If the U.S. economy really is improving, then why are big U.S. retailers permanently shutting down thousands of stores? The “retail apocalypse” that I have written about so frequently appears to be accelerating. As you will see below, major U.S. retailers have announced that they are closing more than 6,000 locations, but economic conditions in this country are still fairly stable. So if this is happening already, what are things going to look like once the next recession strikes? For a long time, I have been pointing to 2015 as a major “turning point” for the U.S. economy, and I still feel that way. And since I started The Economic Collapse Blog at the end of 2009, I have never seen as many indications that we are headed into another major economic downturn as I do right now. If retailers are closing this many stores already, what are our malls and shopping centers going to look like a few years from now?
The list below comes from information compiled by About.com, but I have only included major retailers that have announced plans to close at least 10 stores. Most of these closures will take place this year, but in some instances the closures are scheduled to be phased in over a number of years. As you can see, the number of stores that are being permanently shut down is absolutely staggering…
180 Abercrombie & Fitch (by 2015)
75 Aeropostale (through January 2015)
150 American Eagle Outfitters (through 2017)
223 Barnes & Noble (through 2023)
265 Body Central / Body Shop
66 Bottom Dollar Food
25 Build-A-Bear (through 2015)
32 C. Wonder
120 Chico’s (through 2017)
200 Children’s Place (through 2017)
17 Christopher & Banks
70 Coach (fiscal 2015)
70 Coco’s /Carrows
300 Deb Shops
340 Dollar Tree/Family Dollar
39 Einstein Bros. Bagels
50 Express (through 2015)
31 Frederick’s of Hollywood
50 Fresh & Easy Grocey Stores
65 Future Shop (Best Buy Canada)
54 Golf Galaxy (by 2016)
50 Guess (through 2015)
127 Jones New York Outlet
10 Just Baked
28 Kate Spade Saturday & Jack Spade
400 Office Depot/Office Max (by 2016)
63 Pep Boys (“in the coming years”)
100 Pier One (by 2017)
20 Pick ’n Save (by 2017)
1,784 Radio Shack
13 Ruby Tuesday
10 SpartanNash Grocery Stores
55 Staples (2015)
133 Target, Canada (bankruptcy)
31 Tiger Direct
200 Walgreens (by 2017)
10 West Marine
338 Wet Seal
80 Wolverine World Wide (2015 – Stride Rite & Keds)
So why is this happening?
Without a doubt, Internet retailing is taking a huge toll on brick and mortar stores, and this is a trend that is not going to end any time soon.
What we find is that over the past 6 months we had a tremendous drop in true discretionary consumer spending. Within the overall downtrend we do see a bit of a rally in February but quite ominously that rally failed and the bottom absolutely fell out. Again the importance is it confirms the fundamental theory that consumer spending is showing the initial signs of a severe pull back. A worrying signal to be certain as we would expect this pull back to begin impacting other areas of consumer spending. The reason is that American consumers typically do not voluntarily pull back like that on spending but do so because they have run out of credit. And if credit is running thin it will surely be felt in all spending.
The truth is that middle class U.S. consumers are tapped out. Most families are just scraping by financially from month to month. For most Americans, there simply is not a whole lot of extra money left over to go shopping with these days.
In fact, at this point approximately one out of every four Americans spend at least half of their incomes just on rent…
More than one in four Americans are spending at least half of their family income on rent – leaving little money left to purchase groceries, buy clothing or put gas in the car, new figures have revealed.
A staggering 11.25 million households consume 50 percent or more of their income on housing and utilities, according to an analysis of Census data by nonprofit firm, Enterprise Community Partners.
And 1.8 million of these households spend at least 70 percent of their paychecks on rent.
The surging cost of rental housing has affected a rising number of families since the Great Recession hit in 2007. Officials define housing costs in excess of 30 percent of income as burdensome.
For decades, the U.S. economy was powered by a free spending middle class that had plenty of discretionary income to throw around. But now that the middle class is being systematically destroyed, that paradigm is changing. Americans families simply do not have the same resources that they once did, and that spells big trouble for retailers.
As you read this article, the United States still has more retail space per person than any other nation on the planet. But as stores close by the thousands, “space available” signs are going to be popping up everywhere. This is especially going to be true in poor and lower middle class neighborhoods. Especially after what we just witnessed in Baltimore, many retailers are not going to hesitate to shut down underperforming locations in impoverished areas.
And remember, the next major economic crisis has not even arrived yet. Once it does, the business environment in this country is going to change dramatically, and a few years from now America is going to look far different than it does right now.
If U.S. economic growth falls any lower, we are officially going to be in recession territory. On Wednesday, we learned that U.S. GDP grew at a 0.2 percent annual rate in the first quarter of 2015. That was much lower than all of the “experts” were projecting. And of course there are all sorts of questions whether the GDP numbers the government feeds us are legitimate anyway. According to John Williams of shadowstats.com, if honest numbers were used they would show that U.S. GDP growth has been continuously negative since 2005. But even if we consider the number that the government has given us to be the “real” number, it still shows that the U.S. economy has stalled out. It is almost as if we have hit a “turning point”, and there are many out there (including myself) that believe that the next major economic downturn is dead ahead. As you will see in this article, a whole bunch of things are happening right now that we would expect to see if a recession was beginning. The following are 16 signs that the economy has stalled out and the next economic downturn is here…
The gross domestic product grew between January and March at an annualized rate of 0.2 percent, the U.S. Commerce Department said, adding to the picture of an economy braking sharply after accelerating for much of last year. The pace fell well shy of the 1 percent mark anticipated by analysts and marked the weakest quarter in a year.
#2 If you strip a very unusual inventory buildup out of the GDP number, U.S. GDP would have actually fallen at a -2.5 percent annual rate during the first quarter…
The only good news: the massive inventory build, the largest since 2010, boosted GDP by nearly 3.0%. Without this epic stockpiling of non-farm inventory which will have to be liquidated at some point (and at a very low price) Q1 GDP would have been -2.5%.
#3 Our trade deficit with the rest of the planet is absolutely killing our economic growth. According to the Reality Chek Blog, U.S. economic growth would have been a total of 8 percent higher since the end of the last recession if we actually had balanced trade with other nations…
As of the new first quarter figures, the worsening of the trade deficit has reduced the cumulative real growth of the U.S. economy by 7.99 percent since the current recovery began in the second quarter of 2009.
#4 According to numbers that were just released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in one out of every five American familiesnobody has a job. So how in the world can the “unemployment rate” be sitting at “5.5 percent” when everyone is unemployed in 20 percent of all families in the United States? It doesn’t make any sense.
#5 The rate of homeownership in the United States has just hit a brand new 25 year low. How can anyone claim that the middle class is “healthy” when the percentage of Americans that own a home is the lowest that it has been in more than two decades?
#6 Back in 2013, 31 percent of all Americans said that they did not anticipate buying a home “for the foreseeable future”. Just two years later, that number has risen to 41 percent.
#7 The student loan bubble is clearly bursting. According to Bloomberg, only 37 percent of all student loan borrowers are actually up to date on their payments and reducing their balances…
With borrowers increasingly struggling to repay their student loans, Moody’s Investors Service is warning it may take investors longer than promised to get their money back. The credit grader said this month it may lower rankings on $3 billion of top-rated debt as investors face the threat of slowing principal payments or even receiving no interest.
The concern underscores the fallout from a record $1.2 trillion in U.S. student loans that’s spreading to everything from the housing market and consumer spending to taxpayers. As a sluggish economic recovery forces borrowers to miss payments or tap relief programs, only 37 percent are current and reducing their balances, according to a Federal Reserve Bank of New York presentation this month.
#8 Procter & Gamble has announced that it will be cutting up to 6,000 more jobs from their payroll. Why would they be doing this if the economy is “getting better”?
#16 As the U.S. economy begins to head into another downturn, most Americans are completely unprepared for it. In fact, one recent survey discovered that 62 percent of all Americans are currently living paycheck to paycheck.
Don’t let this next recession take you by surprise.
Back in 2008 and 2009, millions of Americans suddenly lost their jobs or businesses because of the sharp economic downturn. Because most of them were living paycheck to paycheck, all of a sudden a whole lot of Americans could not make their mortgage payments and foreclosures surged to unprecedented heights. Millions of families that thought they were operating on a solid foundation saw their middle class lifestyles evaporate in just a matter of a few months.
That is why it is so vital to prepare yourself financially, mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually for the great storm that is coming ahead of time. Over the past couple of years, I have been working on a new book entitled “Get Prepared Now” which talks about how to make these preparations. On Wednesday, it was finally released to the public. I hope that you will check it out.
The past few years have been a period of relative stability for the U.S. economy. A lot of people have been lulled into a false sense of security during that time. These people have become convinced that our problems have been fixed. But they haven’t been fixed at all. In fact, our problems are far, far worse than they were just prior to the last financial crisis.
When the next great financial crisis strikes, we are going to see a spike in the suicide rate just like we did during the last one. Millions will be blindsided by what is coming and will give in to depression and despair. But that doesn’t have to happen to you. It is empowering to know what is coming and to understand why it is coming. It is empowering to get prepared in advance for turbulent times. It is empowering to have a plan for the years ahead.
Even though I write about all of the horrible things that are coming to this country every day, I live my life with no fear, and that is what I want for all of you as well.
Do you want to know who will be giving in to fear and panic when things start to go really crazy?
It will be the people that had no idea what was coming and made no preparations whatsoever.
Yes, the times ahead are going to be extremely challenging, but they can also be the best times of your life.
It is all going to come down to how you respond to a world that is going completely insane.
When an economic crisis is coming, there are usually certain indicators that appear in advance. For example, commodity prices usually start to plunge before a recession begins. And as you can see from the Bloomberg Commodity Index which you can find right here, this has already been happening. In addition, I have previously written about how the U.S. dollar went on a great run just before the financial collapse of 2008. This is something that has also been happening over the past few months. Some people would have you believe that nobody can anticipate the next great economic downturn and that to try to do so is just an exercise in “guesswork”. But that is not the case at all. We can look back over history and see patterns that keep repeating. And a lot of the exact same patterns that happened just before previous stock market crashes are happening again right now.
For example, let’s talk about the price of oil. There are only two times in history when the price of oil has fallen by more than 50 dollars in a six month time period. One was just before the financial crisis in 2008, and the other has just happened…
As a result of crashing oil prices, we are witnessing oil rigs shut down in the United States at a blistering pace. In fact, almost half of all oil rigs in the U.S. have already shut down. The following commentary and chart come from Wolf Richter…
In the latest week, drillers idled another 41 oil rigs, according to Baker Hughes. Only 825 rigs were still active, down 48.7% from October. In the 23 weeks since, drillers have idled 784 oil rigs, the steepest, deepest cliff-dive in the history of the data:
We are looking at a full-blown fracking bust, and this bust is already having a dramatic impact on the economies of states that are heavily dependent on the energy industry.
The crash in oil prices is hammering the Texas economy.
The latest manufacturing outlook index from the Dallas Fed plunged again in March, to -17.4 from -11.2 in February, indicating deteriorating business conditions in the state.
But this pain is going to be felt far beyond Texas. In recent years, Wall Street banks have made a massive amount of money packaging up energy industry loans, bonds, etc. and selling them off to investors.
If that sounds similar to the kind of behavior that preceded the subprime mortgage meltdown, that is because it is.
Now those loans, bonds, etc. are going bad as the fracking bust intensifies, and whoever is left holding all of this worthless paper at the end of the day is going to lose an extraordinary amount of money. Here is more from Wolf Richter…
It suited Wall Street just fine: according to Dealogic, banks extracted $31 billion in fees from the US oil and gas industry and its investors over the past five years by handling IPOs, spin-offs, “leveraged-loan” transactions, the sale of bonds and junk bonds, and M&A.
That’s $6 billion in fees per year! Over the last four years, these banks made over $4 billion in fees on just “leveraged loans.” These loans to over-indebted, junk-rated companies soared from about $40 billion in 2009 to $210 billion in 2014 before it came to a screeching halt.
For Wall Street it doesn’t matter what happens to these junk bonds and leveraged loans after they’ve been moved on to mutual funds where they can decompose sight-unseen. And it doesn’t matter to Wall Street what happens to leverage loans after they’ve been repackaged into highly rated Collateralized Loan Obligations that are then sold to others.
At the same time, we are also witnessing a slowdown in global trade. This usually happens when economic conditions are about to turn sour, and that is why it is so alarming that the total volume of global trade in January was down 1.4 percent from December. According to Tyler Durden of Zero Hedge, that was the largest drop since 2011…
Presenting the latest data from the CPB Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis, according to which in January world trade by volume dropped by a whopping 1.4% from December: the biggest drop since 2011!
We are seeing some troubling signs in the U.S. as well.
I shared the following chart in a previous article, but it bears repeating. It comes from Charles Hugh Smith, and it shows that new orders for consumer goods are falling at a rate not seen since the last recession…
Well, what about the stock market? It was up more than 200 points on Monday. Isn’t that good news?
Yes, but the euphoria on Wall Street will not last for long.
When corporate earnings per share either start flattening out or start to decline, that is a huge red flag. We saw this just prior to the stock market crash of 2008, and it is happening again right now. The following commentary and chart come from Phoenix Capital Research…
Take a look at the below chart showing current stock levels and changes in forward Earnings Per Share (EPS). Note, in particular how divergences between EPS and stocks tend to play out (hint look at 2007-2008).
We all know what came next.
And guess what?
According to CNBC, a lot of the “smart money” is pulling their money out of the stock market right now while the getting is good…
Recent market volatility has sent stock market investors rushing for the exits and into cash.
Outflows from equity-based funds in 2015 have reached their highest level since 2009, thanks to a seesaw market that has come under pressure from weak economic data, a stronger dollar and the the prospect of monetary tightening.
Funds that invest in stocks have seen $44 billion in outflows, or redemptions, year to date, according to Bank of America Merrill Lynch. Equity funds have seen outflows in five of the last six weeks, including $6.1 billion in just the last week.
It doesn’t matter if you are a millionaire “on paper” today.
What matters is if the money is going to be there when you really need it.
At the moment, a whole lot of people have been lulled into a false sense of complacency by the soaring stock market and by the bubble of false economic stability that we have been enjoying.
But under the surface, there is a whole lot of turmoil going on.
Those that are looking for the signs are going to see the next crisis approaching well in advance.
Those that are not are going to get absolutely blindsided by what is coming.
Since the depths of the last recession, the price of ground beef in the United States has doubled. Has your paycheck doubled since then? Even though the Federal Reserve insists that we are in a “low inflation” environment, the government’s own numbers show that the price of ground beef has been on an unprecedented run over the past six years. In early 2009, the average price of a pound of ground beef was hovering near 2 dollars. In February, it hit a brand new all-time record high of $4.238 per pound. Even just 12 months ago, the price of ground beef was sitting at $3.555 per pound. So we are talking about a huge increase. And this hits American families where they really live. Each year, the average American consumes approximately 270 pounds of meat. The only nation in the world that eats more meat than we do is Luxembourg. If the paychecks of American workers were going up fast enough to deal with this increase, it wouldn’t be that big of a deal. But of course that is not happening. In an article just last week, I showed that real median household income is a couple thousand dollars lower now than it was during the depths of the last recession. The middle class is being squeezed, and we are rapidly getting to the point where burgers are going to be considered a “luxury” item.
The following chart was posted by the Economic Policy Journal on Wednesday, and it incorporates the latest data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. When I first saw it, I was rather stunned. I knew that the price of ground beef had become rather outrageous in my local grocery stores, but I had no idea just how much damage had been done over the past six years…
The biggest reason why the price of ground beef has been going up is the fact that the U.S. cattle herd has been shrinking. It shrunk seven years in a row, and on January 1st, 2014 it was the smallest that it had been since 1951.
The good news is that the decline appears to have stopped, at least for the moment. According to the Wall Street Journal, the size of the U.S. cattle herd actually increased by 1 percent last year…
The U.S. cattle herd expanded in 2014 for the first time in eight years, offering hope to consumers that beef prices could start to subside after soaring to a series of records.
The nation’s cattle supply increased 1% in the year through Jan. 1 to 89.8 million head, according to data released Friday by the U.S. Agriculture Department, reversing a steady decline fueled by prolonged drought in the southern U.S. Great Plains and industry consolidation that encouraged many ranchers to thin herds.
But an increase of 1 percent is just barely going to keep up with the official population growth rate. If you factor in illegal immigration, we are still losing ground.
And if we have another major drought in cattle country this summer, the cattle herd is going to start shrinking again.
In addition, the price of food overall has been steadily rising for years. Here is a chart that I shared the other day…
It boggles the mind that the Federal Reserve can claim that we are in a “low inflation” environment. Anyone that goes grocery shopping feels the pain of these rising prices every time that they go to the store.
In the list that I put together yesterday, I included the following statistic…
Almost half of all Americans (47 percent) do not put a single penny out of their paychecks into savings.
One of the primary reasons why so many Americans are not saving any money is because many families simply cannot save any money. Their paychecks are stagnant while the cost of living just keeps going up and up.
There simply are not enough “good jobs” out there anymore. Our economy continues to bleed middle class jobs and the competition for the jobs that remain is quite intense.
Do you know what the two most common occupations in America today are?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, they are “retail sales clerk” and “cashier”.
And of course neither of those “occupations” pays even close to what is required to support a middle class family.
On average, a retail sales clerk makes $24,020 a year, and a cashier makes $20,670 a year.
Because the quality of our jobs has declined so much, there are millions of American families today in which both the mother and the father are working multiple jobs in a desperate attempt to make ends meet each month.
But don’t worry, the Federal Reserve says that we are nearly at “full employment“, and Barack Obama says that everything is going to be just fine.
Actually, the truth is that things are about to get a lot worse. At this point, we are even getting pessimistic numbers out of the Federal Reserve. Just this week we learned that the Fed is now projecting that economic growth for the first quarter of 2015 will be barely above zero…
We are at a turning point. The bubble of false stability that we have been living in is rapidly coming to an end, and when people start to realize that another great economic crisis is coming there is going to be a lot of panic.
And as far as food prices go, they are just going to keep taking a bigger chunk out of all of our wallets.
As high as prices are already, the truth is that your food dollars are never going to go farther than they do right now.
So let us hope for the best, but let us also get prepared for the worst.
Jim Clifton, the Chairman and CEO of Gallup, says that the percentage of Americans that are employed full-time has been hovering near record lows since the end of the last recession. But most Americans don’t realize this because the official unemployment numbers are extremely misleading. In fact, Clifton says that the official 5.6 percent unemployment rate is a “big lie”. Gallup regularly tracks the percentage of U.S. adults that are employed for 30 or more hours per week, and it is currently at 44.2 percent. It has been hovering between 42 percent and 45 percent since the end of 2009. This is extremely low. As I discussed the other day, there are 8.69 million Americans that are considered to be “officially unemployed” at this point. But there are another 92.90 million Americans that are considered to be “not in the labor force”. Millions upon millions of those Americans would work if they could. Overall, there are 101 million U.S. adults that do not have a job right now. But you won’t hear that number being discussed by the mainstream media, because it would make Barack Obama look really bad.
Most Americans just assume that the economic numbers that we are being given accurately reflect reality. That is why it is so refreshing to have men like Jim Clifton step forward and tell the truth. His recent article entitled “The Big Lie: 5.6% Unemployment” is making headlines all over America. The following is an extended excerpt from that article…
There’s another reason why the official rate is misleading. Say you’re an out-of-work engineer or healthcare worker or construction worker or retail manager: If you perform a minimum of one hour of work in a week and are paid at least $20 — maybe someone pays you to mow their lawn — you’re not officially counted as unemployed in the much-reported 5.6%. Few Americans know this.
Yet another figure of importance that doesn’t get much press: those working part time but wanting full-time work. If you have a degree in chemistry or math and are working 10 hours part time because it is all you can find — in other words, you are severely underemployed — the government doesn’t count you in the 5.6%. Few Americans know this.
There’s no other way to say this. The official unemployment rate, which cruelly overlooks the suffering of the long-term and often permanently unemployed as well as the depressingly underemployed, amounts to a Big Lie.
And it’s a lie that has consequences, because the great American dream is to have a good job, and in recent years, America has failed to deliver that dream more than it has at any time in recent memory. A good job is an individual’s primary identity, their very self-worth, their dignity — it establishes the relationship they have with their friends, community and country. When we fail to deliver a good job that fits a citizen’s talents, training and experience, we are failing the great American dream.
Gallup defines a good job as 30+ hours per week for an organization that provides a regular paycheck. Right now, the U.S. is delivering at a staggeringly low rate of 44%, which is the number of full-time jobs as a percent of the adult population, 18 years and older.
And Gallup is being extremely generous.
I certainly would not define a 30 hour a week job at minimum wage as a “good job”, but Gallup does.
So the truth is that the percentage of U.S. adults that do have “good jobs” is actually far lower than 44 percent.
In the video that I have posted below, there is much more from Clifton about our current employment crisis…
Pretty strong stuff.
But Clifton also understands that there is danger in speaking out like this.
For example, just check out what he told CNBC during one recent interview…
“I think that the number that comes out of BLS [Bureau of Labor Statistics] and the Department of Labor is very, very accurate. I need to make that very, very clear so that I don’t suddenly disappear. I need to make it home tonight.”
So why are there so few good jobs for Americans?
Well, for one thing, our control freak politicians have absolutely murdered job creation in the United States.
Traditionally, small businesses have been the primary engine of job growth for the U.S. economy. But for each of the past six years, the number of new businesses being created has been lower than the number of businesses that have died.
Prior to 2008, we had never seen this happen before in all of U.S. history.
A confluence of factors are coming together to create a perfect storm that is going to be extremely bitter for American workers.
Spending our wealth is not a path to prosperity. We have got to create wealth in order to be a prosperous nation.
But instead, we continue to buy far, far more from the rest of the world than they buy from us. We just learned that the trade deficit increased to 46.6 billion dollars in December, and the total trade deficit for the year was more than half a trillion dollars.
This is complete and utter insanity, but at this point the trade deficit is not even a political issue for either major political party anymore.
And the really bad news is that this is about as good as things are going to get for the U.S. economy. The next major economic downturn is right around the corner, and our employment crisis is going to get much, much worse once that strikes.
Already, layoffs in January were 17.6 percent higher than they were in January a year ago and businesses all over the country are shutting down following a very disappointing holiday season.
In addition, the Baltic Dry Index has dropped to stunningly low levels. In fact, it is already lower than it was at any point during the last recession. The following is an excerpt from a recent article by Mac Slavo…
The Baltic Dry Index (BDI) is used by economists and stock traders alike as a leading economic indicator because it predicts future economic activity. The index tracks in US dollars and measures global supply and demand for commodity shipments among bulk carriers including raw materials like lumber, coal, metallic ores, and grains. What makes this particular measurement so distinct from others, according to economic Howard Simmons, is that the BDI “is totally devoid of speculative content” because “people don’t book freighters unless they have cargo to move.”
On Thursday, the Baltic Dry Index was sitting at 564, That is not too far above the record low level of 554 that was established in July 1986.
So don’t be fooled by all the happy talk from the mainstream media and from politicians like Barack Obama.
They are lying to you, and their lies will soon be evident for all the world to see.
The signs of the times are everywhere – all you have to do is open up your eyes and look at them. When a pregnant woman first goes into labor, the birth pangs are usually fairly moderate and are not that close together. But as the time for delivery approaches, they become much more frequent and much more intense. Economically, what we are experiencing right now are birth pangs of the coming Great Depression. As we get closer to the crisis that is looming on the horizon, they will become even more powerful. This week, we learned that the Baltic Dry Index has fallen to the lowest level that we have seen in 29 years. The Baltic Dry Index also crashed during the financial collapse of 2008, but right now it is already lower than it was at any point during the last financial crisis. In addition, “Dr. Copper” and other industrial commodities continue to plunge. This almost always happens before we enter an economic downturn. Meanwhile, as I mentioned the other day, orders for durable goods are declining. This is also a traditional indicator that a recession is approaching. The warning signs are there – we just have to be open to what they are telling us.
And of course there are so many more parallels between past economic downturns and what is happening right now.
For example, volatility has returned to the markets in a big way. On Tuesday the Dow was down about 300 points, on Wednesday it was down another couple hundred points, and then on Thursday it was up a couple hundred points.
This is precisely how markets behave just before they crash. When markets are calm, they tend to go up. When markets get really choppy and start behaving erratically, that tells us that a big move down is usually coming.
At the same time, almost every major global currency is imploding. For much more on this, see the amazing charts in this article.
In particular, I am greatly concerned about the collapse of the euro. The Swiss would not have decoupled their currency from the euro if it was healthy. And political events in Greece are certainly not going to help things either. Economic conditions across Europe just continue to get worse, and the future of the eurozone itself is very much in doubt at this point. And if the eurozone does break up, a European economic depression is almost virtually assured – at least in the short term.
And I haven’t even mentioned the oil crash yet.
There is only one other time in all of history when the price of oil collapsed by more than 60 dollars, and that was just prior to the horrific financial crisis of 2008.
Since the last financial crisis, the oil industry has been a huge source for job growth in this country. The following is an excerpt from a recent CNN article…
The oil sector has added over a half million jobs — many of them high paying — since the recession ended in June 2009. That’s 13% of all US job growth over that period.
Now energy companies and related sectors are laying off thousands. Expect that trend to continue, bears say.
But losing good jobs is just the tip of the iceberg of this oil crisis.
At this point, the price of oil has already dropped to a catastrophically low level. The longer it stays at this level, the more damage that it is going to do. If the price of oil stays at this level for all of 2015, we are going to have a complete and total financial nightmare on our hands…
For the first time in 18 years, oil exporters are pulling liquidity out of world markets rather than putting money in. The world is now fast approaching a world reserve currency shift. If we see 8 to 12 months at these oil prices; U.S. shale industry will be wiped out. The effect on junk bonds will cascade to the rest of the stock market and U.S. economy.
…and this time there will be nothing left to catch the falling knife before it hits the American economy right in the heart. Not the FED nor the U.S. government can stop what’s coming. Liquidity will freeze up, our credit will be downgraded, the stock market will start to collapse, and then we can expect the FED to come in and hyper-inflate the dollar. This will cause the world to finish abandoning the world reserve currency in the last rungs of trade. This will be the end of the petrodollar.
Something that I have not discussed so far this year is the looming crisis in emerging market debt.
As economic problems spread around the world, a number of “emerging markets” are in danger of having their debt downgraded. And many investment funds have rules that prohibit them from holding any debt that is not “investment grade”. Therefore, we could potentially see some of these giant funds dumping massive amounts of emerging market debt if downgrades happen.
This is a really big deal. As a Business Insider article recently detailed, we could be talking about hundreds of billions of dollars…
Russia this week became the first of the major economies to lose its investment grade status from Standard & Poor’s, falling out off the top ratings category for credits deemed to have a low risk of default for the first time in a decade.
If Moody’s and Fitch follow, conservative investors barred from owning junk securities must sell their holdings. JPMorgan estimates this means they may ditch $6 billion in Russian government rouble and dollar debt.
Russia may have company. Almost $260 billion worth of sovereign and corporate bonds – nearly a tenth of outstanding emerging market (EM) debt – is in danger of being relegated to junk, according to David Spegel, head of emerging debt at BNP Paribas, who calls such credits “falling angels”.
And no article of this nature would be complete without mentioning derivatives.
As we enter the coming Great Depression, derivatives are going to play a starring role. Wall Street has been pumped full of funny money by global central banks, and our financial markets have been transformed into the greatest casino in the history of the world. When this house of cards comes crashing down, and it will, it is going to be a financial disaster unlike anything that the planet has ever seen.
The global financial system is literally booby-trapped with accidents waiting to happen owing to six consecutive years of massive money printing by nearly every central bank in the world.
Over that span, the collective balance sheet of the major central banks has soared by nearly $11 trillion, meaning that honest price discovery has been virtually destroyed. This massive “bid” for existing financial assets based on credit confected from thin air drove long-term bond yields to rock bottom levels not seen in 600 years since the Black Plague; and pinned money market costs at zero—-for 73 months running.
What is the consequence of this drastic financial repression along the entire yield curve? The answer is bond prices which keep rising regardless of credit risk, inflation or taxes; and rampant carry trade speculation that can’t get out of its own way because central banks have made the financial gamblers’ cost of goods—the “funding” cost of their trades—-essentially zero.
British hedge fund manager Crispin Odey thinks we’ve entered an economic downturn that is “likely to be remembered in a hundred years,” and central banks won’t be able to stop it.
In his Odey Asset Management investor letter dated Dec. 31, Odey writes that the shorting opportunity “looks as great as it was in 07/09.”
“My point is that we used all our monetary firepower to avoid the first downturn in 2007-09,” he writes, “so we are really at a dangerous point to try to counter the effects of a slowing China, falling commodities and EM incomes, and the ultimate First World Effects. This is the heart of the message. If economic activity far from picks up, but falters, then there will be a painful round of debt default.”
Even though most average citizens are completely oblivious to what is happening, many among the elite are heeding the warning signs and are feverishly getting prepared. As Robert Johnson told a stunned audience at the World Economic Forum the other day, they are “buying airstrips and farms in places like New Zealand“. They can see the horrifying storm forming on the horizon and they are preparing to get out while the getting is good.
It can be very frustrating to write about economics, because things in the financial world can take an extended period of time to play out. Sadly, most people these days have extremely short attention spans. We live in a world of iPhones, iPads, YouTube videos, Facebook updates and 48 hour news cycles. People no longer are accustomed to thinking in long-term time frames, and if something does not happen right away we tend to get bored with it.
But the economic world is not like a game of “Angry Birds”. Rather, it is very much like a game of chess.
And unfortunately for us, checkmate is right around the corner.
Nearly two-thirds of all Americans are completely and totally unprepared for the next economic crisis. As you will read about below, a new survey has found that only 38 percent of Americans have enough money on hand to cover “a $500 repair bill or a $1,000 emergency room visit”. That essentially means that 62 percent of the people in this country do not have an emergency fund. Even after the extremely bitter financial lessons that millions of Americans learned during the last recession, most of us are still choosing to live on the edge. That is utter insanity, and when the next major economic downturn strikes most people are going to find themselves totally unprepared.
The number one thing that you need to do to get ready for the coming economic collapse is to build up an emergency fund.
I know that is not the most “sexy” piece of advice in the world, but it is the truth. Just think about it. During the last recession, millions of Americans suddenly lost their jobs. Because they did not have any cushion to fall back on, millions of them also suddenly could not pay their bills and their mortgages. Foreclosures skyrocketed and countless families went from living a very comfortable middle class lifestyle to being out on the street in very short order.
And now because the people of this country have been so foolish it is going to happen again.
Because of my website, people are constantly asking me what they should do to prepare for the coming economic collapse.
I think that they expect me to say something like this…
“Sell everything that you possibly can and buy gold and silver, go purchase a llama farm, and dig a bunker where you can bury 10,000 cases of MREs.”
Not that there is anything wrong with those kinds of preparations.
But before you do anything else, you have got to have an emergency fund. My recommendation is to have an emergency fund that can cover at least six months of expenses in case something happens.
Sadly, a solid majority of Americans do not have any emergency cash at all. The following comes from the Wall Street Journal…
Only 38% of those polled said they could cover a $500 repair bill or a $1,000 emergency room visit with funds from their bank accounts, a new Bankrate report said. Most others would need to take on debt or cut back elsewhere.
“A solid majority of Americans say they have a household budget,” said Bankrate banking analyst Claes Bell. “But too few have the ability to cover expenses outside their budget without going into debt or turning to family and friends for help.”
The survey found that an unexpected bill would cause 26% to reduce spending elsewhere, while 16% would borrow from family or friends and 12% would put the expense on a credit card. The remainder didn’t know what they would do or would make other arrangements.
And of course this is not the only poll that has come up with these kinds of results. In fact, a Federal Reserve survey from last year produced similar numbers…
The findings are strikingly similar to a U.S. Federal Reserve survey of more than 4,000 adults released last year. “Savings are depleted for many households after the recession,” it found. Among those who had savings prior to 2008, 57% said they’d used up some or all of their savings in the Great Recession and its aftermath. What’s more, only 39% of respondents reported having a “rainy day” fund adequate to cover three months of expenses and only 48% of respondents said that they would completely cover a hypothetical emergency expense costing $400 without selling something or borrowing money.
Meanwhile, the financial condition of most American families is far worse than it was just prior to the last major economic crisis. As a recent MarketWatch article detailed, the average family currently has far less wealth than it did back then…
But while the jobs market is improving and the Affordable Care Act has given an estimated 15 million people access to medical care, the Great Recession does appear to have taken its toll on Americans’ finances; in fact, they’re 40% poorer today than they were in 2007. The net worth of American families — that is, the difference between the values of their assets, including homes and investments, and liabilities — fell to $81,400 in 2013, down slightly from $82,300 in 2010, but a long way off the $135,700 in 2007, according to a report released last month by the nonprofit think tank Pew Research Center in Washington, D.C.
So we have a lot less wealth, and almost two-thirds of us have no emergency cushion to fall back on whatsoever.
What could go wrong?
In addition, there is lots of evidence that much of the country has not bothered to make any preparations at all for even a basic emergency that would last for just a few days. For example, the following are results from a survey conducted by the Adelphi Center for Health Innovation that I featured in a previous article…
44 percent don’t have first-aid kits
48 percent lack emergency supplies
53 percent do not have a minimum three-day supply of nonperishable food and water at home
55 percent believe local authorities will come to their rescue if disaster strikes
52 percent have not designated a family meeting place if they are separated during an emergency
42 percent do not know the phone numbers of all of their immediate family members
21 percent don’t know if their workplace has an emergency preparedness plan
37 percent do not have a list of the drugs they are taking
52 percent do not have copies of health insurance documents
What are all of those people going to do if there is an extended crisis or disaster in this nation?
That is a very good question.
Meanwhile, the signs that we are on the verge of the next major economic crisis just continue to grow. Yesterday, I shared 10 things that happened just prior to the financial crisis of 2008 that are happening again right now.
Today, we learned that a major oil driller down in Texas has just declared bankruptcy, and many more energy companies are expected to follow suit in the coming months. The following is from the Wall Street Journal…
[S]igns of strain are building in the oil patch, where revenue growth hasn’t kept pace with borrowing. On Sunday, a private company that drills in Texas, WBH Energy LP, and its partners, filed for bankruptcy protection, saying a lender refused to advance more money and citing debt of between $10 million and $50 million. Neither the Austin-based company nor its lawyers responded to requests for comment.
Energy analysts warn defaults could be coming. “The group is not positioned for this downturn,” said Daniel Katzenberg, an analyst at Robert W. Baird & Co. “There are too many ugly balance sheets.”
The American people are feeling really good right about now. For example, Gallup’s economic confidence index has hit the highest level that we have seen since the last recession. In addition, nearly half of all Americans believe that 2015 will be a better year than 2014 was, and only about 10 percent believe that it will be a worse year. And a lot of people are generally feeling quite good about the people that have been leading our nation. According to Gallup, once again this year Hillary Clinton is the most admired woman in America and Barack Obama is the most admired man in America. I don’t know what that says about our nation, but it can’t be good. Unfortunately, when things seem to be going well common sense tends to go out the window. A couple days ago, the Guardian ran an article entitled “Goodbye to one of the best years in history“, and a whole lot of people out there are feeling really optimistic these days. But should they be?
Sadly, what we are experiencing right now is so similar to what we witnessed in 2007 and early 2008. The stock market had been on a great run, people were flipping houses like crazy and most people were convinced that the party would never end.
But then it did end – very painfully.
The signs of trouble were there, but most people chose to ignore them.
Sadly, the exact same thing is happening again.
On Monday, the price of oil hit a brand new five year low. As I write this, U.S. oil is sitting at a price of $53.76 a barrel, which is nearly a 50 percent decline from the peak earlier this year.
There is only one other time in history when the price of oil has declined by more than 50 dollars a barrel in such a short time frame. That was back in the middle of 2008, shortly before the worst stock market crash since the Great Depression.
Unless the price of oil starts really bouncing back, the U.S. economy is going to be hit really hard.
Since 2009, oil industry employment has risen by 50 percent. And jobs in the oil industry pay quite well. One figure that I saw put the average weekly wage at about 1700 dollars.
But now we aren’t going to be gaining those types of jobs. Instead, we are going to rapidly start losing them.
Already, the oil rig count has dropped for three weeks in a row and is now at an 8 month low. And as the oil industry suffers, all of the industries that it supports are also going to start feeling the pain. In fact, Business Insider is reporting that Texas business executives are “freaked out” about what is happening…
Business executives in Texas are worried about the drop in oil prices.
The latest composite index came in at 4.1, widely missing expectations and down big from November’s reading. Expectations were for the index to come in at 9, down from 10.5 last month.
So while most Americans are feeling really good about the coming year, many of those with an inside view are becoming quite alarmed. One Texas business executive went so far as to say that the stunning decline in oil prices was “going to make things ugly … quickly.“
Meanwhile, the 9 trillion dollar U.S. dollar carry trade is starting to unwind.
Oil’s collapse is predicated by one major event: the explosion of the US Dollar carry trade. Worldwide, there is over $9 TRILLION in borrowed US Dollars that has been ploughed into risk assets.
Energy projects, particularly Oil Shale in the US, are one of the prime spots for this. But it is not the only one. Economies that are closely aligned with commodities (all of which are priced in US Dollars) are getting demolished too.
Just about everything will be hit as well. Most of the “recovery” of the last five years has been fueled by cheap borrowed Dollars. Now that the US Dollar has broken out of a multi-year range, you’re going to see more and more “risk assets” (read: projects or investments fueled by borrowed Dollars) blow up. Oil is just the beginning, not a standalone story.
If things really pick up steam, there’s over $9 TRILLION worth of potential explosions waiting in the wings. Imagine if the entire economies of both Germany and Japan exploded and you’ve got a decent idea of the size of the potential impact on the financial system.
And that’s assuming NO increased leverage from derivative usage.
And yes, as that last excerpt mentioned, derivatives could soon become a massive problem. The big banks are holding trillions in commodity derivatives that could blow up if the price of oil does not rebound. Overall, there are five U.S. banks that each have more than 40 trillion dollars of exposure to derivatives of all types, and the total global derivatives bubble is at least 700 trillion dollars at this point.
At the same time, many are becoming concerned that the unprecedented bond bubble that we are witnessing could soon implode and trillions of dollars of “wealth” could disappear into thin air.
In fact, Bloomberg says that we should “get ready for a disastrous year” for bonds…
Get ready for a disastrous year for U.S. government bonds. That’s the message forecasters on Wall Street are sending.
With Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen poised to raise interest rates in 2015 for the first time in almost a decade, prognosticators are convinced Treasury yields have nowhere to go except up. Their calls for higher yields next year are the most aggressive since 2009, when U.S. debt securities suffered record losses, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
That certainly does not sound very optimistic, does it?
Anyone with even a minimal amount of intelligence should be able to see the massive financial bubbles that the central banks of the world have created, and anyone with even a minimal amount of intelligence should be able to see that we are heading for a massive financial implosion which will be extraordinarily painful.
Unfortunately, as I wrote about yesterday, the American people have become “zombiefied“. Instead of thinking for themselves, they let “the matrix” do their thinking for them. And right now “the matrix” is telling them that everything is going to be just fine in 2015.
If you do not think that there is a propaganda machine that tells us what to think, I want you to watch the video posted below very carefully. This video makes it so obvious that even a small child can understand it…
Are much lower oil prices good news for the U.S. economy? Only if you like collapsing capital expenditures, rising unemployment and a potential financial implosion on Wall Street. Yes, lower gasoline prices are good news for the middle class. I certainly would rather pay two dollars for a gallon of gas than four dollars. But in order to have money to fill up your vehicle you have got to have an income first. And since the last recession, the energy sector has been the number one creator of good jobs in the U.S. economy by far. Barack Obama loves to stand up and take credit for the fact that the employment picture in this country has been improving slightly, but without the energy industry boom, unemployment would be through the roof. And now that the “energy boom” is rapidly becoming an “energy bust”, what will happen to the struggling U.S. economy as we head into 2015?
At the start of this article I mentioned that much lower oil prices would result in “collapsing capital expenditures”.
If you do not know what a “capital expenditure” is, the following is a definition that comes from Investopedia…
“Funds used by a company to acquire or upgrade physical assets such as property, industrial buildings or equipment. This type of outlay is made by companies to maintain or increase the scope of their operations. These expenditures can include everything from repairing a roof to building a brand new factory.”
Needless to say, this kind of spending is very good for an economy. It builds infrastructure, it creates jobs and it is an investment in the future.
In recent years, energy companies have been pouring massive amounts of money into capital expenditures. In fact, the energy sector currently accounts for about a third of all capital expenditures in the United States according to Deutsche Bank…
US private investment spending is usually ~15% of US GDP or $2.8trn now. This investment consists of $1.6trn spent annually on equipment and software, $700bn on non-residential construction and a bit over $500bn on residential. Equipment and software is 35% technology and communications, 25-30% is industrial equipment for energy, utilities and agriculture, 15% is transportation equipment, with remaining 20-25% related to other industries or intangibles. Non-residential construction is 20% oil and gas producing structures and 30% is energy related in total. We estimate global investment spending is 20% of S&P EPS or 12% from US. The Energy sector is responsible for a third of S&P 500 capex.
These companies make these investments because they believe that there are big profits to be made.
Unfortunately, when the price of oil crashes those investments become unprofitable and capital expenditures start getting slashed almost immediately.
For example, the budget for 2015 at ConocoPhillips has already been reduced by 20 percent…
ConocoPhillips is one of the bigger shale players. And its decision to slash its budget for next year by 20% is raising eyebrows. The company said the new target reflects lower spending on major projects as well as “unconventional plays.” Despite the expectation that others will follow, it doesn’t mean U.S. shale oil production is dead. Just don’t expect a surge in spending like in recent years.
And Reuters is reporting that the number of new well permits for the industry as a whole plunged by an astounding 40 percent during the month of November…
Plunging oil prices sparked a drop of almost 40 percent in new well permits issued across the United States in November, in a sudden pause in the growth of the U.S. shale oil and gas boom that started around 2007.
Data provided exclusively to Reuters on Tuesday by industry data firm Drilling Info Inc showed 4,520 new well permits were approved last month, down from 7,227 in October.
If the price of oil stays this low or continues dropping, this is just the beginning.
Meanwhile, the flow of good jobs that this industry has been producing is also likely to start drying up.
According to a new study, investments in oil and gas exploration and production generate substantial economic gains, as well as other benefits such as increased energy independence. The Perryman Group estimates that the industry as a whole generates an economic stimulus of almost $1.2 trillion in gross product each year, as well as more than 9.3 million permanent jobs across the nation.
The ripple effects are everywhere. If you think about the role of oil in your life, it is not only the primary source of many of our fuels, but is also critical to our lubricants, chemicals, synthetic fibers, pharmaceuticals, plastics, and many other items we come into contact with every day. The industry supports almost 1.3 million jobs in manufacturing alone and is responsible for almost $1.2 trillion in annual gross domestic product. If you think about the law, accounting, and engineering firms that serve the industry, the pipe, drilling equipment, and other manufactured goods that it requires, and the large payrolls and their effects on consumer spending, you will begin to get a picture of the enormity of the industry.
And these are good paying jobs. They aren’t eight dollar part-time jobs down at your local big box retailer. These are jobs that comfortably support middle class families. These are precisely the kinds of jobs that we cannot afford to lose.
In recent years, there has been a noticeable economic difference between areas of the country where energy is being produced and where energy is not being produced.
Since December 2007, a total of 1.36 million jobs have been gained in shale oil states.
Meanwhile, a total of 424,000 jobs have been lost in non-shale oil states.
So what happens now that the shale oil boom is turning into a bust?
That is a very good question.
Even more ominous is what an oil price collapse could mean for our financial system.
Based on recent stress tests of subprime borrowers in the energy sector in the US produced by Deutsche Bank, should the price of US crude fall by a further 20pc to $60 per barrel, it could result in up to a 30pc default rate among B and CCC rated high-yield US borrowers in the industry. West Texas Intermediate crude is currently trading at multi-year lows of around $75 per barrel, down from $107 per barrel in June.
“A shock of that magnitude could be sufficient to trigger a broader high-yield market default cycle, if materialized,” warn Deutsche strategists Oleg Melentyev and Daniel Sorid in their report.
If the price of oil stays at this level or continues to go down, it is inevitable that we will start to see some of these junk bonds go bad.
In fact, one Motley Fool article recently stated that one industry analyst believes that up to 40 percent of all energy junk bonds could eventually go into default…
The junk bonds, or noninvestment-rated bonds, of energy companies are also beginning to see heavy selling as investors start to worry that drillers could one day default on these bonds. Those defaults could get so bad, according to one analyst, that up to 40% of all energy junk bonds go into default over the next few years if oil prices don’t recover.
In addition, plunging oil prices could end up absolutely destroying the banks that are holding enormous amounts of energy derivatives. This is something that I recently covered in this article and this article.
As you read this, there are five “too big to fail” banks that each have more than 40 trillion dollars in exposure to derivatives. Of course only a small fraction of that total exposure is made up of energy derivatives, but a small fraction of 40 trillion dollars is still a massive amount of money.
These derivatives trades are largely unregulated, and even Forbes admits that they are likely to be at the heart of the coming financial collapse…
No one understands the derivative risk positions of the Too Big To Fail Banks, JP Morgan Chase, Citigroup, Bank of America, Goldman Sachs or Morgan Stanley. There is presently no way to measure the risks involved in the leverage, quantity of collateral, or stability of counter-parties for these major institutions. To me personally they are big black holes capable of potential wrack and ruin. Without access to confidential internal data about these risky derivative positions the regulators cannot react in a timely and measured fashion to block the threat to financial stability, according to a National Bureau of Economic Research study.
So do we have any hope?
Yes, if oil prices start going back up, much of what you just read about can be averted.
Unfortunately, that does not seem likely any time soon. Even though U.S. energy companies are cutting back on capital expenditures, most of them are still actually projecting an increase in production for 2015. Here is one example from Bloomberg…
Continental, the biggest holder of drilling rights in the Bakken, last month said 2015 output will grow between 23 percent and 29 percent even after shelving plans to allocate more money to exploration.
Higher levels of production will just drive the price of oil even lower.
At this point, Morgan Stanley is saying that the price of oil could plummet as low as $43 a barrel next year.
If that happens, it would be absolutely catastrophic to the most important industry in the United States.
In turn, that would be absolutely catastrophic for the economy as a whole.
So don’t let anyone tell you that much lower oil prices are “good” for the economy.