time record for retail store closings in 2018, and the “retail apocalypse” that we are witnessing is only going to continue to accelerate.

But at least the stock market continues to set new record highs, right?

Don’t be fooled by the headlines.  The artificial stock market bubble is living on borrowed time, and meanwhile the “real economy” continues to struggle.

When the stock market finally crashes, it will not be Donald Trump’s fault.

Let me say that again.

When the stock market finally crashes, it will not be Donald Trump’s fault.

The Federal Reserve and other global central banks created this artificial bubble, and they will be to blame for the carnage that is caused when it bursts.

And as the next great financial crisis unfolds, my hope is that people will finally be sick enough of these “boom and bust cycles” that we will be able to get rid of the Federal Reserve for good.

We need people to understand that the design of our financial system is fundamentally flawed, because if we never treat the root cause of our problems we will always be chasing symptoms.

There is a better way, and my hope is that in the aftermath of the next crisis we can start to get there.

Michael Snyder is a Republican candidate for Congress in Idaho’s First Congressional District, and you can learn how you can get involved in the campaign on his official website. His new book entitled “Living A Life That Really Matters” is available in paperback and for the Kindle on Amazon.com.

The Federal Reserve Has Just Given Financial Markets The Greatest Sell Signal In Modern American History

Why have stock prices risen so dramatically since the last financial crisis?  There are certainly many factors involved, but the primary one is the fact that the Federal Reserve has been creating trillions of dollars out of thin air and has been injecting all of that hot money into the financial markets.  But now the Federal Reserve is starting to reverse course, and this has got to be the greatest sell signal for financial markets in modern American history.  Without the artificial support of the Federal Reserve and other global central banks, there is no possible way that the massively inflated asset prices that we are witnessing right now can continue.

The chart below comes from Sven Henrich, and it does a great job of demonstrating the relationship between the Fed’s quantitative easing program and the rise in stock prices.  During the last financial crisis the Fed began to dramatically increase the size of our money supply, and they kept on doing it all the way through the end of October 2017…

Unfortunately for stock traders, the Federal Reserve has now decided to change course, and that means that the process that has created these ridiculous stock prices is beginning to go in reverse.  In fact, according to Wolf Richter this reversal just started to go into motion within the past few days…

On October 31, $8.5 billion of Treasuries that the Fed had been holding matured. If the Fed stuck to its announcement, it would have reinvested $2.5 billion and let $6 billion (the cap for the month of October) “roll off.” The amount of Treasuries on the balance sheet should then have decreased by $6 billion.

And that’s what happened. This chart of the Fed’s Treasury holdings shows that the balance dropped by $5.9 billion, from an all-time record 2,465.7 billion on October 25 to $2,459.8 billion on November 1, the lowest since April 15, 2015

Does anyone out there actually believe that the immensely bloated balance sheet that the Fed has accumulated can be unwound without having an enormous negative impact on Wall Street?

And even more frightening is the fact that central banks all over the planet appear to be acting in coordinated fashion.  I really like how Brandon Smith made this point…

An observant person, however, might have noticed that central banks around the world seem to be acting in a coordinated fashion to remove stimulus support from markets and raise interest rates, cutting off supply lines of easy money that have long been a crutch for our crippled economy.  The Bank of England raised rates this past week, as the Federal Reserve indicated yet another rate hike in December.  The Europeans Central Bank continues to prep the public for coming rate hikes, while the Bank of Japan has assured the public that “inflation” expectations have been met and no new stimulus is necessary.  If all of this appears coordinated, that is because it is.

When interest rates are low and central banks are injecting money directly into the financial system, that tends to promote economic activity.

But when they raise interest rates and pull money out of the financial system, the exact opposite is true.

At this point Americans are more optimistic about the stock market than they have ever been before, and it is at this exact moment that the Fed is pulling the financial markets off of life support.

And it isn’t as if the “real economy” ever recovered in any meaningful way.  Most American families are still living paycheck to paycheck, and a new economic crisis would push millions more out of the middle class.

For a long time I have been warning that the only reason why stock prices ever got this high was because of the central banks, and I have also been warning that they could crash the markets if they wanted to do so.

Hopefully there is nothing nefarious going on, but I do find it very strange that all of the major global central banks are moving toward tightening at the exact same time.

If things go south for the global economy in the months ahead, we will know exactly where to point the blame…

Michael Snyder is a Republican candidate for Congress in Idaho’s First Congressional District, and you can learn how you can get involved in the campaign on his official website. His new book entitled “Living A Life That Really Matters” is available in paperback and for the Kindle on Amazon.com.

Helicopter Money: Global Central Banks Consider Distributing Money Directly To The People

Helicopters 2 - Public DomainShould central banks create money out of thin air and give it directly to governments and average citizens?  If you can believe it, this is now under serious consideration.  Since 2008, global central banks have cut interest rates 637 times, they have injected 12.3 trillion dollars into the global financial system through various quantitative easing programs, and we have seen an explosion of government debt unlike anything we have ever witnessed before.  But despite these unprecedented measures, the global economy is still deeply struggling.  This is particularly true in Japan, in South America, and in Europe.  In fact, there are 16 countries in Europe that are experiencing deflation right now.  In a desperate attempt to spur economic activity, central banks in Europe and in Japan are playing around with negative interest rates, and so far they seem to only have had a limited effect.

So as they rapidly run out of ammunition, global central bankers are now openly discussing something that might sound kind of crazy.  According to the Telegraph, central banks are becoming increasingly open to employing a tactic known as “helicopter money”…

Faced with political intransigence, central bankers are openly talking about the previously unthinkable: “helicopter money”.

A catch-all term, helicopter drops describe the process by which central banks can create money to transfer to the public or private sector to stimulate economic activity and spending.

Long considered one of the last policymaking taboos, debate around the merits of helicopter money has gained traction in recent weeks.

Do you understand what is being said there?

The idea is basically this – central banks would create money out of thin air and would just give it to national governments or ordinary citizens.

So who would decide who gets the money?

Well, they would.

If you are anything like me, this sounds very much like Pandora’s Box being opened.

But this just shows how much of a panic there is among central bankers right now.  They know that we are plunging into a new global economic crisis, and they are desperate to find something that will stop it.  And if that means printing giant gobs of money and dropping it from helicopters over the countryside, well then that is precisely what they are going to do.

In fact, the chief economist at the European Central Bank is quite adamant about the fact that the ECB can print money out of thin air and “distribute it to people” when the situation calls for it…

ECB chief Mario Draghi has refused to rule out the prospect, saying only that the bank had not yet “discussed” such matters due to their legal and accounting complexity. This week, his chief economist Peter Praet went further in hinting that helicopter drops were part of the ECB’s toolbox.

All central banks can do it“, said Praet. “You can issue currency and you distribute it to people. The question is, if and when is it opportune to make recourse to that sort of instrument“.

Apparently memories of the Weimar Republic must have faded over in Europe, because this sounds very much like what they tried to do.  I don’t know why anyone would ever want to risk going down that road again.

Here in the United States, the Federal Reserve is not openly talking about “helicopter money” just yet, but that is only because the stock market is doing okay for the moment.

Most Americans don’t realize this, but the primary reason why stocks are doing better in the U.S. than in the rest of the world is because of stock buybacks.  According to Wolf Richter, corporations spent more than half a trillion dollars buying back their own stocks over the past 12 months…

During the November-January period, 378 of the S&P 500 companies bought back their own shares, according to FactSet. Total buybacks in the quarter rose 5.2% from a year ago, to $136.6 billion. Over the trailing 12 months (TTM), buybacks totaled $568.9 billion.

When corporations buy back their own stocks, that means that they are slowly liquidating themselves.  Instead of pouring money into new good ideas, they are just returning money to investors.  This is not how a healthy economy should work.

But corporate executives love stock buybacks, because it increases the value of their stock options.  And big investors love them too, because they love to see the value of their stock holdings rise.

So we will continue to see big corporations cannibalize themselves, but there are a couple of reasons why this is starting to slow down.

Number one, corporate profits are starting to fall steadily as the economy slows down, so there will be less income to plow into these stock buybacks.

Number two, many corporations have used debt to fund buybacks, but now it is getting tougher for corporations to get new funding as corporate defaults rise.

As stock buybacks slow, this is going to put downward pressure on the market, and we will eventually catch up with the rest of the planet.  At this point, many experts are still calling for stocks to fall by another 40, 50 or 60 percent from current levels.  For example, the following comes from John Hussman

From a long-term investment standpoint, the stock market remains obscenely overvalued, with the most historically-reliable measures we identify presently consistent with zero 10-12 year S&P 500 nominal total returns, and negative expected real returns on both horizons.

From a cyclical standpoint, I continue to expect that the completion of the current market cycle will likely take the S&P 500 down by about 40-55% from present levels; an outcome that would not be an outlier or worst-case scenario, but instead a rather run-of-the-mill cycle completion from present valuations. If you are a historically-informed investor who is optimistic enough to reject the idea that the financial markets are forever doomed to extreme valuations and dismal long-term returns, you should be rooting for this cycle to be completed. If you are a passive investor, you should at least align your current exposure with your investment horizon and your tolerance for cyclical risk, which we expect to be similar to what we anticipated in 2000-2002 and 2007-2009.

When the S&P 500 does fall that much eventually, the Federal Reserve will respond with emergency measures.

So yes, we may see “helicopter money” employed in Japan and in Europe first, but we will see it here someday too.

I know that a lot of people out there are feeling pretty good about things for the moment because U.S. stocks have rebounded quite a bit lately.  But remember, the fundamental economic numbers just continue to get even worse.  Just today we learned that existing home sales in the United States had fallen by the most in six years.  That is definitely not a sign that things are “getting better”, and I keep trying to warn people that tumultuous times are dead ahead.

And if global central bankers did not agree with me, they would not be talking about the need for “helicopter money” and other emergency measures.

The Federal Reserve Just Made Another Huge Mistake

The Great Seal Of The United States - A Symbol Of Your Enslavement - Photo by IpankoninAs stocks continue to crash, you can blame the Federal Reserve, because the Fed is more responsible for creating the current financial bubble that we are living in than anyone else.  When the Federal Reserve pushed interest rates all the way to the floor and injected lots of hot money into the financial markets during their quantitative easing programs, this pushed stock prices to wildly artificial levels.  The only way that it would have been possible to keep stock prices at those wildly artificial levels would have been to keep interest rates ultra-low and to keep recklessly creating lots of new money.  But now the Federal Reserve has ended quantitative easing and has embarked on a program of very slowly raising interest rates.  This is going to have very severe consequences for the markets, but Janet Yellen doesn’t seem to care.

There is a reason why the financial world hangs on every single word that is issued by the Fed.  That is because the massively inflated stock prices that we see today were a creation of the Fed and are completely dependent on the Fed for their continued existence.

Right now, stock prices are still 30 to 40 percent above what the economic fundamentals say that they should be based on historical averages.  And if we are now plunging into a very deep recession as I contend, stock prices should probably fall by a total of more than 50 percent from where they are now.

The only way that stock prices could have ever gotten this disconnected from economic reality is with the help of the Federal Reserve.  And since the U.S. dollar is the primary reserve currency of the entire planet, the actions of the Fed over the past few years have created stock market bubbles all over the globe.

But the only way to keep the party going is to keep the hot money flowing.  Unfortunately for investors, Janet Yellen and her friends at the Fed have chosen to go the other direction.  Not only has quantitative easing ended, but the Fed has also decided to slowly raise interest rates.  The Fed left rates unchanged on Wednesday, but we were told that we are probably still on schedule for another rate hike in March.

So how did the markets respond to the Fed?

Well, after attempting to go green for much of the day, the Dow started plunging very rapidly and ended up down 222 points.

The markets understand the reality of what they are now facing.  They know that stock prices are artificially high and that if the Fed keeps tightening that it is inevitable that they will fall back to earth.

In a true free market system, stock prices would be far, far lower than they are right now.  Everyone knows this – including Jim Cramer.  Just check out what he told CNBC viewers earlier today…

Jim Cramer was tempted to resurface his “they know nothing” rant after hearing the Fed speak on Wednesday. He was hoping that a few boxes on his market bottom checklist might be checked off, but it seems that the bear market has not yet run its course.

The Fed’s wishy-washy statement on interest rates today left stocks sinking back into oblivion after a nice rally yesterday,” the “Mad Money” host said.

Without artificial help from the Fed, stocks will most definitely continue to sink into oblivion.

That is because these current stock prices are not based on anything real.

And so as this new financial crisis continues to unfold, the magnitude of the crash is going to be much worse than it otherwise would have been.

It has often been said that the higher you go the farther you have to fall.  Because the Federal Reserve has pumped up stock prices to ridiculously high levels, that just means that the pain on the way down is going to be that much worse.

It is also important to remember that stocks tend to fall much more rapidly than they rise.  And when we see a giant crash in the financial markets, that creates a tremendous amount of fear and panic.  The last time there was great fear and panic for an extended period of time was during the crisis of 2008 and 2009, and this created a tremendous credit crunch.

During a credit crunch, financial institutions because very hesitant to lend to one another or to anyone else.  And since our economy is extremely dependent on the flow of credit, economic activity slows down dramatically.

As this current financial crisis escalates, you are going to notice certain things begin to happen.  If you own a business or you work at a business, you may start to notice that fewer people are coming in, and those people that do come in are going have less money to spend.

As economic activity slows, employers will be forced to lay off workers, and many businesses will shut down completely.  And since 63 percent of all Americans are living paycheck to paycheck, many will suddenly find themselves unable to meet their monthly expenses.  Foreclosures will skyrocket, and large numbers of people will go from living a comfortable middle class lifestyle to being essentially out on the street very, very rapidly.

At this point, many experts believe that the economic outlook for the coming months is quite grim.  For example, just consider what Marc Faber is saying

It won’t come as a surprise to market watchers that “Dr. Doom” Marc Faber isn’t getting any more cheerful.

But the noted bear at least found a sense of humor on Wednesday into which he could channel his bleakness.

The publisher of the “Gloom, Boom & Doom Report” told attendees at the annual “Inside ETFs” conference that the medium-term economic outlook has become “so depressing” that he may as well fill a newly installed pool with beer instead of water.

If the Federal Reserve had left interest rates at more reasonable levels and had never done any quantitative easing, we would have been forced to address our fundamental economic problems more honestly and stock prices would be far, far lower today.

But now that the Fed has created this giant artificial financial bubble, the coming crash is going to be much worse than it otherwise would have been.  And the tremendous amount of panic that this crash will cause will paralyze much of the economy and will ultimately lead to a far deeper economic downturn than we witnessed last time around.

Once the Fed started wildly injecting money into the system, they had no other choice but to keep on doing it.

By removing the artificial support that they had been giving to the financial markets, they are making a huge mistake, and they are setting the stage for an economic tragedy that will affect the lives of every man, woman and child in America.

The Central Banks Are Losing Control Of The Financial Markets

Dollars And Euros - Public DomainEvery great con game eventually comes to an end.  For years, global central banks have been manipulating the financial marketplace with their monetary voodoo.  Somehow, they have convinced investors around the world to invest tens of trillions of dollars into bonds that provide a return that is way under the real rate of inflation.  For quite a long time I have been insisting that this is highly irrational.  Why would any rational investor want to put money into investments that will make them poorer on a purchasing power basis in the long run?  And when any central bank initiates a policy of “quantitative easing”, any rational investor should immediately start demanding a higher rate of return on the bonds of that nation.  Creating money out of thin air and pumping into the financial system devalues all existing money and creates inflation.  Therefore, rational investors should respond by driving interest rates up.  Instead, central banks told everyone that interest rates would be forced down, and that is precisely what happened.  But now things have shifted.  Investors are starting to behave more rationally and the central banks are starting to lose control of the financial markets, and that is a very bad sign for the rest of 2015.

And of course it isn’t just bond yields that are out of control.  No matter how hard they try, financial authorities in Europe can’t seem to fix the problems in Greece, and the problems in Italy, Spain, Portugal and France just continue to escalate as well.  This week, Greece became the very first nation to miss a payment to the IMF since the 1980s.  We’ll discuss that some more in a moment.

Over in Asia, stocks are fluctuating very wildly.  The Shanghai Composite Index plunged by 5.4 percent on Thursday before regaining all of those losses and actually closing with a gain of 0.8 percent.  When we see this kind of extreme volatility, it is a very bad sign.  It is during times of extreme volatility that markets crash.

Remember, stocks generally tend to go up during calm markets, and they generally tend to go down during choppy markets.  So most investors do not want to see lots of volatility.  Unfortunately, that is precisely what we are witnessing all over the world right now.  The following comes from the Wall Street Journal

Volatility over the last days has been breathtaking, especially in bond markets,” said Wouter Sturkenboom, senior investment strategist at Russell Investments. He said that it rippled through equity and currency markets, which overreacted.

The yield on the benchmark German 10-year bond touched 0.99%, its highest level since September, before erasing the day’s rise and falling back to 0.84%. The 10-year U.S. Treasury yield, which hit a fresh 2015 high of 2.42% earlier Thursday, recently fell back to 2.33%. Yields rise as prices fall.

Sometimes when bond yields go up, it is because investors are taking money out of bonds and putting it into stocks because they are feeling really good about where the stock market is heading.  This is not one of those times.  As Peter Tchir has noted, the huge moves in the bond market that we are now seeing are the result of “sheer panic in the market”

In a morning note before the open, Brean Capital’s Peter Tchir wrote: “It is time to reduce US equity holdings for the near term and look for a 3% to 5% move lower. The Treasury weakness is NOT a ‘risk on’ trade it is a ‘risk off’ trade, where low yields are viewed as a risk asset and not a safe haven.” And Tom di Galoma, head of fixed-income rates and credit at ED&F Man Capital Markets, told Bloomberg, “This is sheer panic in the market from the standpoint of what’s been happening in Europe … Most of Wall Street is guarded here as far as taking on new positions.”

But this wasn’t supposed to happen.

After watching the Federal Reserve be able to successfully use quantitative easing to drive down interest rates, the European Central Bank decided to try the same thing.  Unfortunately for them, investors are starting to behave more rationally.  The central banks are starting to lose control of the financial markets, and bond yields are soaring.  I think that Peter Boockvar summarized where we are currently at very well when he stated the following…

I’ve said this before but I’m sorry, I need to say it again. What we are witnessing in global markets is the inherent contradiction writ large that is modern day monetary policy where dangerously ZIRP, NIRP and QE are considered conventional policies. The contradiction is simply this: the desire for higher inflation if fulfilled will result in higher interest rates that central banks are trying so hard and desperately to suppress.

Outside of the short end of the curve, markets will always win for better or worse and that is clearly evident now. The ECB is getting their first taste of the market talking back and in quite the violent way. In the US, the bond market is watching the Fed drag its feet (its never-ending) with wanting to raise interest rates and finally said enough is enough. The US Treasury market is tightening for them. Since mid April, the 5 yr note yield is higher by 40 bps, the 10 yr is up by 55 bps and the 30 yr yield is up by 65 bps.

And if global investors continue to move in a rational direction, this is just the beginning.  Bond yields all over the planet should be much, much higher than they are right now.  What that means is that bond prices potentially have a tremendous amount of room to go down.

One thing that could accelerate the global bond crash is the crisis in Greece. Negotiations between the Greeks and their creditors have been dragging on for four months, and no agreement has been reached.  Now, Greece has missed the loan payment that was due to the IMF on June 5th, and it is asking the IMF to bundle all of the payments that are due this month into one giant payment at the end of June

Greece has asked to bundle its four debt payments to the International Monetary Fund that fall due in June so that it can pay them in one batch at the end of the month, Greek newspaper Kathimerini reported on Thursday.

The request is expected to be approved by the IMF, the newspaper said. That would mean Greece does not have to pay the first tranche of 300 million euros that falls due on Friday.

Greece faces a total bill of 1.5 billion euros owed to the IMF over four installments this month.

Of course that payment will not be made either if a deal does not happen by then.  And with each passing day, a deal seems less and less likely.  At this point, the package of “economic reforms” that the creditors are demanding from Greece is completely unacceptable to Syriza.  The following comes from an article in the Guardian

Fresh from talks in Brussels, Tsipras faced outrage on Thursday from highly skeptical members of his own Syriza party. A five-page ultimatum from creditors, presented by the European commission president, Jean-Claude Juncker, was variously described as shocking, provocative, disgraceful and dishonourable.

It will never pass,” said Greece’s deputy social security minister, Dimitris Stratoulis. “If they don’t back down, the country won’t be lost … there are alternatives that would cost less than our signing a disgraceful and dishonourable agreement.”

Ultimately, I don’t believe that we are going to see an agreement.

Why?

Well, I tend to agree with this bit of analysis from Andrew Lilico

The Eurozone does not want to make any compromise with the current Greek government because (a) they don’t believe they need to because Greek threats to leave the euro are empty both because internal polling suggests Greeks don’t want to leave and because if they did leave that doesn’t really constitute any threat to the euro; (b) because they (particularly perhaps Angela Merkel) believe that under enough pressure the Greek government might collapse and be replaced by a more cooperative government, as has happened repeatedly before in the Eurozone crisis including in Italy and Greece itself; and (c) because any deal with Greece that is seen to involve or be presentable as any victory for the Greek government would threaten the political positions of governments in several Eurozone states including Spain, Portugal, Italy, Finland and perhaps even the Netherlands and Germany.

Furthermore, it’s not clear to me that the Eurozone creditors at this stage would have much interest in any deal based upon promises, regardless of how much the Greek had verbally surrendered.  Things have gone too far now for mere words to work.  They would need to see the Greeks deliver actions — tangible economic reforms and tangible, credible primary surplus targets and a sustainable change in the long-term political mood within Greece that meant other Eurozone states might eventually get their money back.  That is almost certainly not doable at all with the current Greek government.  The only deal possible would be with some replacement Greek government that had come in precisely on the basis that it did want to do a deal and did want to pay the creditors back.

On the Syriza side, I see no more appetite for a deal.  They believe that austerity has been ruinous for the lives of Greeks and that decades more austerity would mean decades more Greek economic misery.  From their point of view, default or even exit from the euro, even if economically painful in the short term, would be better than continuing with austerity now.

You can read the rest of his excellent article right here.

Without a deal, the value of the euro is going to absolutely plummet and bond yields over in Europe will go through the roof.  I am fully convinced that this is the beginning of the end for the eurozone as it is currently constituted, and that we stand on the verge of a great European financial crisis.

And of course the financial crisis that is coming won’t just be in Europe.  The global financial system is more interconnected than ever, and there are tens of trillions of dollars in derivatives that are tied to foreign exchange rates and 505 trillion dollars in derivatives that are tied to interest rates.  When this giant house of cards collapses, the central banks won’t be able to stop it.

In the end, could we eventually see the entire central banking system itself totally collapse?

That is what Phoenix Capital Research believes is about to happen…

Last year (2014) will likely go down in history as the “beginning of the end” for the current global Central Banking system.

What will follow will be a gradual unfolding of the next crisis and very likely the collapse of the Central Banking system as we know it.

However, this process will not be fast by any means.

Central Banks and the political elite will fight tooth and nail to maintain the status quo, even if this means breaking the law (freezing bank accounts or funds to stop withdrawals) or closing down the markets (the Dow was closed for four and a half months during World War 1).

There will be Crashes and sharp drops in asset prices (20%-30%) here and there. However, history has shown us that when a financial system goes down, the overall process takes take several years, if not longer.

We stand at the precipice of the greatest economic transition that any of us have ever seen.

Even though things may seem very “normal” to most people right now, the truth is that the global financial system is fundamentally flawed, and cracks in the system are starting to appear all over the place.

When this system does collapse, it will take most people entirely by surprise.

But it shouldn’t.

All con games eventually fall apart in the end, and we are about to learn that lesson the hard way.

Finca Bayano

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