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The Amount Of Stuff Being Bought, Sold And Shipped Around The U.S. Hits The Lowest Level In 6 Years

Trucks - Public DomainWhen less stuff is being bought, sold and shipped around the country with each passing month, how in the world can the U.S. economy be in “good shape”?  Unlike official government statistics which are often based largely on projections, assumptions and numbers seemingly made up out of thin air, the Cass Freight index is based on real transactions conducted by real shipping companies.  And what the Cass Freight Index is telling us about the state of the U.S. economy in 2016 lines up perfectly with all of the other statistics that are clearly indicating that we have now shifted into recession mode.

If you are not familiar with the Cass Freight Index, here is a definition of the index from the official Cass website

Since 1995, the Cass Freight Index™ has been a trusted measure of North American freight volumes and expenditures. Our monthly Cass Freight Index Report provides valuable insight into freight trends as they relate to other economic and supply chain indicators and the overall economy.

Data within the Index includes all domestic freight modes and is derived from $25 billion in freight transactions processed by Cass annually on behalf of its client base of hundreds of large shippers. These companies represent a broad sampling of industries including consumer packaged goods, food, automotive, chemical, OEM, retail and heavy equipment. Annual freight volume per organization ranges from $1 million to over $1 billion. The diversity of shippers and aggregate volume provide a statistically valid representation of North American shipping activity.

When they say “all domestic freight modes”, that includes air, rail, truck, etc.  As you are about to see, the total amount of stuff that is being bought, sold and shipped around the country by all these various methods has now been declining for 15 months in a row.

If it was just one or two months you could say that it was just an anomaly, but how in the world can anyone explain away 15 consecutive months?

Not only that, but the brand new number that just came out for May 2016 is the lowest number that we have seen for the month of May in 6 years.

Of course the number for April was the lowest number that we have seen for that month in 6 years too, and the number for March was also the lowest number that we have seen for that month in 6 years.

Are you starting to get the picture?

Below is some analysis of these numbers and a chart from Wolf Richter

The Index is not seasonally or otherwise adjusted, so it shows strong seasonal patterns. In the chart below, the red line with black markers is for 2016. The colorful spaghetti above that line represents the years 2011 through 2015. The only month this year that was not the worst month since 2010 was February; only February 2011 was worse. That’s how bad it has gotten in the Freight sector:

Cass Freight Index - Wolfstreet

“Truck tonnage continues to slide for both linehaul and spot markets,” according to the report. And railroads are also singing the blues.

To me, these numbers are absolutely staggering.  How anyone can look at them and then attempt to claim that the U.S. economy is heading for good times is a mystery to me.

And this is especially true considering all of the other news that is pouring in.  Just today, we learned that new home sales have fallen by the most in 8 months.  If you are trying to sell your home, hopefully you will get that done very quickly, because this latest property bubble is starting to burst in a major way.

Of course there are many, many more numbers that tell us that a new U.S. economic crisis has already begun and has been going on for quite a while.  If you doubt this at all, please carefully read my previous article entitled “15 Facts About The Imploding U.S. Economy That The Mainstream Media Doesn’t Want You To See“.

Today, I also came across a stunning IMF report that was just released that criticized the U.S. for our shrinking middle class and our rising levels of poverty…

A rising share of the U.S. labor force is shifting into retirement, basic infrastructure is crumbling, productivity gains are scanty, and labor markets and businesses appear less adept at reallocating human and physical capital. These growing headwinds are overlaid by pernicious secular trends in income: labor’s share of income is around 5 percent lower today than it was 15 years ago, the middle class has shrunk to its smallest size in the last 30 years, the income and wealth distribution are increasingly polarized, and poverty has risen.

If you follow my work on a regular basis, you already know that everything that the IMF said in that paragraph is true.

A little bit later in the report, the IMF shared some absolutely startling facts about the growth of poverty in this country…

There is an urgent need to tackle poverty. In the latest data, 1 in 7 Americans is living in poverty, including 1 in 5 children and 1 in 3 female-headed households. Around 40 percent of those in poverty are working.

This distressing growth in our poverty numbers has taken place during Barack Obama’s so-called “economic recovery”.

So how bad are things ultimately going to get for America’s poor now that a new economic crisis has begun?

Before I wrap up this article, I have to mention the early returns from the Brexit vote.  All day on Thursday, global news sources were reporting that the latest polls had “Remain” comfortably in the lead, and global financial markets soared on that news.

But now that the actual votes are being reported, it looks like it is going to be much, much closer than anticipated.  In fact, as I write this article “Leave” is ahead by a 54.16 percent to 45.84 percent margin.  Only a relatively small fraction of the votes have been counted so far, but global financial markets are already being spooked by these results.

If “Leave” does actually win, that is going to have enormous implications for the markets and for the future of Europe.  So let’s keep a close eye on what is happening.  If “Leave” does prove to be victorious, that will be one of the biggest things to hit Europe in decades, and I am sure that I will be posting an article about it tomorrow.

We live at a time when global events are beginning to accelerate, and there is much uncertainty in the air.  If you do not have a solid foundation on which to stand, the events of the coming months will likely shake you greatly.  I encourage everyone to start focusing on the things that really matter, because a lot of the other things that we obsess over will soon become quite insignificant.

—–

UPDATE: It is official – the United Kingdom has voted to leave the European Union.  They are to be greatly congratulated for declaring their independence, but without a doubt this vote is going to cause some very serious short-term economic and financial pain.  Already we have witnessed the greatest one day crash in the history of the British pound, and stock markets all over the world are crashing.  For much more, please see our latest video update

Something Big That Always Happens Right Before The Official Start Of A Recession Has Just Happened

Temporary Help ServicesWhat you are about to see is major confirmation that a new economic downturn has already begun.  Last Friday, the government released the worst jobs report in six years, and that has a lot of people really freaked out.  But when you really start digging into those numbers, you quickly find that things are even worse than most analysts are suggesting.  In particular, the number of temporary jobs in the United States has started to decline significantly after peaking last December.  Why this is so important is because the number of temporary jobs started to decline precipitously right before the last two recessions as well.

You see, when economic conditions start to change, temporary workers are often affected before anyone else is.  Temporary workers are easier to hire than other types of workers, and they are also easier to fire.

In this chart, you can see that the number of temporary workers peaked and started to decline rapidly before we even got to the recession of 2001.  And you will notice that the number of temporary workers also peaked and started to decline rapidly before we even got to the recession of 2008.  This shows why the temporary workforce is considered to be a “leading indicator” for the U.S. economy as a whole.  When the number of temporary workers peaks and then starts to fall steadily, that is a major red flag.  And that is why it is so incredibly alarming that the number of temporary workers peaked in December 2015 and has fallen quite a bit since then…

Temporary Help Services

In May, the U.S. economy lost another 21,000 temporary jobs, and overall we have lost almost 64,000 since December.

If a new economic downturn had already started, this is precisely what we would expect to see.  The following is some commentary from Wolf Richter

Staffing agencies are cutting back because companies no longer need that many workers. Total business sales in the US have been declining since mid-2014. Productivity has been crummy and getting worse. Earnings are down for the fourth quarter in a row. Companies see that demand for their products is faltering, so the expense-cutting has started. The first to go are the hapless temporary workers.

Another indicator which is pointing to big trouble for American workers is the Fed Labor Market Conditions Index.  Just check out this chart from Zero Hedge, which shows that this index has now been falling on a month over month basis for five months in a row.  Not since the last recession have we seen that happen…

Fed Labor Market Conditions MoM

Of course I have been warning about this new economic downturn since the middle of last year.  U.S. factory orders have now been falling for 18 months in a row, job cut announcements at major companies are running 24 percent higher up to this point in 2016 than they were during the same time period in 2015, and just recently Microsoft said that they were going to be cutting 1,850 jobs as the market for smartphones continues to slow down.

As I have been warning for months, the exact same patterns that we witnessed just prior to the last major economic crisis are playing out once again right in front of our eyes.

Perhaps you have blind faith in Barack Obama, the Federal Reserve and our other “leaders”, and perhaps you are convinced that everything will turn out okay somehow, but there are others that are doing what they can to get prepared in advance.

It may surprise you to learn that George Soros is one of them.

According to recent media reports, George Soros has been selling off investments like crazy and has poured tremendous amounts of money into gold and gold stocks

Maybe the best argument in favor of gold is that American legendary investor and billionaire George Soros has recently sold 37% of his stock and bought a lot more gold and gold stocks.

George Soros, who once called gold ‘the ultimate bubble,’ has resumed buying the precious metal after a three-year hiatus. On Monday, the billionaire investor disclosed that in the first quarter he bought 1.05 million shares in SPDR Gold Trust, the world’s biggest gold exchanged-traded fund, valued at about $123.5 million,” Fortune and Reuters reported Tuesday.

George Soros didn’t make his fortune by being a dummy.

Obviously he can see that something big is coming, and so he is making the moves that he feels are appropriate.

If you are waiting for some type of big announcement from the government that a recession has started, you are likely going to be waiting for quite a while.

How it usually works is that we are not told that we are in a recession until one has already been happening for an extended period of time.

For instance, back in mid-2008 Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke insisted that the U.S. economy was not heading into a recession even though we found out later that we were already in one at the moment Bernanke made that now infamous statement.

On my website, I have been documenting all of the red flags that are screaming that a new recession is here for months.

You can be like Ben Bernanke in 2008 and stick your head in the sand and pretend that nothing is happening, or you can honestly assess the situation at hand and adjust your strategies accordingly like George Soros is doing.

Of course I am not a fan of George Soros at all.  The shady things that he has done to promote the radical left around the globe are well documented.  But they don’t call people like him “the smart money” for no reason.

Down in Venezuela, the economic collapse has already gotten so bad that people are hunting dogs and cats for food.  For most of the rest of the world, things are not nearly that bad, and they won’t be that bad for a while yet.  But without a doubt, the global economy is moving in a very negative direction, and the pace of change is accelerating.

Those that are wise have already been getting prepared, and those that are convinced that everything is going to be just fine somehow have not been getting prepared.

In the end, most people end up believing exactly what they want to believe, and we are not too far away from the time when those choices are going to have very severe consequences.

*About the author: Michael Snyder is the founder and publisher of The Economic Collapse Blog. Michael’s controversial new book about Bible prophecy entitled “The Rapture Verdict” is available in paperback and for the Kindle on Amazon.com.*

U.S. Economy 2016: 3 Classic Recession Signals Are Flashing Red

Red Light - Public DomainThose that were hoping for an “economic renaissance” in the United States got some more bad news this week.  It turns out that the U.S. economy is in significantly worse shape than the experts were projecting.  Retail sales unexpectedly declined in March, total business sales have fallen again, and the inventory to sales ratio has hit the highest level since the last financial crisis.  When you add these three classic recession signals to the 19 troubling numbers about the U.S. economy that I wrote about last week, it paints a very disturbing picture.  Virtually all of the signs that we would expect to pop up during the early chapters of a major economic crisis have now appeared, and yet most Americans still appear to be clueless about what is happening.

Even I was surprised when the government reported that retail sales had actually fallen in March.  Consumer spending is a very large part of our economy, and so if consumer spending is slowing down already that certainly does not bode well for the rest of 2016.  The following comes from highly respected author Jim Quinn

The Ivy League educated “expert” economists expected March retail sales to increase by 0.1%. They only missed by $6 billion, as retail sales FELL by 0.3%. They have fallen for three straight months. At least gasoline sales were strong, as prices have risen 22% since mid-February. That should do wonders for the finances of American households. If you exclude gasoline sales, retail sales fell by 0.4%. As the chart below reveals, the year over year change in retail sales has been at or near recessionary levels for most of 2015, and into 2016.

You can view the chart that he was referring to right here.  In addition to a decline in retail sales, total business sales have also been falling, and this is another classic recession signal.  The following comes from Wolf Richter

Total business sales fell again in February, the Commerce Department reported today. They include sales by manufacturers, retailers, and wholesalers of all sizes across the US economy. This measure is far broader than the aggregate sales by publicly traded companies, which too have been falling.

At $1.284 trillion in February, total business sales were down an estimated 0.4% from January, adjusted for seasonal and trading-day differences but not for price changes. And they were down 1.4% from the already beaten-down levels of February last year. They’re back where they’d first been in November 2012!

Yes, the stock market has been on quite a run for the past several weeks, but that temporary rebound is not based on the economic fundamentals.

The truth is that the real economy is definitely starting to slow down substantially.  If you want to break it down very simply, less stuff is being bought and sold and shipped around the country, and that tells us far more about what is coming in the months ahead than the temporary ups and downs of stock prices.

Another huge red flag is the fact that the inventory to sales ratio in the U.S. has hit the highest level that we have seen since the last financial crisis

The crucial inventory-to-sales ratio, which tracks how long unsold inventory sits around in relationship to sales, is now at a mind-bending 1.41. That’s the level the ratio spiked to in November 2008, after the Lehman bankruptcy in September had put the freeze on the economy.

Inventories represent prior sales by suppliers. When companies try to reduce their inventories, they cut their orders. Suppliers see these orders as sales. As their sales slump, suppliers adjust by cutting their own orders, thus causing the sales slump to propagate up the supply chain. They all react by cutting their expenses. And if it lasts, they’ll cut jobs. Inventory corrections have a nasty impact on the overall economy.

Because sales have slowed down, inventories are starting to pile up to alarmingly high levels.  And when companies see that business is slowing down, they start to let people go.

In a previous article, I told my readers that Challenger, Gray & Christmas is reporting that job cut announcements at major firms in the United States are up 32 percent during the first quarter of 2016 compared to the first quarter of 2015.

Somehow, most of the talking heads on television don’t seem too alarmed by this.

But ordinary Americans are beginning to become alarmed about what is happening.  In fact, the percentage of Americans that believe that the U.S. economy is “getting worse” is now the highest it has been since last August

One of the more glaring examples of how strong pessimism has become is Gallup’s U.S. Economic Confidence Index. The measure gauges the difference between respondents who say the economy is improving or declining. The most recent results are not good.

Fully 59 percent say the economy is “getting worse” against just 37 percent who say it is “getting better.” That gap of 22 percentage points is the worst since August, according to Gallup, which polled 3,542 adults.

Personally, I thought that we would be a little further down the road by now, but without a doubt a new economic downturn has begun in America.

So far, it is less severe than what most of the rest of the planet is experiencing.  Japan’s GDP is officially shrinking, major banks are failing all over Europe, and even CNN admits that what is going on down in Brazil is an “economic collapse”.

It’s funny – yesterday I took time out to write an article about the horrible suffering that ISIS sex slaves are enduring, and a few of my critics took that as a sign that there must not be enough bad economic news to write about.

Well, the truth is that this isn’t the case at all.  The global economic meltdown is steaming along, even if it is moving just a little bit slower than many of us had originally anticipated.  We are moving in the exact direction that myself and many others had warned about, and the rest of 2016 is looking quite ominous for the global economy.

So hopefully everyone (including the critics) is using whatever time we have left wisely.  Because I definitely wish the very best for everyone during the exceedingly hard times that are coming.

*About the author: Michael Snyder is the founder and publisher of The Economic Collapse Blog. Michael’s controversial new book about Bible prophecy entitled “The Rapture Verdict” is available in paperback and for the Kindle on Amazon.com.*

19 Facts That Prove Things In America Are Worse Than They Were Six Months Ago

American Flag Map - Public DomainHas the U.S. economy gotten better over the past six months or has it gotten worse?  In this article, you will find solid proof that the U.S. economy has continued to get worse over the past six months.  Unfortunately, most people seem to think that since the stock market has rebounded significantly in recent weeks that everything must be okay, but of course that is not true at all.  If you look at a chart of the Dow, a very ominous head and shoulders pattern is forming, and all of the economic fundamentals are screaming that big trouble is ahead.  When Donald Trump told the Washington Post that we are heading for a “very massive recession“, he wasn’t just making stuff up.  We are already seeing lots of things happen that never take place outside of a recession, and the U.S. economy has already been sliding downhill fairly rapidly over the past several months.  With all that being said, the following are 19 facts that prove things in America are worse than they were six months ago…

#1 U.S. factory orders have now declined on a year over year basis for 16 months in a row.  As Zero Hedge has noted, in the post-World War II era this has never happened outside of a recession…

In 60 years, the US economy has not suffered a 16-month continuous YoY drop in Factory orders without being in recession. Moments ago the Department of Commerce confirmed that this is precisely what the US economy did, when factory orders not only dropped for the 16th consecutive month Y/Y, after declining 1.7% from last month

#2 Factory orders have now reached the lowest level that we have seen since the summer of 2011.

#3 It is being projected that corporate earnings will be down 8.5 percent for the first quarter of 2016 compared to one year ago.  This will be the fourth quarter in a row that we have seen year over year declines, and the last time that happened was during the last recession.

#4 Total business sales have fallen 5 percent since the peak in mid-2014.

#5 S&P 500 earnings have now fallen a total of 18.5 percent from their peak in late 2014.

#6 Corporate debt defaults have soared to the highest level that we have seen since 2009.

#7 The average rating on U.S. corporate debt has fallen to “BB”, which is lower than it has been at any point since the last financial crisis.

#8 The U.S. oil rig count just hit a 41 year low.

#9 51 oil and gas drillers in North America have filed for bankruptcy since the beginning of last year, and according to CNN we could be on the verge of seeing the biggest one yet…

Shale oil driller SandRidge Energy (SD) warned there was “substantial doubt” it would survive the oil downturn. The Oklahoma City company said this week it is exploring a potential Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing.

Based on its $3.6 billion of debt, SandRidge would be the biggest North American oil-focused company to go bust during the current downturn, according to a CNNMoney analysis of stats compiled by law firm Haynes and Boone.

#10 According to Challenger, Gray & Christmas, job cut announcements by major firms in the United States were up 32 percent during the first quarter of 2016 compared to the first quarter of 2015.

#11 Consumers in the United States accumulated more new credit card debt during the 4th quarter of 2015 than they did during the entire years of 2009, 2010 and 2011 combined.

#12 Existing home sales in the U.S. were down 7.1 percent during the month of February, and this was the biggest decline that we have witnessed in six years.

#13 Subprime auto loan delinquencies have hit their highest level since the last recession.

#14 The Restaurant Performance Index in the U.S. recently dropped to the lowest level that we have seen since 2008.

#15 Major retailers all over the country are shutting down hundreds of stores as the “retail apocalypse” accelerates.

#16 If you take the number of working age Americans that are officially unemployed (8.1 million) and add that number to the number of working age Americans that are considered to be “not in the labor force” (93.9 million), that gives us a grand total of 102 million working age Americans that do not have a job right now

#17 Since peaking during the 3rd quarter of 2014, U.S. exports of goods and services have been steadily declining.  This is something that we never see outside of a recession…

Exports Of Goods And Services - Public Domain

#18 The cost of everything related to medical care just continues to skyrocket even though our wages are stagnating.  According to the Social Security Administration, 51 percent of all American workers make less than $30,000 a year, and yet the cost of medical care just hit a brand new all-time high…

Medical Care Services

#19 Our government debt continues to spiral out of control.  At this point it is sitting at a staggering total of $19,218,516,838,306.52, but when Barack Obama first entered the White House it was only 10.6 trillion dollars.  That means that our government has been stealing an average of more than 100 million dollars an hour from future generations of Americans every single hour of every single day since Barack Obama was inaugurated…

Federal Debt

How in the world can anyone look at those numbers and suggest that everything is okay?

I simply do not understand how that could be possible.

Part of the problem is that Americans have been trained to be irrationally optimistic.  It is fine to have an optimistic outlook on life, but when it causes you to throw logic and reason out the window that is not good.

For example, you can be “optimistic” about your ability to fly all you want, but if you step off a 10 story building you are going to take a very hard fall to the ground.

Similarly, you can ignore all of the facts and pretend that our economic prosperity is sustainable all you want, but it won’t change the fundamental laws of economics.

On a personal note, I would like to thank everyone that has helped make my new book the #1 new release in Christian eschatology on Amazon.com.  I understand that a lot of my secular readers are not going to understand my fascination with Bible prophecy, and that is okay.  I felt that I needed to write this book to address some very serious errors that are being taught in churches all over America today, and I also wanted to inspire believers to face the great hardships and persecution that are coming.

Just because very difficult times are approaching does not mean that it will be time to run and hide.  My wife and I always live our lives with no fear, and when things get crazy we believe that it will be an opportunity to do even more good.  We believe that the greatest chapters of our lives are still ahead of us, and we want people to understand why they can look forward to the future even though great darkness is rising all around us.

So yes, I definitely carry a message of warning.

But I also bring a message of hope.

As we look toward the future, there is much to be concerned about, but there are also things happening that are worth getting extremely excited about.

It is when times are the darkest that the light is needed the most, and very soon light will be greatly, greatly needed in the United States of America.

Donald Trump Is Starting To Sound Just Like The Economic Collapse Blog (And That Is A Good Thing)

Donald Trump - Photo by Michael VadonGuess what Donald Trump is saying now?  Last week, I discussed how Robert Kiyosaki and Harry Dent are warning that a major crisis is inevitable, but I didn’t expect Donald Trump to come out and say essentially the exact same thing.  On Saturday, the Washington Post released a stunning interview with Donald Trump in which he boldly declared that we heading for a “very massive recession”.  He also warned that we are currently in “a financial bubble” and that “it’s a terrible time right now” to be investing in stocks.  These are things that you may be accustomed to hearing on The Economic Collapse Blog, but to hear them from the frontrunner for the Republican nomination is another thing altogether.

Whether you plan to vote for Donald Trump or not, at least we can all appreciate that he doesn’t talk like a politician.  He tells it like he sees it, and he told the Washington Post that he considers the official unemployment rate that is put out by the Obama administration to be completely fraudulent…

“First of all, we’re not at 5 percent unemployment. We’re at a number that’s probably into the twenties if you look at the real number,” Trump said. “That was a number that was devised, statistically devised to make politicians — and, in particular, presidents — look good. And I wouldn’t be getting the kind of massive crowds that I’m getting if the number was a real number.”

And before you dismiss this, perhaps you should consider that the Federal Reserve also considers the government unemployment number to be so inaccurate that they secretly have been calculating the unemployment rate on their own

Because it distrusted the Labor Department’s unemployment statistics, the Federal Reserve — without any fanfare — started calculating its own jobless rate two years ago.

And the Fed’s calculation, called the Labor Market Conditions Index, or LMCI, shows that the US unemployment rate in February was 5.8 percent. That’s much higher than the 4.9 percent official jobless rate reported by the Labor Department.

Of course if truly honest numbers were being used, the unemployment rate would not be anywhere close to this range.  According to John Williams of shadowstats.com, the broadest measure of unemployment is currently sitting at 22.9 percent.

And just last week I showed my readers that 23.2 percent of all Americans in their prime working years do not have a job right now, and that inactivity rates for both men and women in the U.S. are currently far higher than they were during the last recession.

So when Donald Trump says that we are at an unemployment number “that’s probably into the twenties”, I would have to rate that statement as mostly true.

Of course things are about to get a whole lot worse.  According to Challenger, Gray & Christmas, job cut announcements by major firms were up 32 percent during the first quarter of 2016 compared to the first quarter of 2015.

When big corporations are doing well, they tend to hire more people.  But when their earnings start to go down, one of the very first things they tend to do is to lay people off.

Sadly, that is what we are starting to see right now.  According to Wolf Richter, it is being projected that corporate earnings per share for the first quarter will decline a whopping 8.5 percent compared to one year ago…

Even analysts who estimate pro-forma, ex-bad-items, non-GAAP earnings that S&P 500 companies propagate to look better and that these analysts use to inflate their stock-price targets, just threw in the towel on the quarter.

They expect these inflated earnings per share for the first quarter to plunge 8.5% from a year ago, according to FactSet. If this holds after S&P 500 companies report their ex-bad-items earnings, it would be the worst EPS decline since Q3 2009.

It would also be the fourth quarter in a row of year-over-year earnings declines, a phenomenon that last happened during the Great Recession from Q4 2008 through Q3 2009.

In the past, we have almost always seen corporate profit margins peak and start declining before a recession hits.  The following chart comes from Jesse Felder, and it shows that this has happened prior to almost every recession in the post-World War II era, and now it is happening again…

Corporate Profits - Jesse Felder

Why can’t more people see this?

For months, I have been pointing out to my readers how history is repeating.  The exact same patterns that have happened just prior to previous recessions are happening again, but most people just refuse to see the truth.

It is absolutely maddening, and it is just more evidence of how “dumbed-down” our society has become.

Yes, U.S. stocks rebounded substantially in March, but that was not based on the economic fundamentals.  Just look at the following chart from Zero Hedge.  At some point stock prices and corporate earnings will start converging once again.  There is simply no way in the world that stock prices can stay disconnected from reality indefinitely…

Change In Earnings Per Share - Zero Hedge

So when Donald Trump says that we are in “a financial bubble” and that “it’s a terrible time right now” to be investing in stocks, I would have to rate those statements as absolutely true.

I would also have to rate his statement that we are heading toward a “very massive recession” as absolutely true as well, and legendary investor Jim Rogers agrees with me.  In fact, he recently told Bloomberg that there is “a 100 percent probability that the U.S. economy would be in a downturn within one year“.

For a legendary investor such as Jim, that is quite a bold statement to make.  And of course most American families already feel like they are in an economic downturn.  This is something that my wife and I talked about during our most recent show

The truth is that the U.S. economy has never even gotten close to recovering to the level it was at just prior to the last recession, and now the next major crisis is upon us.

But this new crisis is not going to be like the last one.  It is going to be much, much worse before it is all said and done, and what is coming is going to bring America to her knees.  This is something that I discuss in my new book.  The economic devastation that is coming is going to be unlike anything that any of us have ever known, and it is going to shake America to the very core.

So enjoy the remaining days of “normal life in America” while you still can.

A lot of people are using this time to party, but if you are wise you are using it to prepare.

Credit Card Debt In The United States Is Approaching A Trillion Dollars

Credit Card Debt - Public DomainFor the first time ever, total credit card debt in the United States is approaching a trillion dollars.  Instead of learning painful lessons from the last recession, Americans continue to make the same horrendous financial mistakes over and over again.  In fact, U.S. consumers accumulated more new credit card debt during the 4th quarter of 2015 than they did during the years of 2009, 2010 and 2011 combined.  That is absolutely insanity, because other than payday loans, credit card debt is just about the worst kind of debt that consumers could possibly go into.  Extremely high rates of interest, combined with severe penalties and fees, can choke the financial life out of almost any family in no time at all.

These days, most Americans use credit cards for various purposes, and they can be very convenient.

And if you pay them off every single month, they don’t become a problem.

Unfortunately, a lot of people are not doing this.  According to CNBC, total U.S. credit card debt rose by an astounding 71 billion dollars last year alone…

Last year, credit card debt in the U.S. surged by approximately $71 billion to $917.7 billion, according to a new study from CardHub.com. The research also found that most of the debt accrued in 2015 came in the fourth quarter, when Americans tacked on more than $52 billion.

“With 7 of the past 10 quarters reflecting year-over-year regression in consumer performance, evidence is mounting to support the notion that credit card users are reverting to pre-downturn bad habits,” CardHub CEO Odysseas Papadimitriou said in a statement.

And as noted above, things were particularly gruesome during the 4th quarter of last year.

According to Alternet, Americans added more credit card debt during those three months than during the entire years of 2009, 2010 and 2011 combined…

Not since we headed into the Great Recession of 2008 have we been quite so loosey-goosey with our credit cards, racking up debt with stunning speed. Of our 4Q totals, CardHub notes, “during this one quarter, we added more debt than in 2009, 2010 and 2011 put together.” That brings dollars owed to credit card companies by each debt-saddled American family up to $7,879, the highest since the Great Recession.

I can’t even begin to describe how unwise this is.  When I was in my twenties, I made the same mistakes that so many other Americans are making right now.  I very foolishly racked up large balances on my credit cards, and it took years of extremely painful payments to fix those mistakes.

In America today, 37 percent of all households maintain credit card balances from month to month, and the average level of credit card debt for those households is $15,700.  The following comes from CBS Minnesota

According to NerdWallet, 37 percent of American households have credit card debt, which is defined as not paying off the full balance every month. Using data from the Federal Reserve of New York, U.S. Census and its own poll, NerdWallet found the average balance for those in credit debt is $15,700.

What most people don’t realize is that by letting balances run from month to month, you can end up paying just about as much in interest as you did for the original purchases.

Here is one credit card repayment scenario that comes from NerdWallet

For the sake of simplicity in calculating the cost of the average credit card debt, let’s assume an APR of 16% and a fixed payment. We’ll also assume a minimum payment of 2% of the principal balance of $15,762, the average as of the end of 2015, or $315.

Based on those terms — and assuming you don’t add any more to your credit card balance — it would take 84 months, or seven years, to pay off the balance in full. During that time, you’ll pay $10,402 in interest — about two-thirds of the original balance — for a total of $26,164. This averages out to about $124 in interest per month.

The scenario above assumes that all payments are made on time.  But a single late payment can trigger higher interest rates, penalties and fees that can be absolutely suffocating.

In fact, some people end up paying back three, four or five times as much as they originally borrowed to the credit card companies.

If you use credit cards for convenience or to buy things online or to automatically pay bills, that is fine.  Just don’t let balances accumulate.  As you can see, that can be financial suicide.

And as we head into a new global recession, you definitely don’t want to be saddled with high levels of debt.  All of us have little luxuries that we can cut back on, and now is not the time to be living on the financial edge.

Just look at some of the troubling signs that we have seen in the news in recent days…

-The U.S. oil and rig count just dropped to the lowest level ever recorded

-One Houston CEO told employees that he was laying off that we have entered a “depression

-It is being reported that 35 percent of all oil and gas companies around the world are at risk of falling into bankruptcy

-Unemployment in Canada just hit a three year high

-The number of job cuts in the United States skyrocketed 218 percent during the month of January according to Challenger, Gray & Christmas

-U.S. manufacturing activity has been in contraction for four months in a row

-U.S. factory orders have now fallen for 15 months in a row

-Subprime auto loan delinquencies have hit their highest level since the last recession

-Orders for Class 8 trucks in the United States dropped by 48 percent on a year over year basis in January

-The Restaurant Performance Index in the United States has dropped to the lowest level that we have seen since 2008

-Major retailers all over America are shutting down hundreds of stores

And this list does not even include all of the signs of severe economic trouble from around the rest of the planet that I have been writing about lately.

Credit card debt truly is financial poison, and it is not something that you want to have during the hard times that are coming.

Unfortunately, most Americans never learn, and they continue to rack up credit card debt as if there is no tomorrow even as the global economy starts to spiral downhill all around them.

Recession 2016: In Some States, A Very Deep Economic Downturn Has Already Arrived

Recession 2016 - Public DomainDid you know that there are some U.S. states that have already officially fallen into recession?  Economic activity all over the planet is in the process of slowing down, and there are some areas of the country that are really starting to feel the pain.  In particular, any state that is heavily dependent on the energy industry is hurting right now.  During the years immediately following the last recession, the energy industry was the primary engine for the growth of good paying jobs in America, but now that process is completely reversing.  All over the U.S. energy companies are going under, and thousands upon thousands of good jobs are being lost.

On Sunday evening, Bloomberg published an article entitled “The U.S. States Where Recession Is Already a Reality“. The following is an excerpt from that article…

As economists size up the chances of the first nationwide slump since 2009, pockets of the country are already contracting. Four states — Alaska, North Dakota, West Virginia and Wyoming — are in a recession, and three others are at risk of prolonged declines, according to indexes of state economic performance tracked by Moody’s Analytics.

The three additional states that are “at risk of prolonged declines” are Louisiana, New Mexico and Oklahoma.  What all of those seven states have in common is a strong dependence on the energy industry.  Last year, 67 oil and gas companies in the United States filed for bankruptcy, and approximately 130,000 good paying energy jobs were lost.

If the price of oil does not go back up, this could be just the beginning.  It is being reported that a whopping 35 percent of all oil and gas companies around the planet are at risk of falling into bankruptcy, and the financial institutions that have been backing these energy companies are getting very nervous.

Of course things could shift dramatically for oil and gas companies if World War 3 suddenly erupts in the Middle East, and that could literally happen at any time.  But for the moment the outlook for the energy industry continues to be quite dreary.

Let us also keep in mind that the problems for the U.S. economy are not limited to the energy industry.  According to CNBC, corporate profits in the United States have now declined for three straight quarters, and this is the very first time this has happened since the last recession…

With 87 percent of the S&P 500 reporting, total blended fourth-quarter earnings have shown a decline of 3.6 percent, according to FactSet. Assuming the trend holds up, it will mark the first time profits have fallen for three straight quarters since 2009.

But the road ahead doesn’t get any easier.

FactSet is now projecting that earnings will decline 6.9 percent in the first quarter, a stunning move lower over time considering that in September the expectation was for 4.8 percent growth.

As corporate profits fall, layoffs are starting to increase.  Just the other day we learned that the number of job cuts in this country shot up 218 percent during the month of January according to Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

It is starting to look very much like 2008 all over again, and I am convinced that it will soon be much, much harder to find work in America.

Here are some more numbers that indicate that the U.S. is heading into a major economic slowdown…

U.S. exports were down 7 percent on a year over year basis in December.

U.S. manufacturing activity has been in contraction for four months in a row.

U.S. factory orders have fallen for 14 months in a row.

The Restaurant Performance Index in the United States has dropped to the lowest level that we have seen since 2008.

Orders for Class 8 trucks in the United States dropped by 48 percent on a year over year basis in January.

But the mainstream media continues to try to convince all of us that everything is going to be just fine.  Earlier today, CNN ran an article entitled “U.S. recession fears fade after market rally“, and the Wall Street Journal published an article entitled “The U.S. Economy Is in Good Shape” that got a tremendous amount of attention.

Well, if the U.S. economy is in such great shape, then why are some of the biggest retailers in the entire nation shutting down stores at a frightening pace.  The following list of store closures comes from one of my previous articles

-Wal-Mart is closing 269 stores, including 154 inside the United States.

-K-Mart is closing down more than two dozen stores over the next several months.

-J.C. Penney will be permanently shutting down 47 more stores after closing a total of 40 stores in 2015.

-Macy’s has decided that it needs to shutter 36 stores and lay off approximately 2,500 employees.

-The Gap is in the process of closing 175 stores in North America.

-Aeropostale is in the process of closing 84 stores all across America.

-Finish Line has announced that 150 stores will be shutting down over the next few years.

-Sears has shut down about 600 stores over the past year or so, but sales at the stores that remain open continue to fall precipitously.

Perhaps things look fine for the moment in New York City or Washington D.C. or San Francisco or wherever it is that these “reporters” write their articles.

But for ordinary Americans that operate in the real world, the pain of this new economic downturn is already exceedingly apparent.  Here is more from Bloomberg

Dale Oxley doesn’t need to hear about rising odds of a U.S. recession to dread the future. For the West Virginia homebuilder, the downturn has already arrived.

Everyone is going to have to tighten their belts,” said Oxley, the 48-year-old owner of a Charleston-area construction company. “The next couple of years are going to be difficult.”

Unfortunately for hard working Americans like Oxley, what we have seen so far is just the tip of the iceberg.

We have entered a long downturn that is ultimately going to be even more painful than the last recession was.

And everything changes if Saudi Arabia and Turkey get trigger happy and decide to invade Syria.  If that happens, it could very well be the spark that sets off World War 3 and a full-blown meltdown of the global financial system.

Economic Activity Is Slowing Down Much Faster Than The Experts Anticipated

Locomotive - Public DomainWe have not seen global economic activity fall off this rapidly since the great recession of 2008.  Manufacturing activity is imploding all over the planet, global trade is slowing down at a pace that is extremely alarming, and the Baltic Dry Index just hit another brand new all-time record low.  If the “real economy” consists of people making, selling and shipping stuff, then it is in incredibly bad shape.  Here in the United States, the dismal economic numbers continue to stun all of the experts.  For example, on Monday we learned that the Texas general business activity index just hit a six year low

Economic activity in Texas keeps getting worse.

The general business activity index out Monday from the Dallas Federal Reserve for January was -34.6, a six-year low and much worse than economists had expected.

The forecast for the monthly index was -14, following a December reading of -21.6 (revised from -20.1) that was also worse than expected.

One could perhaps argue that this is to be expected in Texas because of the collapse in the price of oil.

But what about the very unusual things that we are seeing in other areas of the country?  In Erwin, Tennessee, a rail terminal that had been continuously operating for 135 years was just permanently shut down, and hundreds of workers now find themselves without a job

The last coal train to leave Erwin rolled slowly out of town just after at 3 p.m. Thursday, less than eight hours after CSX Transportation employees heard the news that rocked all of Unicoi County.

“Its a hard pill to swallow,”  county Mayor Greg Lynch said. “Of course, we heard rumors that something was coming down. But never in my wildest dreams did I imagine they would just shut down and leave town.”

CSX delivered the news of its decision to immediately close Erwin’s 175-acre rail yard and abruptly end the employment of the facility’s 300 workers in a series of meetings with employees conducted at the start of their morning shifts.

It has been said that if you want to know what is really happening with the U.S. economy, just watch the railroads.

And right now, rail traffic all over the nation is falling to depressingly low levels.

One of Steve Quayle’s readers says that rail traffic in Colorado has slowed down so much that hundreds of engines are just sitting there on the tracks

With regard to the train freight article this morning, we have in Grand Junction, CO., literally hundreds of engines sidelined on the tracks. They are three deep on some tracks and easily number over 250. I have never seen this many engines on the tracks before and I feel this is just another indicator of the slowdown in shipping.

In case you are tempted to think that this is just anecdotal evidence, I want you to consider what is happening to the largest railroad company in the United States.

According to Wolf Richter, operating revenues for Union Pacific were down 15 percent last year…

Union Pacific, the largest US railroad, reported awful fourth-quarter earnings Thursday evening. Operating revenues plummeted 15% year over year, and net income dropped 22%.

It was broad-based: The only category where revenues rose was automotive (+1%). Otherwise, revenues fell: Chemicals (-7%), Agricultural Products (-12%), Intermodal containers (-14%), Industrial Products (-23%), and Coal (-31%). Shipment of crude plunged 42%.

So Union Pacific did what American companies do best: it laid off 3,900 people last year.

And of course we can see evidence of the emerging economic slowdown all around us pretty much wherever we look.  Sprint just laid off 8 percent of its workforce, GoPro is letting go 7 percent of its workers,  and Wal-Mart just announced the closure of 269 stores.

But instead of dealing with reality, there are a lot of irrational optimists that insist that things will start bouncing back any day now.  For instance, CNBC is reporting that Goldman Sachs is forecasting that the S&P 500 will end up finishing the year back at 2,100…

Goldman, though, is sticking with its forecast that the S&P 500 will rebound and finish the year at 2,100, a rise of about 11 percent from current levels but basically no net gain for the full year.

It is easy to say something like that, but the actions of the big banks speak louder than words.

Most people don’t realize this, but several of the “too big to fail” banks laid off thousands of workers in 2015

Bank of America and Citigroup reduced headcount the most, eliminating about 20,000 staffers between them, according to fourth-quarter earnings reports from each bank. The respective moves amount to 4.6 percent and 4 percent fewer workers at the banks. JPMorgan Chase reported in its earnings that it employs 6,700 fewer workers than a year ago.

And guess what?

The “too big to fail” banks did the exact same thing just before the great stock market crash of 2008.

When are people going to finally start understanding that we have a major league crisis on our hands?

Since June 2015, approximately 15 trillion dollars of global stock market wealth has been wiped out.  After a brief respite at the end of last week, it appears that the global financial crisis is getting ready to accelerate once again.

On Monday, the price of oil dipped back under 30 dollars, the Dow was down another 208 points, and the Nikkei is currently down another 389 points in early trading.

Somewhere close to one-fifth of all global stock market wealth has already been wiped out.

We only have about four-fifths left.

But in the end, I can talk about these numbers until I am blue in the face and some people will still not get prepared.

Some people have so much faith in Barack Obama, the Federal Reserve and the mainstream media that they would literally follow them off a cliff.

By now, most of the people that believe that they should prepare for the coming crisis have already gotten prepared, and most of those that want to believe that everything is going to work out just fine somehow are never going to get prepared anyway.

What is going to happen is going to happen, and tens of millions of people are going to end up bitterly regretting not listening to the warnings when they still had the chance.

The Last 16 Times This Happened There Was A Recession…

16 Sign - Public DomainSomething has just happened that has signaled a recession every single time that it has occurred since World War I.  16 times since 1919 there have been at least 8 month-over-month declines in industrial production during the preceding 12 month period, and in each of those 16 instances the U.S. economy has plunged into recession.  Now that it has happened again, will the U.S. economy beat the odds and avoid a major economic downturn?  I certainly wouldn’t count on it.  As I have written about repeatedly, there are a whole host of other numbers that are screaming that a new recession is here, and global financial markets are crumbling.  It would take a miracle of epic proportions to pull us out of this tailspin, and yet there are many people out there that are absolutely convinced that it will happen.

John Hussman is not one of them.  In his most recent weekly comment, he examined this stunning correlation between month-over-month declines in industrial production and recessions.  To me, what Hussman has presented is overwhelmingly conclusive

Last week, following a long period of poor internals and weakening order surplus, we observed fresh declines in industrial production and retail sales. Industrial production has now also declined on a year-over-year basis. The weakness we presently observe is strongly associated with recession. The chart below (h/t Jeff Wilson) plots the cumulative number of month-over-month declines in Industrial Production during the preceding 12-month period, in data since 1919. Recessions are shaded. The current total of 10 (of a possible 12) month-over-month declines in Industrial Production has never been observed except in the context of a U.S. recession. Historically, as Dick Van Patten would say, eight is enough.

Declines In Industrial Production And Recessions

After looking at that chart, is there anyone out there that still doubts that the U.S. economy is in significant trouble?

Many estimates of U.S. GDP growth for the fourth quarter of 2015 are already just a small fraction of one percent.  It would not be a surprise at all to see a negative number posted once it is all said and done.

And of course more bad news for the economy just keeps pouring in.  So far this week we have learned that the growth rate of federal withholding taxes has turned negative, Johnson & Johnson plans has announced that it is eliminating 3,000 jobs, and BP has announced that it is eliminating 4,000 jobs.

Of course it is not exactly a surprise that BP is cutting jobs.  At this point the entire energy industry is absolutely hemorrhaging workers.  As I wrote about yesterday, 130,000 good paying energy jobs have been lost in the United States since the beginning of last year.

But now we are seeing major firms outside the energy industry cutting payrolls.  Even financial giants such as Morgan Stanley are looking for ways to cut costs…

Morgan Stanley just announced fourth-quarter earnings, and it is providing detail to investors on a cost-saving plan called Project Streamline.

During a conference call, CEO James Gorman uttered a sentence that will most likely make the bank’s staff shudder.

“Too many employees based in high-cost centers are doing work that can sensibly be done in lower-cost centers,” he said.

The whole environment is changing.

When things start to get tough, big corporations start to get rid of people.  We saw this back in 2008, and it is starting to happen again right now.

And just like last time around, we are going to see millions of Americans lose their jobs during the hard years that are ahead of us.

But thankfully for the moment there is a brief lull in the action.  The financial turmoil that has gripped the planet was calmed on Tuesday when China announced that their economy grew at a rate of 6.8 percent during the fourth quarter of 2015.  This was right in line with expectations, and markets around the world responded positively to the news.

There is just one huge problem.  Everyone knows that GDP figures coming out of China are essentially meaningless.  If you believe that the Chinese economy actually grew at a 6.8 percent rate during the fourth quarter of 2015, then I have a bridge to sell you.  Virtually every other number coming out of China over the past several months tells us that the Chinese economy is shrinking, and so that 6.8 percent figure is extremely questionable at best.

Do you want to know the last time the communist Chinese admitted to having a recession?

It was in 1976.

Over the past four decades, economic growth figures have become a source of great national pride for China.  To admit that the economy is now imploding would bring great shame on the Chinese government and the nation as a whole, and so that must be avoided at all costs.

Yes, the numbers are fraudulent in the U.S. too.  According to John Williams of shadowstats.com, if the U.S. was actually using honest numbers the last recession never would have technically ended.

But in China they take this to ridiculous extremes.  The Chinese economy is fueled by exports, and Chinese exports have been down on a year over year basis for six months in a row.  And the primary reason why commodity prices have been absolutely collapsing is because of the economic contraction in China.

Of course if China had released a GDP number that was honest, global markets would have crashed hard.  So their lies are making everyone else feel a bit better for the moment, and every day of relative stability that we can enjoy from here on out is something to be thankful for.

As you read this article, markets all over Asia, Europe, South America and the Middle East are already in bear market territory.  More than 30 percent of the market has been wiped out in Brazil and Hong Kong, more than 40 percent of the market has been wiped out in China and Italy, and about 50 percent of the market has been wiped out in Saudi Arabia.

We are already experiencing a major global financial crisis.

The only question remaining is how bad it will eventually become.

Let us hope for more days like this one that are relatively calm.  But I wouldn’t count on things turning around significantly any time soon, because the economic fundamentals are telling us that big trouble is ahead.

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