Once upon a time, “Black Friday” was a major event in the United States. Yes, the mainstream media is still endlessly hyping it up, and major retailers are still rolling out their “incredible deals”, but it appears that most Americans are tiring of this particular gimmick. Or perhaps it is just that U.S. consumers don’t have as much discretionary income as they once did. As you will see below, retail traffic this Black Friday was “much, much slower” than anticipated. And expectations were not great anyway – the number of shoppers was down last year, and it was being projected that there would be another decline in 2015. Yes, there were still a few fights on Black Friday, but mostly the “holiday” was marked by giant piles of unsold merchandise sitting around collecting dust. The inventory to sales ratio in the U.S. has surged to levels not seen since the last recession, and so the truth is that most retailers were hoping for much more contrived chaos on Black Friday than we actually witnessed.
Personally, I wish that this whole phenomenon would just simply disappear, because it definitely doesn’t bring out the best in the American people.
Who wants to see fellow citizens trampling one another and fighting with one another for cheaply made electronics that aren’t even manufactured in this country anyway?
Black Friday was always a disgusting spectacle, and now it appear to be fading.
Let’s start with Thanksgiving sales. More stores than ever are opening on Thanksgiving Day itself, and according to SunTrust that was a total “bust” this year…
We believe Thanksgiving shopping was a bust. We note that traffic seemed below last year both on- and off-mall. Members of our team who went to the malls first had no problem finding parking or navigating stores. Crowds were tame and, with some exceptions there seemed to be more browsing than buying and less items purchased. We heard many people discussing that deals were not that compelling compared to years past. Interestingly, many retailers closed at midnight- which contributed to a sharp decline in traffic shortly thereafter. Off-mall, members of our team visited Walmart and Target for the openings and had no problem finding parking. Customers at both were focused on electronics. Lines, even early, were about half of what they were last year and quickly dissipated. The only off-mall big box retailer we visited with consistently long lines and customers making multiple item purchases was Kohl’s — where buys were focused on deals not available online.
Once Black Friday rolled around, things didn’t get any better. For example, one analyst said that traffic at the Mall of America didn’t “look much busier than an average Saturday morning”…
At the Mall of America in Minneapolis, the largest in the country, Edward Yruma, managing director at KeyBanc Capital Markets, said he’s seeing less traffic than years past as well. He was there from 6 p.m. to 1 a.m. last night and arrived again at 8 a.m. this morning.
“It doesn’t look much busier than an average Saturday morning,” said Yruma.
And in North Carolina, retailers saw “much less traffic than was anticipated”…
Jeff Simpson, a director at Deloitte Consulting LLP’s retail practice, surveyed shopping centers in North Carolina and saw smaller crowds than expected for Black Friday.
“Across the board, much less traffic than was anticipated,” he said. “Much, much slower.”
Of course this wasn’t much of a surprise. A global recession has already begun, and investors were dumping retail stocks ahead of Thanksgiving in anticipation of a horrible shopping season. The following comes from the New York Post…
Wall Street, fearful that consumers are running out of cash heading into the crucial Christmas retail season, are selling off retail stocks and everything else sensitive to consumer spending.
So why are consumers running out of cash?
Well, it is because the middle class is dying, poverty in America is exploding and the cost of living continues to soar.
Just look at what is happening to healthcare costs. It turns out that employees that work for medium and large companies in the U.S. are now paying more than double for health insurance than they were a decade ago…
Employees of midsize and large companies in 2015 paid an average of $4,700 for their health insurance, up from $2,001 in 2005, according to recent analysis from Aon Hewitt.
For much more on how the cost of living is absolutely crippling families all over this nation, please see my previous article entitled “Inflation Is Crushing The Middle Class“.
Meanwhile, things continue to get worse around the rest of the globe as well. The number of unemployed job seekers just hit a brand new record high in France, Puerto Rico is on the verge of a major debt default, and on Friday there was an absolutely massive stock market decline in China…
In China, equities saw a significant sell off as a result of investigations by the Chinese securities regulatory body into several brokerages for breaking regulations. The Shanghai Composite closed 199 points, or 5.48 percent, lower; the Shenzhen Composite closed 6.1 percent lower, the Chinext was down 6.1 percent, and the CSI300 Index saw a decline of 5.38 percent.
Chinese brokerages took major hits, with Citic Securities, Founder Securities, and China Merchants closing 10.1, 10, and 9.98 percent lower after news broke that the China Securities Regulatory Commission (CSRC) has launched investigations into these firms to weed out short selling and speculation.
I hope that you enjoyed this Thanksgiving as much as you possibly could, because all of the underlying economic numbers are absolutely screaming that hard times are ahead.
This year, Americans are going to spend an average of $130 on “self-gifting” and more than $800 on the holiday season overall. People are spending money that they don’t have on things that they don’t need, and meanwhile very few of us are actively preparing for what promises to be a very challenging 2016.
So yes, let us enjoy the time that we have with our families, but let us also not be completely oblivious to the huge changes that are literally happening all around us.
The 7th largest economy on the entire planet, Brazil, has been gripped by a horrifying recession, as has much of the rest of South America. But it isn’t just South America that is experiencing a very serious economic downturn. We have just learned that Japan (the third largest economy in the world) has lapsed into recession. So has Canada. So has Russia. The dominoes are starting to fall, and it looks like the global economic crisis that has already started is going to accelerate as we head into the end of the year. At this point, global trade is already down about 8.4 percent for the year, and last week the Baltic Dry Shipping Index plummeted to a brand new all-time record low. Unfortunately for all of us, the Federal Reserve is about to do something that will make this global economic slowdown even worse.
Throughout 2015, the U.S. dollar has been getting stronger. That sounds like good news, but the truth is that it is not. When the last financial crisis ended, emerging markets went on a debt binge unlike anything we have ever seen before. But much of that debt was denominated in U.S. dollars, and now this is creating a massive problem. As the U.S. dollar has risen, the prices that many of these emerging markets are getting for the commodities that they export have been declining. Meanwhile, it is taking much more of their own local currencies to pay back and service all of the debts that they have accumulated. Similar conditions contributed to the Latin American debt crisis of the 1980s, the Asian currency crisis of the 1990s and the global financial crisis of 2008 and 2009.
Many Americans may be wondering when “the next economic crisis” will arrive, but nobody in Brazil is asking that question. Thanks to the rising U.S. dollar, Brazil has already plunged into a very deep recession…
As Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff combats a slumping economy and corruption accusations, the country’s inflation surged above 10 percent while unemployment jumped to 7.9 percent, according to the latest official data. The dour state of affairs has Barclays forecasting a 4 percent economic contraction this year, followed by 3.3 percent shrinkage next year, the investment bank said in a research note last week.
The political and economic turmoil has recently driven the real, Brazil’s currency, to multiyear lows, a factor helping to stoke price pressures.
And as I mentioned above, Brazil is far from alone. This is something that is happening all over the planet, and the process appears to be accelerating. One of the places where this often first shows up is in the trade numbers. The following comes from an article that was just posted by Zero Hedge…
“This market is looking like a disaster and the rates are a reflection of that,” warns one of the world’s largest shipbrokers, but while The Baltic Dry Freight Index gets all the headlines – having collapsed to all-time record lows this week – it is the spefics below that headline that are truly terrifying. At a time of typical seasonal strength for freight and thus global trade around the world, Reuters reports that spot rates for transporting containers from Asia to Northern Europe have crashed a stunning 70% in the last 3 weeks alone. This almost unprecedented divergence from seasonality has only occurred at this scale once before… 2008! “It is looking scary for the market and it doesn’t look like there is going to be any life in the market in the near term.”
Many “experts” seem mystified by all of this, but the explanation is very simple.
For years, global economic growth was fueled by cheap U.S. dollars. But since the end of QE, the U.S. dollar has been surging, and according to Bloomberg it just hit a 12 year high…
The dollar traded near a seven-month high against the euro before the release of minutes of the Federal Reserve’s October meeting, when policy makers signaled the potential for an interest-rate increase this year.
A trade-weighted gauge of the greenback is at the highest in 12 years as Fed Chair Janet Yellen and other policy makers have made numerous pronouncements in the past month that it may be appropriate to boost rates from near zero at its Dec. 15-16 gathering. The probability the central bank will act next month has risen to 66 percent from 50 percent odds at the end of October.
But even though the wonks at the Federal Reserve supposedly know the damage that a strong dollar is already doing to the global economy, they seem poised to make things even worse by raising interest rates in December…
Most Federal Reserve policymakers agreed last month that the economy “could well” be strong enough in December to withstand the Fed’s first Interest rate hike in nearly a decade, according to minutes of its meeting Oct. 27-28.
The officials said global troubles had eased and a delay could increase market uncertainty and undermine confidence in the economy.
The meeting summary provides the clearest evidence yet that a majority of Fed policymakers are leaning toward raising the central bank’s benchmark rate next month, assuming the economy continues to progress.
Considering the tremendous amount of damage that has already been done to the global economy, this is one of the stupidest things that they could possibly do.
But it looks like they are going to do it anyway.
It has been said that those that refuse to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.
And right now so many of the exact same patterns that we saw just before the great financial crisis of 2008 are playing out once again right in front of our eyes.
A lot of people out there seem to assume that once we got past the September/October time frame that we were officially out of “the danger zone”.
But that is not true at all.
The truth is that we have already entered a new global economic downturn that is rapidly accelerating, and the financial shaking that we witnessed in August was just a foreshock of what is coming next.
Let us hope that common sense prevails and the Fed chooses not to raise interest rates at their next meeting.
Because if they do, it will just make the global crisis that is now emerging much, much worse.
If the U.S. economy really is in “great shape”, then why do all of the numbers keep telling us that we are in a recession? The manufacturing numbers say that we are in a recession, the trade numbers say that we are in a recession, and as you will see below the retail numbers say that we are in a recession. But just like in 2008, the Federal Reserve and our top politicians will continue to deny that a major economic downturn is happening for as long as they possibly can. In this article, I want to look at more signs that a dramatic shift is happening in our economy right now.
First of all, let’s consider what is happening to hedge funds. For many years, hedge funds had been doing extremely well, but now they are closing up shop at a pace that we haven’t seen since the last financial crisis. The following is an excerpt from a Business Insider article entitled “Hedge funds keep on imploding” that was posted on Wednesday…
BlackRock is winding down its Global Ascent Fund, a global macro hedge fund that once contained $4.6 billion in assets, according to Bloomberg’s Sabrina Willmer.
“We believe that redeeming the Global Ascent Fund was the right thing to do for our clients, given the headwinds that macro funds have faced,” a BlackRock spokeswoman told Business Insider.
The winding down of the Ascent fund is the second high-profile hedge fund closing in 24 hours. The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday that Achievement Asset Management, a Chicago-based hedge fund, was closing.
And those are just two examples. Quite a few other prominent hedge funds have shut down recently, and many are wondering if this is just the beginning of a major “bloodbath” on Wall Street.
Another troubling sign is the implosion of so many energy companies. Just like in 2008, a major crash in the price of oil is hitting the energy sector really hard. Just check out these stock price declines…
-Cabot Oil & Gas down 37.27 percent over the past 12 months
-Southwestern Energy down 68.11 percent over the past 12 months
-Chesapeake Energy down 73.98 percent over the past 12 months
A number of smaller energy companies have already gone out of business, and several of the big players are teetering on the brink. If the price of oil does not rebound significantly very soon, it is just a matter of time before the dominoes begin to fall.
We are also seeing tremendous turmoil in the retail industry. The following comes from Investment Research Dynamics…
The retail sales report for October was much worse than expected. Not only that, but the Government’s original estimates for retail sales in August and September were revised lower. A colleague of mine said he was chatting with his brother, who is a tax advisor, this past weekend who said he doesn’t understand how the Government can say the economy is growing (Hillary Clinton recently gave the economy an “A”) because his clients are lowering their estimated tax payments. Businesses lower their estimated tax payments when their business activity slows down.
The holiday season is always the best time of the year for retailers, but in 2015 there is a lot of talk of gloom and doom. Most large retailers will not start announcing mass store closings until January or February, but without a doubt many analysts are anticipating that once we get past the Christmas shopping season we will see stores shut down at a pace that we haven’t seen since at least 2009. Here is more from the article that I just quoted above…
Retail sales this holiday season are setting up to be a disaster. Already most retailers are advertising “pre-Black Friday” sales events. Remember when holiday shopping didn’t begin, period, until the day after Thanksgiving? Now retailers are going to cannibalize each other with massive discounting before Thanksgiving. Anybody notice over the weekend that BMW is now offering $6500 price rebates? The collapsing economy is affecting everyone, across all income demographics.
Last week we saw the stocks of Macy’s, Nordstrom and Advance Auto Parts do cliff-dives after they announced their earnings. I mentioned to a colleague that the Nordstrom’s report should be the most troubling for analysts. Nordstrom in their investor conference call said that they began seeing an “unexplainable slowdown in sales in August in transactions across all formats, across all catagories and across all geographies that has yet to recover.”
I think that a chart would be helpful to give you an idea of how bad things have already gotten. Jim Quinn shared this in an article that he just posted, and it shows the change in retail sales once you remove the numbers for the auto industry. As you can see, the numbers have never been this dreadful outside of a recession…
But stocks went up 247 points on Wednesday so everything must be great, right?
The stock market has never been a good barometer for the overall economy, and this is especially true these days.
In 2008, stocks didn’t crash until well after the U.S. economy as a whole started crashing, and the same thing is apparently happening this time around as well.
One of the things that is keeping stocks afloat for the moment is stock buybacks. In recent years, big corporations have spent hundreds of billions of dollars buying back their own stocks. The following comes from Wolf Richter…
IBM has blown $125 billion on buybacks since 2005, more than the $111 billion it invested in capital expenditures and R&D. It’s staggering under its debt, while revenues have been declining for 14 quarters in a row. It cut its workforce by 55,000 people since 2012. And its stock is down 38% since March 2013.
Big-pharma icon Pfizer plowed $139 billion into buybacks and dividends in the past decade, compared to $82 billion in R&D and $18 billion in capital spending. 3M spent $48 billion on buybacks and dividends, and $30 billion on R&D and capital expenditures. They’re all doing it.
Later in that same article, Richter explains that almost 60 percent of all publicly traded non-financial corporations have engaged in stock buybacks over the past five years…
Nearly 60% of the 3,297 publicly traded non-financial US companies Reuters analyzed have engaged in share buybacks since 2010. Last year, the money spent on buybacks and dividends exceeded net income for the first time in a non-recession period.
Big corporations like to do this for a couple of reasons. Number one, it pushes the price of the stock higher, and current investors appreciate that. Number two, corporate executives are usually in favor of conducting stock buybacks because it increases the value of their stock options and their own stock holdings.
But now corporate profits are falling and it is becoming tougher for big corporations to borrow money. So look for stock buybacks to start to decline significantly.
Even though it is taking a bit longer than many would have anticipated, the truth is that we are right on track for a massive financial collapse.
All of the indicators that I watch are flashing red, and even though things are moving slowly, they are definitely moving in the same direction that we saw in 2008.
But just like in 2008, there will be people that mock the warnings up until the day when it becomes completely and utterly apparent that the mockers were dead wrong.
If you have been watching for the next major global economic downturn, you can now stop waiting, because it has officially arrived. Never before in history has global trade collapsed this dramatically outside of a major worldwide recession. And this makes perfect sense – when global economic activity is increasing there is more demand for goods and services around the world, and when global economic activity is decreasing there is less demand for goods and services around the world. So far this year, global trade is down about 8.4 percent, and over the past 30 days the Baltic Dry Index has been absolutely plummeting. A month ago it was sitting at a reading of 809, but now it has fallen all the way to 628. However, it is when you look at the trade numbers for specific countries that the numbers become particularly startling.
Just within the last few days, new trade numbers have come out of China. China accounts for approximately one-fifth of all global factory exports, and for many years Chinese export growth has helped fuel the overall global economy.
But now Chinese exports are falling. In October, Chinese exports were down 6.9 percent compared to a year ago. That follows a decline of 3.7 percent in September.
The numbers for Chinese imports are even worse. Chinese imports in October were down 18.8 percent compared to a year ago after falling 20.4 percent in September. China’s growing middle class was supposed to help lead a global economic recovery, but that simply is not happening.
The following chart from Zero Hedge shows just how dramatic these latest numbers are compared to what we are accustomed to witnessing. As you can see, the only time Chinese trade numbers have been this bad for this long was during the major global recession of 2008 and 2009…
Other numbers confirm the magnitude of the economic slowdown in China. I have mentioned the ongoing plunge of the China Containerized Freight Index previously, but now it has just hit a brand new record low…
The weakness in China’s economy and its exports to the rest of the world are showing up in the weekly China Containerized Freight Index (CCFI): On Friday, it dropped to the worst level ever.
The index, operated by the Shanghai Shipping Exchange, tracks how much it costs, based on contractual and spot-market rates, to ship containers from China to 14 major destinations around the world. Unlike a lot of official data from China, the index is an unvarnished reflection of a relentless reality.
It has been cascading lower since February and has since dropped 31%. At 742 currently, it’s down 26% from its inception in 1998 when it was set at 1,000.
Here are some more deeply disturbing global trade numbers that come from my previous article entitled “18 Numbers That Scream That A Crippling Global Recession Has Arrived“…
–Demand for Chinese steel is down 8.9 percent compared to a year ago.
–China’s rail freight volume is down 10.1 percent compared to last year.
–In October, South Korean exports were down 15.8 percent from a year ago.
–According to the Dutch government index, a year ago global trade in primary commodities was sitting at a reading of 150 but now it has fallen all the way down to 114. What this means is that less commodities are being traded around the world, and that is a very clear sign that global economic activity is really slowing down.
Additionally, German export orders were down about 18 percent in September, and U.S. exports are down about 10 percent for the year so far.
Clearly something very big is happening, and it is affecting the entire planet. The CEO of the largest shipping company in the world believes that the explanation for what is taking place is fairly simple…
In fact, according to Maersk CEO, Nils Smedegaard Andersen, the reason why companies that are reliant on global trade, such as his, are flailing is simple: global growth is substantially worse than the official numbers and forecasts. To wit: “The world’s economy is growing at a slower pace than the International Monetary Fund and other large forecasters are predicting.”
Quoted by Bloomberg, Andersen says that “we believe that global growth is slowing down,” he said in a phone interview. “Trade is currently significantly weaker than it normally would be under the growth forecasts we see.“
Global financial markets can run, but they can’t hide from these horrifying trade numbers forever.
One of the big things that is contributing to this new global economic slowdown is the unwinding of the U.S. dollar carry trade. A recent piece from Phoenix Capital Research explained the U.S. dollar carry trade pretty well…
When the Fed cut interest rates to zero in 2008, it flooded the system with US Dollars. The US Dollar is the reserve currency of the world. NO matter what country you’re in (with few exceptions) you can borrow in US Dollars.
And if you can borrow in US Dollars at 0.25%… and put that money into anything yielding more… you could make a killing.
A hedge fund in Hong Kong could borrow $100 million, pay just $250,000 in interest and plow that money into Brazilian Reals which yielded 11%… locking in a $9.75 million return.
This was the strictly financial side of things. On the economics side, Governments both sovereign and local borrowed in US Dollars around the globe to fund various infrastructure and municipal projects.
Simply put, the US Government was practically giving money away and the world took notice, borrowing Dollars at a record pace. Today, the global carry trade (meaning money borrowed in US Dollars and invested in other assets) stands at over $9 TRILLION (larger than the economy of France and Brazil combined).
But now the U.S. dollar carry trade is starting to unwind because the U.S. dollar has been doing very well lately. As the U.S. dollar has surged against other global currencies in 2015, this has put a tremendous amount of stress on emerging markets around the world. All of a sudden oil, other commodities and stock markets in nations such as Brazil began to crash. Meanwhile, those that had taken out loans denominated in U.S. dollars were finding that it was taking far more of their own local currencies to service and repay those loans. This financial crunch in emerging markets is going to take years to fully play out, and it is going to take a tremendous toll on global markets.
Of course we have seen this happen before. A surging dollar helped cause the Latin American debt crisis of the 1980s, the Asian financial crisis of the 1990s and the major global recession of 2008 and 2009.
If you thought that the financial shaking that happened in late August was bad, the truth is that it was nothing compared to what is now heading our way.
So buckle your seat belts boys and girls, because we are definitely in for a bumpy ride.
Have you noticed that things have gotten eerily quiet in the month of October? After the chaos of late August and early September, many had anticipated that we would be dealing with a full-blown financial collapse by now, but instead we have entered a period of “dead calm” in which things have become exceedingly quiet in almost every way that you can possibly imagine. Other “watchmen” that I highly respect have made the exact same observation. Even though the economic numbers are screaming that we have entered a global recession, they aren’t really make any headline news. A whole host of major financial institutions around the planet are currently in danger of collapsing and creating the next “Lehman Brothers moment”, but none of them has imploded just yet. And of course Barack Obama seems bound and determined to start World War III. On Monday, it was announced that he is sending a guided missile destroyer into Chinese waters in the South China Sea. The Chinese have already stated that they might just start shooting if this happens, but Barack Obama doesn’t seem to care. But until the shooting actually begins, that is not likely to upset the current tranquility that we are enjoying either.
To me, what we are experiencing at the moment would best be described as “the calm before the storm”. If you are not familiar with this concept, this is how it is defined by How Stuff Works…
Have you ever spent an afternoon in the backyard, maybe grilling or enjoying a game of croquet, when suddenly you notice that everything goes quiet? The air seems still and calm — even the birds stop singing and quickly return to their nests.
After a few minutes, you feel a change in the air, and suddenly a line of clouds ominously appears on the horizon — clouds with a look that tells you they aren’t fooling around. You quickly dash in the house and narrowly miss the first fat raindrops that fall right before the downpour. At this moment, you might stop and ask yourself, “Why was it so calm and peaceful right before the storm hit?”
Like so many others, I believe that a great storm is coming, and yet right at this moment things seem so peaceful.
Unfortunately, this period of peace and quiet is not going to last for long, and most Americans know deep down that something is seriously wrong with our nation. In fact, a new WND/Clout poll has found that 85.3 percent of all likely voters in the United States believe that our country is going in the wrong direction…
The poll found 92.6 percent of those who identified themselves as conservative believe the nation is on the wrong track. Among those who call themselves liberal, 90.9 percent said it is going the wrong direction.
When asked what they think of the American economy after seven years of Obama’s leadership and economic policies, nearly 80 percent described it as “very fragile” or “somewhat fragile.”
Self-identified Democrats, Republicans, liberals and conservatives were in general agreement, with about 75 percent to 80 percent describing the economy as “somewhat fragile” or “very fragile.”
But even though we are steamrolling in the wrong direction, we haven’t suffered any incredibly serious consequences for it yet.
For the moment, this is allowing the mockers to have a field day. They are fully confident that Barack Obama and the Federal Reserve knew what they were doing after all, and they are gleefully taunting those of us that have been warning of the great disaster that is heading our way.
However, those that are wise are getting prepared.
I think that we could all learn some lessons from what Overstock.com Chairman Jonathan Johnson is doing. The following is an extended excerpt from a recent Zero Hedge article…
One week ago Johnson, who is also candidate for Utah governor, spoke at the United Precious Metals Association, or UPMA, which we first profiled a month ago, and which takes advantage of Utah’s special status allowing the it to use gold as legal tender, offering gold and silver-backed accounts. As a reminder, the UPMA takes Federal Reserve Notes (or paper dollars) which it then translates into golden dollars (or silver). The golden dollars are based off the $50 one ounce gold coins produced by the Treasury of The United States. They are legal tender under the law and are protected as such.
What did Johnson tell the UPMA? Here are some choice quotes:
We are not big fans of Wall Street and we don’t trust them. We foresaw the financial crisis, we fought against the financial crisis that happened in 2008; we don’t trust the banks still and we foresee that with QE3, and QE4 and QE n that at some point there is going to be another significant financial crisis.
So what do we do as a business so that we would be prepared when that happens. One thing that we do that is fairly unique: we have about $10 million in gold, mostly the small button-sized coins, that we keep outside of the banking system. We expect that when there is a financial crisis there will be a banking holiday. I don’t know if it will be 2 days, or 2 weeks, or 2 months. We have $10 million in gold and silver in denominations small enough that we can use for payroll. We want to be able to keep our employees paid, safe and our site up and running during a financial crisis.
We also happen to have three months of food supply for every employee that we can live on.
Why would such a seemingly intelligent and successful CEO of a large Internet company do such things?
It is because he can see the writing on the wall.
This period of calm will not last. A great storm is coming, and when it does arrive those that have not prepared for it are going to suffer tremendously.
Most people have no idea just how fragile our system really is. Today, some of these “too big to fail” banks supposedly have trillions of dollars in assets, but if you want to withdraw $10,000 or more in cash you have got to give them 24 hours notice to get enough money…
This is just the beginning. As anyone can tell you, it’s all but impossible to move large amounts of money into cash in the US. Even the large banks will routinely ask you for 24 hours notice if you need $10,000 or more in cash. These are banks will TRILLIONS of dollars worth of assets on their books.
And with each passing day we see even more signs of the global economic slowdown that is emerging all around us. For example, we just learned that the China Containerized Freight Index has dropped to the lowest level ever recorded. China accounts for more global trade than anyone else, and so this is a very clear sign that global economic activity is slowing down dramatically…
By early July, the index dropped below 800 for the first time in its history, which started in 1998 when the index was set at 1,000. It soon recovered to about 850. And just when bouts of hope were rising that the worst was over, it plunged again and hit even lower levels.
The latest weekly reading dropped another 1.7% from the prior week to 752.21, the worst level ever. The CCFI is now 30% below where it had been in February this year and 25% below where it had been 17 years ago at its inception.
But for those that don’t want to believe that hard times are on the way, they can take comfort in the eerie period of calm that we are experiencing right now.
What they don’t realize is that this truly is “the calm before the storm”, and the global economic crisis that is ahead of us is going to be far beyond what most people ever dared to imagine was possible.
When the global economy is doing well, the amount of stuff that is imported and exported around the world goes up, and when the global economy is in recession, the amount of stuff that is imported and exported around the world goes down. It is just basic economics. Governments around the world have become very adept at manipulating other measures of economic activity such as GDP, but the trade numbers are more difficult to fudge. Today, China accounts for more global trade than anyone else on the entire planet, and we have just learned that Chinese exports and Chinese imports are both collapsing right now. But this is just part of a larger trend. As I discussed the other day, British banking giant HSBC has reported that total global trade is down 8.4 percent so far in 2015, and global GDP expressed in U.S. dollars is down 3.4 percent. The only other times global trade has plummeted this much has been during other global recessions, and it appears that this new downturn is only just beginning.
For many years, China has been leading the revolution in global trade. But now we are witnessing something that is almost unprecedented. Chinese exports are falling, and Chinese imports are absolutely imploding…
Growth of exports from China has been dropping relentlessly, for years. Now this “growth” has actually turned negative. In September, exports were down 3.7% from a year earlier, the “inevitable fallout from China’s unsustainable and poorly executed credit splurge,” as Thomson Reuters’ Alpha Now puts it. Most of these exports are manufactured goods that are shipped by container to the rest of the world.
And imports into China – a mix of bulk and containerized freight – have been plunging: down 20.4% in September from a year earlier, after at a 13.8% drop in August.
This week it was announced that Chinese GDP growth had fallen to the lowest level since the last recession, and that makes sense. Global economic activity is really slowing down, and this is deeply affecting China.
So what about the United States?
Well, based on the amount of stuff that is being shipped around in our country it appears that our economy is really slowing down too. The following comes from Wolf Richter, and I shared some of it in a previous article, but I think that it bears repeating…
September is in the early phase of the make-or-break holiday shipping season. Shipments usually increase from August to September. They did this year too. The number of shipments in September inched up 1.7% from August, according to the Cass Freight Index.
But the index was down 1.5% from an already lousy September last year, when shipments had fallen from the prior month, instead of rising. And so, in terms of the number of shipments, it was the worst September since 2010.
It has been crummy all year: With the exception of January and February, the shipping volume has been lower year-over-year every month!
The index is broad. It tracks data from shippers, no matter what carrier they choose, whether truck, rail, or air, and includes carriers like FedEx and UPS.
What major retailers such as Wal-Mart are reporting also confirms that we are in a major economic slowdown. Wal-Mart recently announced that its earnings would fall by as much as 12 percent during the next fiscal year, and that caused Wal-Mart stock to drop by the most in 27 years.
And of course this is going to have a huge ripple effect. There are thousands of other companies that do business with Wal-Mart, and Reuters is reporting that they are starting to get squeezed…
Suppliers of everything from groceries to sports equipment are already being squeezed for price cuts and cost sharing by Wal-Mart Stores. Now they are bracing for the pressure to ratchet up even more after a shock earnings warning from the retailer last week.
The discount store behemoth has always had a reputation for demanding lower prices from vendors but Reuters has learned from interviews with suppliers and consultants, as well as reviewing some contracts, that even by its standards Wal-Mart has been turning up the heat on them this year.
“The ground is shaking here,” said Cameron Smith, head of Cameron Smith & Associates, a major recruiting firm for suppliers located close to Wal-Mart’s headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas. “Suppliers are going to have to help Wal-Mart get back on track.”
Similar things are going on at some of the other biggest companies in America as well.
For instance, things have gotten so bad for McDonald’s that one franchise owner recently stated that the restaurant chain is “facing its final days”…
“McDonald’s announced in April that it would be closing 700 ‘underperforming’ locations, but because of the company’s sheer size — it has 14,300 locations in the United States alone — this was not necessarily a reduction in the size of the company, especially because it continues to open locations around the world. It still has more than double the locations of Burger King, its closest competitor.”
However, for the franchisees, the picture looks much worse than simply 700 stores closing down.
“We are in the throes of a deep depression, and nothing is changing,” a franchise owner wrote in response to a financial survey by Nomura Group. “Probably 30% of operators are insolvent.” One owner went as far as to speculate that McDonald’s is literally “facing its final days.”
Why would things be so bad at Wal-Mart and McDonald’s if the economy was “recovering”?
Come on now – let’s use some common sense here.
All of the numbers are screaming at us that we have entered a major economic downturn and that it is accelerating.
CNBC is reporting that the number of job openings in the U.S. is falling and that the number of layoffs is rising…
Job openings fell 5.3 percent in August, while a 2.6 percent rise in layoffs and discharges offset a 0.3 percent gain in hires. Finally, the amount of quits — or what Convergex calls its “take this job and shove it” indicator because it shows the percentage of workers who left positions voluntarily — fell to 56.6 percent from 57.1 percent, indicating less confidence in mobility.
And as I discussed the other day, Challenger Gray is reporting that we are seeing layoffs at major firms at a level that we have not witnessed since 2009.
We already have 102.6 million working age Americans that do not have a job right now. As this emerging worldwide recession deepens, a lot more Americans are going to lose their jobs. That is going to cause the poverty and suffering in this country to spike even more, if you can imagine that.
Just consider what authorities discovered on the streets of Philadelphia just this week…
Support is flooding in for a homeless Philadelphia family whose two-year-old son was found wandering alone in a park in the middle of the night.
Angelique Roland, 27, and Michael Jones, 24, were sleeping with their children behind cardboard boxes underneath the Fairmount Park Welcome Center in Love Park when the toddler slipped away.
The boy was found just before midnight and handed over to a nearby Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority police officer, who took him to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
He was wearing a green, long sleeve shirt, black running pants and had a diaper on, but did not have shoes or socks.
Could you imagine sleeping on the streets and not even being able to provide your two-year-old child with shoes and socks?
These numbers that I write about every day are not a game. They affect all of us on a very personal level.
Just like in 2008 and 2009, millions of Americans that are living a very comfortable middle class lifestyle today will soon lose their jobs and will end up out in the streets.
In fact, there will be people that will read this article that this will happen to.
So no, none of us should be excited that the global economy is collapsing. There is already so much pain all around us, and what is to come is beyond what most of us would even dare to imagine.
Now that a major global recession has begun, you would expect major retailers like Wal-Mart to run into trouble as consumer spending dries up, and that is precisely what is happening. On Wednesday, shares of Wal-Mart experienced their largest single day decline in 27 years after an extremely disappointing earnings projection was released. The stock was down about 10 percent, which represented the biggest plunge since January 1988. Over 21 billion dollars in shareholder wealth was wiped out on Wednesday, and this was just the continuation of a very bad year for Wal-Mart stockholders. Overall, shares had already declined by 22 percent so far in 2015 before we even got to Wednesday. Here is more on this stunning turn of events from Bloomberg…
Wal-Mart Stores Inc. suffered its worst stock decline in more than 27 years after predicting a drop in annual profit, underscoring the giant retailer’s struggles to reignite growth.
Earnings will decrease 6 percent to 12 percent in fiscal 2017, which ends in January of that year, the Bentonville, Arkansas-based company said at its investor day on Wednesday. Analysts had estimated a gain of 4 percent on average, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
If it was just Wal-Mart that was having trouble, that would be bad enough. But the truth is that signs that the U.S. economy has entered another major downturn are popping up all around us. Just consider the following list of economic indicators that Graham Summers recently put out…
The Fed has now kept interest rates at zero for 81 months.
This is the longest period in the history of the Fed’s existence, lasting longer than even the 1938-1942 period of ZIRP.
And the US economy is moving back into recession. Consider that…
1) Industrial production fell five months straight in the first half of 2015. This has never happened outside of a recession.
2) Merchant Wholesalers’ Sales are in recession territory.
3) The Empire Manufacturing Survey is in recession territory.
4) All four of the Fed’s September Purchasing Manager Index (PMI) readings (Philadelphia, New York, Richmond, and Kansas City) came in at readings of sub-zero. This usually happens when you are already 4-5 months into a recession. (H/T Bill Hester)
Another huge red flag is the fact that month after month fewer products are being shipped around the country compared to last year.
If less stuff is being shipped around by truck, rail and air, is it a sign that the economy is getting better or is it a sign that the economy is getting worse?
The answer, of course, is self-evident. With that in mind, please read the following excerpt which comes from a recent article by Wolf Richter…
It has been crummy all year: With the exception of January and February, the shipping volume has been lower year-over-year every month!
The index is broad. It tracks data from shippers, no matter what carrier they choose, whether truck, rail, or air, and includes carriers like FedEx and UPS.
Evidence keeps piling up in the most unpleasant manner that something isn’t quite right in the real economy. The world is now in an inexplicable slowdown – “inexplicable” for central bankers who’ve cut interest rates to zero or below zero years ago, and who’re still dousing some economies with QE even as governments are running up big deficits. And yet, despite seven years of this huge monetary and fiscal stimulus, the global economy is deteriorating.
Okay, so is there anyone out there that still believes that the U.S. economy is in good shape?
The Obama administration will probably not admit it for a very long time, but the truth is that the numbers very clearly tell us that we are in a recession.
Anybody out there, whether an “expert” or just someone you happen to know, that tells you that everything is just fine is either completely ignorant or they are purposely lying to you.
And just like in 2008, state and local governments are starting to get into tremendous financial trouble as the real economy sputters. For example, the governor of Illinois has told reporters that “we are out of money now” and that pension fund payments will be delayed as a result…
Illinois will delay payments to its pension fund as a prolonged budget impasse causes a cash shortage, Comptroller Leslie Geissler Munger said.
The spending standoff between Republican Governor Bruce Rauner and Democratic legislative leaders has extended into its fourth month with no signs of ending. Munger said her office will postpone a $560 million retirement-fund payment next month, and may make the December contribution late.
“This decision is choosing the least of a number of bad options,” Munger told reporters in Chicago on Wednesday. “For all intents and purposes, we are out of money now.”
When these sorts of things started happening in 2008, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke and the Bush administration went into full-blown denial mode. They kept telling all of us not to worry and that everything would be okay, and that just made things worse in the end.
The same thing is happening now. The Obama administration and the mainstream media keep talking about an “economic recovery” even in the face of numbers such as I have discussed in this article.
Perhaps things are going well for you personally at the moment, and that is great. But now is not the time to buy lots of new toys. Nor is it the time to accumulate more debt.
Instead, now is a time to position yourself for a period of difficulty that could stretch on for years.
The next recession is here, and it is going to grow progressively worse.
The wise will take heed and make preparations, but the foolish will just keep on doing what they have been doing until it is far too late.