27 Statistics About The European Economic Crisis That Are Almost Too Crazy To Believe

The economic crisis in Europe continues to get worse and eventually it is going to unravel into a complete economic nightmare.  All over Europe, national governments have piled up debts that are completely unsustainable.  But whenever they start significantly cutting government spending it results in an economic slowdown.  So politicians in Europe are really caught between a rock and a hard place.  They can’t keep racking up these unsustainable debts, but if they continue to cut government spending it is going to push their economies into deep recession and their populations will riot.  Greece is a perfect example of this.  Greece has been going down the austerity road for several years now and they are experiencing a full-blown economic depression, riots have become a way of life in that country and their national budget is still not anywhere close to balanced.  Americans should pay close attention to what is going on in Europe, because this is what it looks like when a debt party ends.  Most of the nations in the eurozone have just started implementing austerity, and yet unemployment in the eurozone is already the highest it has been since the euro was introduced.  It has risen for 10 months in a row and is now up to 10.8 percent.  Sadly, it is going to go even higher.  As economies across Europe slide into recession, that is going to put even more pressure on the European financial system.  Most Americans do not realize this, but the European banking system is absolutely enormous.  It is nearly four times the size that the U.S. banking system is.  When the European banking system crashes (and it will) it is going to reverberate around the globe.  The epicenter of the next great financial crisis is going to be in Europe, and it is getting closer with each passing day.

The following are 27 statistics about the European economic crisis that are almost too crazy to believe….

Greece

#1 The Greek economy shrank by 6 percent during 2011, and it has been shrinking for five years in a row.

#2 The average unemployment rate in Greece in 2010 was 12.5 percent.  During 2011, the average unemployment rate was 17.3 percent, and now the unemployment rate in Greece is up to 21.8 percent.

#3 The youth unemployment rate in Greece is now over 50 percent.

#4 The unemployment rate in the port town is Perama is about 60 percent.

#5 In Greece, 20 percent of all retail stores have closed down during the economic crisis.

#6 Greece now has a debt to GDP ratio of approximately 160 percent.

#7 Some of the austerity measures that have been implemented in Greece have been absolutely brutal.  For example, Greek civil servants have had their incomes slashed by about 40 percent since 2010.

#8 Despite all of the austerity measures, it is being projected that Greece will still have a budget deficit equivalent to 7 percent of GDP in 2012.

#9 Greece is still facing unfunded liabilities in future years that are equivalent to approximately 800 percent of GDP.

#10 In the midst of all the poverty in Greece, several serious diseases are making a major comeback.  The following comes from a recent article in the Guardian….

The incidence of HIV/Aids among intravenous drug users in central Athens soared by 1,250% in the first 10 months of 2011 compared with the same period the previous year, according to the head of Médecins sans Frontières Greece, while malaria is becoming endemic in the south for the first time since the rule of the colonels, which ended in the 1970s.

Spain

#11 The unemployment rate in Spain is now up to 23.6 percent.

#12 The youth unemployment rate in Spain is now over 50 percent.

#13 The total value of all toxic loans in Spain is equivalent to approximately 13 percent of Spanish GDP.

#14 The GDP of Spain is about 1.4 trillion dollars.  The three largest Spanish banks have approximately 2.7 trillion dollars in assets and they are all on the verge of failing.

#15 Home prices in Spain fell by 11.2 percent during 2011.

#16 The number of property repossessions in Spain rose by 32 percent during 2011.

#17 The ratio of government debt to GDP in Spain will rise by more than 11 percent during 2012.

#18 On top of everything else, Spain is dealing with the worst drought it has seen in 70 years.

Portugal

#19 The unemployment rate in Portugal is up to 15 percent.

#20 The youth unemployment rate in Portugal is now over 35 percent.

#21 Banks in Portugal borrowed a record 56.3 billion euros from the European Central Bank in March.

#22 It is being projected that the Portuguese economy will shrink by 5.7 percent during 2012.

#23 When you add up all forms of debt in Portugal (government, business and consumer) the total is equivalent to approximately 360 percent of GDP.

Italy

#24 Youth unemployment in Italy is up to 31.9 percent – the highest level ever.

#25 Italy’s national debt is approximately 2.7 times larger than the national debts of Greece, Ireland and Portugal put together.

#26 If you add the maturing debt that the Italian government must roll over in 2012 to the projected budget deficit, it comes to approximately 23.1 percent of Italy’s GDP.

#27 Italy now has a debt to GDP ratio of approximately 120 percent.

So why hasn’t Europe crashed already?

Well, the powers that be are pulling out all their tricks.

For example, the European Central Bank decided to start loaning gigantic mountains of money to European banks.  That accomplished two things….

1) It kept those European banks from collapsing.

2) European banks used that money to buy up sovereign bonds and that kept interest rates down.

Unfortunately, all of this game playing has also put the European Central Bank in a very vulnerable position.

The balance sheet of the European Central Bank has expanded by more than 1 trillion dollars over the past nine months.  The balance sheet of the European Central Bank is now larger than the entire GDP of Germany and the ECB is now leveraged 36 to 1.

So just how far can you stretch the rubberband before it snaps?

Perhaps we are about to find out.

The European financial system is leveraged like crazy right now.  Even banking systems in countries that you think of as “stable” are leveraged to extremes.

For example, major German banks are leveraged 32 to 1, and those banks are holding a massive amount of European sovereign debt.

When Lehman Brothers finally collapsed, it was only leveraged 30 to 1.

You can’t solve a debt crisis with more debt.  But the European Central Bank has been able to use more debt to kick the can down the road a few more months.

At some point the sovereign debt bubble is going to burst.

All financial bubbles eventually burst.

What goes up must come down.

Right now, the major industrialized nations of the world are approximately 55 trillion dollars in debt.

It has been a fun ride, but this fraudulent pyramid of risk, debt and leverage is going to come crashing down at some point.

It is only a matter of time.

Already, there are a whole bunch of signs that some very serious economic trouble is on the horizon.

Hopefully we still have a few more months until it hits.

But in this day and age nothing is guaranteed.

What does seem abundantly clear is that the current global financial system is inevitably going to fail.

When it does, what “solutions” will our leaders try to impose upon us?

That is something to think about.

Not So Fast On That Whole Economic Recovery Thing

Not so fast.  Those that are publicly declaring that an economic recovery has arrived are ignoring a whole host of numbers that indicate that the U.S. economy is in absolutely horrendous shape.  The truth is that the health of an economy should not be measured by how well the stock market is doing.  Rather, the truth health of an economy should be evaluated by looking at numbers for things like jobs, housing, poverty and debt.  Some of the latest economic statistics indicate that unemployment is getting a little bit worse, that the housing market continues to deteriorate, that poverty in America continues to soar and that our debt problem is worse than ever.  If we were truly experiencing the kind of economic recovery that the United States has experienced after every other post-World War II recession we would see a sharp improvement across the board in most of our economic statistics.  But that simply is not happening.  Sadly, this is about as much of an “economic recovery” as we are going to get because soon the economy will be getting much worse.  So enjoy this period of relative stability while you can.

The Obama administration would have us believe that unemployment in the United States has declined, but the truth is that the percentage of working age Americans that are employed has stayed very, very flat for more than two years and now there are some measures of unemployment that are actually getting worse.

For example, according to Gallup the unemployment rate in the United States has risen from 8.5% in December to 8.6% in January to 9.1% in February.  The Obama administration would have us believe that it is actually going the other direction.

Initial unemployment claims are rising again.  For the week ending March 3rd, they increased by 8,000 over the previous week to 362,000.  This is not the kind of good news that people were hoping for.

What the U.S. economy could really use are millions of good jobs.  But those are being shipped out of the country at a staggering pace.

Right now there are millions of Americans in their prime working years that are sitting at home wondering what to do with their lives.  The average duration of unemployment in the United States continues to hover near a record high, and if we were truly experiencing an economic recovery it should have been falling by now.

But a lot of Americans have bought into the propaganda about an economic recovery and they are out running up huge amounts of debt once again.  In January, consumer credit increased by much more than expected.  The following is from a recent Reuters report….

Nonrevolving credit, which includes auto loans as well as student loans made by the government, rose $20.723 billion during the month. That was the biggest increase in dollar terms since November 2001, when credit was surging in the wake of the September 11 attacks in New York and Washington.

Don’t fall into the trap of debt slavery.  During the last recession millions of Americans lost their homes and most of what they owned because they got overextended.

Don’t do it.

The U.S. housing market continues to deeply struggle as well.  If we were really in an economic recovery housing would be bouncing back.  But that is not happening.  Just consider the following facts….

*The number of new homes sold in the United States continues to hover near a record low.

*U.S. home prices in the 4th quarter of 2011 were four percent lower than they were during the 4th quarter of 2010.

*According to CoreLogic, 22.8 percent of all homes with a mortgage in the United States were in negative equity as of the end of the 4th quarter of 2011.  That was an increase from 22.1 percent in the third quarter.

Why are things still getting worse for the U.S housing market?

That is a really good question.

We should have seen some improvement by now.

But it isn’t happening.

Also, poverty in America continues to explode.

For example, the number of Americans on food stamps has increased to 46.5 million – a brand new all-time record.

If we really were in an economic recovery, wouldn’t that number be going down?

We should be thankful that the U.S. economy is not declining as rapidly as it was during 2008 and 2009.  But what we are experiencing right now is not an economic recovery.  It is simply just a bubble of false hope.

The big problem is that our nation is covered in an ocean of constantly expanding debt.

U.S. consumers are drowning in debt, U.S. businesses have pushed debt levels to the red line, and the U.S. financial system is massively overleveraged.

Of course government debt is our biggest debt problem of all.

All over the nation, state and local governments are on the verge of financial ruin.

If we were in the middle of an economic recovery, so many states would not be in crisis mode.  A recent article in the Los Angeles Times declared that “California could run out of cash in March“.  As the economy continues to crumble we are going to hear a lot more of this kind of thing.

A lot of local governments around the nation are on the verge of total financial collapse.  Stockton, California has announced that they will be defaulting on some debt payments, and Suffolk County in New York recently declared a fiscal emergency after discovering that it would rack up more than 500 million dollars of debt between 2011 and 2013.

Keep your eyes open for more news items like this in the months ahead.

Of course the biggest problem of all is the U.S. national debt and it continues to rapidly get worse.

According to the Congressional Budget Office, the U.S. government had a budget deficit of 229 billion dollars in the month of February.  That is the worst one month budget deficit in the history of the United States.

The Congressional Budget Office also says that the U.S. government is now borrowing 42 cents of every single dollar that it spends.

Ouch.

The U.S. national debt has gotten more than 59 times larger since 1950.

The U.S. national debt is now more than 22 times larger than it was when Jimmy Carter became president.

Are there any words in the English language that are strong enough to describe how foolish we have been?

Of course we won’t be able to accumulate so much debt indefinitely.  At some point the trillion dollar deficits will stop and our false prosperity will disappear.

If you want to get an idea of what happens then, just take a look at Greece.

But Barack Obama and most members of the U.S. Congress don’t really care about what they are doing to our future.

What they care about is winning the next election so that they can continue living their fabulous lives.

Barack Obama is supposed to be taking care of the American people, but instead he has been very busy taking care of the people who helped him get elected.  Politics in America is all about money.  Just check out the following very short excerpt from a recent article in the Washington Post….

More than half of Obama’s 47 biggest fundraisers, those who collected at least $500,000 for his campaign, have been given administration jobs. Nine more have been appointed to presidential boards and committees.

At least 24 Obama bundlers were given posts as foreign ambassadors, including in Finland, Australia, Portugal and Luxembourg. Among them is Don Beyer, a former Virginia lieutenant governor who serves as ambassador to Switzerland and Liechtenstein.

Washington D.C. is deeply corrupt and if you are waiting for our politicians to fix our problems you are going to be deeply disappointed.

The federal government is not going to save you.

Our politicians are not going to save you.

You better figure out how you are going to take care of yourself and your family in the years ahead because this is about as good as things are going to get.

This “economic recovery” is about to end and more pain is about to begin.

10.7 Percent: Unemployment In Europe Is Worse Than It Was At The Peak Of The Last Recession

The unemployment rate in the eurozone is now 10.7 percent.  That is the highest the unemployment rate has been since the introduction of the euro.  The unemployment rate in the eurozone never got any higher than 10.2 percent during the last recession.  This is very troubling news.  It was just recently announced that the eurozone has entered another recession, and already the unemployment rate is hitting new record highs.  So how bad are things going to get in the months to come?  The truth is that the problems for Europe are just starting.  The European sovereign debt crisis continues to get worse, and another major global financial crisis is going to be here way too soon.  The EU as a whole has a larger population, a larger banking system and more Fortune 500 companies than the United States does.  When the financial system of Europe crashes, the entire world is going to feel it.

Some of the unemployment numbers coming out of Europe are absolutely staggering.

Unemployment in Spain is 19.9 percent.

Unemployment in Greece is 23.3 percent.

And when you look at youth unemployment the numbers are far worse.

The unemployment rate for workers under the age of 25 is 48.1 percent in Greece and 49.9 percent in Spain.

If you look carefully at the photos of the austerity riots happening in Spain and in Greece you will notice that the vast majority of the protesters are young people.

Instead of getting better, the unemployment numbers in Europe just keep getting worse.  Many analysts were shocked by these new numbers.  The following is from a CNN article….

“This is appalling,” said Carl Weinberg, chief economist at High Frequency Economics, highlighting that the unemployment rate following the collapse of Lehman Brothers peaked at 10.2%.

Appalling indeed.

The frightening thing is that we haven’t even had a major financial crisis in Europe yet.  So far, the powers that be have been able to keep Greece from defaulting and have been able to keep major banks all over Europe from collapsing.

But there are quite a few signs that the “moment of reckoning” for Europe is rapidly approaching….

-The European Central Bank announced on Tuesday that it would no longer take Greek bonds as collateral from European banks. That is a really bad sign.

-Major European banks are revealing unexpectedly huge losses on Greek debt.  The following is from a Reuters article….

The scars of Greece’s debt crisis were laid bare in heavy losses from a string of European banks on Thursday, and bosses warned the region’s precarious finances would continue to threaten economic growth and earnings.

From France to Germany, Britain to Belgium, four of the region’s biggest banks lined up to reveal they lost more than 8 billion euros (6.8 million pounds) last year from their Greek bonds holdings.

“We are in the worst economic crisis since 1929,” Credit Agricole chief executive Jean-Paul Chifflet said.

-The International Swaps and Derivatives Association has ruled that the Greek debt deal will not trigger payouts on credit default swaps.  This is going to make it less likely that private bondholders will voluntarily agree to the debt deal.

This ruling is also seriously shaking confidence in credit default swaps.  After all, they are supposed to be “insurance” in case something happens.  But if they aren’t going to pay out when you need them, what good are they?

-Voters in Germany are sick and tired of pouring money into a black hole.  One recent opinion poll in Germany showed that Germans are overwhelmingly against more bailouts for Greece.

Some German politicians are becoming very open about their feelings for Greece.  For example, Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich said the following in a recent interview with Der Spiegel….

“Greece’s chances to regenerate itself and become competitive are surely greater outside the monetary union than if it remains in the euro area.” He added that he did not support a forced exit. “I’m not talking about throwing Greece out, but rather about creating incentives for an exit that they can’t pass up.”

-In Greece, news publications are openly portraying German Chancellor Angela Merkel as Hitler.  Far left political parties that oppose the bailouts are surging in the polls and anger and frustration are reaching unprecedented levels.

The following is from a recent article in The Guardian….

There is a growing animosity towards Germany on the streets of Athens. Angela Merkel bears most of the hostility with one of Greece’s newspapers last week mocking the chancellor up as a Nazi on its front page.

Niki Fidaki, 40, says Greeks are angry at Germany and the troika’s demands for higher taxes and public services cuts. “People can’t afford to pay the tax. My pay has gone down, but my taxes have gone up. But, I’m a lucky one – half of my friends don’t have jobs. Greeks hate that they are asking us to pay all the time when we don’t have the money. Families have no work, they have kids to look after but no money to pay for anything.”

As I have written about before, Greece is already going through a devastating economic depression.  The people of Greece are not in the mood to be pushed much further.

The eurozone is a powder keg that could explode at any time.

So why is the U.S. economy doing so much better than the European economy right now?

Well, a big reason is because we haven’t seen any austerity in the United States yet.

Barack Obama is funding our false prosperity by borrowing 150 million dollars an hour from our children and our grandchildren.

Of course all of this reckless borrowing is going to make the eventual collapse of our financial system far worse, but right now Americans don’t seem to care.  The only thing the mainstream media seems to care about is that some of our economic numbers are getting slightly better.

The sad thing is that our government is spending a lot of this money on some of the most stupid things that you could possibly imagine.

Did you know that the Obama administration just spent $750,000 on a brand new soccer field for detainees held at Guantanamo Bay?

I wish I had a $750,000 soccer field to play on.

I would love that.

Look, when the federal government quits stealing more than a trillion dollars a year from future generations things are going to look a whole lot different in this country.

So pay attention to what is going on in Europe.

That is where we are headed eventually.

This Is What An Economic Depression Looks Like In The 21st Century

Do you want to see what a 21st century economic depression looks like?  Just look at Greece.  Once upon a time, the Greek economy was thriving, the Greek government was borrowing money like there was no tomorrow and Greek citizens were thoroughly enjoying the bubble of false prosperity that all that debt created.  Those that warned that Greece was headed for a financial collapse were laughed at and were called “doom and gloomers”.  Well, nobody is laughing now.  You see, the truth is that debt is a very cruel master.  Greeks were able to live way beyond their means for many, many years but eventually a day of reckoning arrived.  At this point, the Greek economy has been in a recession for five years in a row, and the economic crisis in that country is rapidly getting even worse.  It was just recently announced that the overall rate of unemployment in Greece has soared above 20 percent and the youth unemployment rate has risen to an astounding 48 percent.  One out of every five retail stores has been shut down and parents are literally abandoning children in the streets.  The frightening thing is that this is just the beginning.  Things are going to get a lot worse in Greece.  And in case you haven’t been paying attention, these kinds of conditions are coming to the United States as well.  We are heading down the exact same road as Greece went down, and the economic pain that this country is eventually going to suffer is going to be beyond anything that most Americans would dare to imagine.

All debt spirals eventually come to an end.  For years, Greece borrowed huge amounts of very cheap money, but there came a point when the debt became absolutely strangling and the rest of the world refused to lend the Greek government money at such cheap rates anymore.

Greece would have defaulted long before now if the EU and the IMF had not stepped in to bail them out.  But along with those bailouts came strings.  The EU and the IMF insisted that the Greek government cut spending and raise taxes.

Well, those spending cuts and tax increases caused the economy to slow down.  Tax revenues decreased and deficit reduction targets were missed.  So the EU and the IMF insisted on even more spending cuts and tax increases.

Even after all of the spending cuts and all of the tax increases that we have seen, the debt to GDP ratio in Greece is still higher than it was before the crisis began.  Today, the Greek national debt is sitting at 142 percent of GDP.

Now the EU and the IMF are demanding even more austerity measures before they will release any more bailout money.

Needless to say, the Greek people are pretty much exasperated by all of this.  They created this mess by going into so much debt, but they certainly don’t like the solutions that are being imposed upon them.

Protesters in Greece are absolutely outraged that the EU and the IMF are now demanding a 22 percent reduction in the minimum wage.

Most families in Greece are just barely surviving at this point.  Unfortunately, Greece is probably looking at depression conditions for many years to come.

Over the past three years, the size of the Greek economy has shrunk by 16 percent.

In 2012, it is being projected that the Greek economy will shrink by another 5 percent.

Sadly, that projection is probably way too optimistic.

Over the past couple of months, it has been like someone has pulled the rug out from under the Greek economy.  Just check out the following numbers from an article in the Telegraph by Ambrose Evans-Pritchard….

Another normal day at the Hellenic Statistical Authority.

We learn that:

Greece’s manufacturing output contracted by 15.5pc in December from a year earlier.

Industrial output fell 11.3pc, compared to minus 7.8pc in November.

Unemployment jumped to 20.9pc in November, up from 18.2pc a month earlier.

I have little further to add. This is what a death spiral looks like.

Can you imagine unemployment going up by 2.7 percent in one month?

This is what a 21st century economic depression looks like.

And needless to say, civil unrest is rampant in Greece.

The following is how a USA Today article described some of the protests that we saw in Greece this week….

Scores of youths, in hoods and gas masks, used sledge hammers to smash up marble paving stones in Athens’ main Syntagma Square before hurling the rubble at riot police.

The country’s two biggest labor unions stopped railway, ferry and public transport schedules, and hospitals worked on skeleton staff while most public services were disrupted. Unions were planning protests in Athens and other cities around midday.

Greek citizens are exasperated by the endless rounds of austerity that are being imposed upon them.  They wonder how far all of this is going to go.

How much higher can taxes go in Greece?  Greece already has tax rates that are among the highest in Europe….

Greece has the third highest rate of VAT in Europe, second highest gas/petrol tax, third highest tax on social insurance contributions, fifth highest VAT on alcohol, highest property tax and one of the worst corporate tax rates, without the quality of living or competitiveness to match.

How much farther can government pay be cut?  Greek civil servants have had their incomes slashed by about 40 percent since 2010.

How would you feel if your pay was reduced by 40 percent?

Large numbers of Greeks are rapidly reaching the end of their ropes.  The following is from a recent article in the Independent….

“People are scared and haven’t really realised what’s happening yet,” George Pantsios, an electrician for the country’s public power corporation, said. He has only been receiving half of his €850 monthly wage since August. “But once we all lose our jobs and can’t feed our kids, that’s when it’ll go boom and we’ll turn into Tahrir Square.”

Instead of turning violent, others are simply giving in to despair.  According to the Daily Mail, large numbers of Greek children are being abandoned because their parents simply cannot afford to take care of them anymore.  The note that one mother left with her little toddler was absolutely heartbreaking….

One mother, it said, ran away after handing over her two-year-old daughter Natasha.

Four-year-old Anna was found by a teacher clutching a note that read: ‘I will not be coming to pick up Anna today because I cannot afford to look after her. Please take good care of her. Sorry.’

Sadly, there are an increasing number of Greeks that are giving up on life entirely.  The number of suicides in Greece rose by 40 percent during just one recent 12 month time period.

But we haven’t even seen the worst in Greece yet.  The worst is still yet to come.

And the people of Greece are going to get angrier and angrier and angrier.

According to one recent poll, about 90 percent all of Greeks are unhappy with the interim government led by Prime Minister Lucas Papademos.

This week, that government has started to fall apart.  Over just the past few days, 6 members of the 48-member government cabinet have resigned.  Not only is there real doubt if the new austerity measures will be approved, there is very real doubt if this government will be able to hold together much longer.

Frustration with the EU and the IMF has reached a fever pitch in Greece.  Just check out what Reuters is reporting….

In a letter obtained by Reuters on Friday, the Federation of Greek Police accused the officials of “…blackmail, covertly abolishing or eroding democracy and national sovereignty” and said one target of its warrants would be the IMF’s top official for Greece, Poul Thomsen.

So what is going to happen next in Greece?

The truth is that nobody knows.

But whatever kind of “deals” are reached, the reality is that nothing is going to keep Greece from continuing to experience depression-like conditions for quite some time.

Unfortunately, Greece is not an isolated case.

Portugal, Ireland, Italy and Spain are all going down the same path and Europe does not have enough money to bail all of them out.

To get an idea of how much money it would take to bail out the financially troubled nations of Europe, just check out this infographic that was recently posted on ZeroHedge.

A day of reckoning is coming for the United States as well.  As CNBC recently noted, the U.S. debt problem is far worse than the European debt problem is.

That is why I have written over and over about the U.S. national debt and about how the U.S. government is spending too much money.

Right now, the U.S. government is still able to borrow gigantic mountains of very cheap money and is spending money as if tomorrow will never come.

Well, just like we saw in Greece, when debt gets out of control a day of great pain eventually arrives.

What we are watching unfold in Greece right now is coming to America.

You better get ready.

Why Is Global Shipping Slowing Down So Dramatically?

If the global economy is not heading for a recession, then why is global shipping slowing down so dramatically?  Many economists believe that measures of global shipping such as the Baltic Dry Index are leading economic indicators.  In other words, they change before the overall economic picture changes.  For example, back in early 2008 the Baltic Dry Index began falling dramatically.  There were those that warned that such a rapid decline in the Baltic Dry Index meant that a significant recession was coming, and it turned out that they were right.  Well, the Baltic Dry Index is falling very rapidly once again.  In fact, on February 3rd the Baltic Dry Index reached a low that had not been seen since August 1986.  Some economists say that there are unique reasons for this (there are too many ships, etc.), but when you add this to all of the other indicators that Europe is heading into a recession, a very frightening picture emerges.  We appear to be staring a global economic slowdown right in the face, and we all need to start getting prepared for that.

If you don’t read about economics much, you might not know what the Baltic Dry Index actually is.

Investopedia defines the Baltic Dry Index this way….

A shipping and trade index created by the London-based Baltic Exchange that measures changes in the cost to transport raw materials such as metals, grains and fossil fuels by sea.

When the global economy is booming, the demand for shipping tends to go up.  When the global economy is slowing down, the demand for shipping tends to decline.

And right now, global shipping is slowing way, way down.

In fact, recently there have been reports of negative shipping rates.

According to a recent Bloomberg article, one company recently booked a ship at the ridiculous rate of negative $2,000 a day….

Glencore International Plc paid nothing to hire a dry-bulk ship with the vessel’s operator paying $2,000 a day of the trader’s fuel costs after freight rates plunged to all-time lows.

Glencore chartered the vessel, operated by Global Maritime Investments Ltd., a Cyprus-based company with offices in London, Steve Rodley, GMI’s U.K. managing director, said by phone today. The daily payments last the first 60 days of the charter, Rodley said. The vessel will haul a cargo of grains to Europe, putting the carrier in a better position for its next shipment, he said.

So why would anyone agree to ship goods at negative rates?

Well, it beats the alternative.

This was explained in a recent Fox Business article….

“They’re doing this because you can’t just have ships sitting. If they sit too long, then that’s hard on the ships. They have to keep them loaded and moving from port to port,” said Darin Newsom, senior commodities analyst at DTN.

If the owner of a ship can get someone to at least pay for part of the fuel and the journey will get the ship closer to its next destination, then that is better than having the ship just sit there.

But just a few short years ago (before the last recession) negative shipping rates would have been unthinkable.

Asian shipping is really slowing down as well.  The following comes from a recent article in the Telegraph….

Shanghai shipping volumes contracted sharply in January as Europe’s debt crisis curbed demand for Asian goods, stoking fresh doubts about the strength of the Chinese economy.

Container traffic through the Port of Shanghai in January fell by more than a million tons from a year earlier.

So this is something we are seeing all over the globe.

Another indicator that is troubling economists right now is petroleum usage.  It turns out that petroleum usage is really starting to slow down as well.

The following is an excerpt from a recent article posted on Mish’s Global Economic Trend Analysis….

As I have been telling you recently, there is some unprecedented data coming out in petroleum distillates, and they slap me in the face and tell me we have some very bad economic trends going on, totally out of line with such things as the hopium market – I mean stock market.

This past week I actually had to reformat my graphs as the drop off peak exceeded my bottom number for reporting off peak – a drop of ALMOST 4,000,000 BARRELS PER DAY off the peak usage in our past for this week of the year.

I would encourage you to go check out the charts that were posted in that article.  You can find them right here.  Often a picture is worth a thousand words, and those charts are quite frightening.

Over the past few days, I have been trying to make the point that nothing got fixed after the financial crisis of 2008 and that an even bigger crisis is on the way.

Yes, the stock market is flying high right now.

Yes, even “Dr. Doom” Nouriel Roubini is convinced that the stock market will go even higher.

But this rally will not last that much longer.

Wherever you look, global economic activity is slowing down.  The UK economy and the German economy both actually shrank a bit in the fourth quarter of 2011.  About half of all global trade involves Europe in one form or another.  As Europe slows down, it is going to affect the entire planet.

Many thought that the German economy was so strong that it would not be significantly affected by the problems the rest of Europe is having, but that is turning out not to be the case.

In a new article by CBS News entitled “German economic slowdown worse than expected?“, we are told that industrial production in Germany is declining even more than anticipated….

German industrial production fell 2.9 percent in December from the month before, according to official data released Tuesday, suggesting the country’s economic slowdown could be worse than expected.

So don’t believe all the recent hype about an “economic recovery”.  Europe is heading into a recession, Asia is slowing down and the U.S. will not be immune.

Despite what you hear from the mainstream media, the truth is that the U.S. economy is not improving and incredibly tough times are ahead.

Thankfully, those of us that are aware of what is happening can make preparations for the economic storm that is coming.

Others will not be so fortunate.

22 Signs That We Are On The Verge Of A Devastating Global Recession

2012 is shaping up to be a very tough year for the global economy.  All over the world there are signs that economic activity is significantly slowing down.  Many of these signs are detailed later on in this article.  But most people don’t understand what is happening because they don’t put all of the pieces together.  If you just look at one or two pieces of data, it may not seem that impressive.  But when you examine all of the pieces of evidence that we are on the verge of a devastating global recession all at once, it paints a very frightening picture.  Asia is slowing down, Europe is slowing down and there are lots of trouble signs for the U.S. economy.  It has gotten to a point where the global debt crisis is almost ready to boil over, and nobody is quite sure what is going to happen next.  The last global recession was absolutely nightmarish, and we should all hope that we don’t see another one like that any time soon.  Unfortunately, things do not look good at this point.

The following are 22 signs that we are on the verge of a devastating global recession….

#1 On Thursday it was announced that U.S. jobless claims had soared to a six-week high.

#2 Hostess Brands, the maker of Twinkies and Wonder Bread, has filed for bankruptcy protection.

#3 Sears recently announced that somewhere between 100 and 120 Sears and Kmart stores will be closing, and Sears stock has fallen nearly 60% in just the past year.

#4 Over the past 12 months, dozens of prominent retailers have closed stores all over America, and one consulting firm is projecting that there will be more than 5,000 more store closings in 2012.

#5 Richard Bove, an analyst at Rochdale Securities, is projecting that the global financial industry will lose approximately 150,000 jobs over the next 12 to 18 months.

#6 Investors are pulling money out of the stock market at a rapid pace right now.  In fact, as an article posted on CNBC recently noted, investors pulled more money out of mutual funds than they put into mutual funds for 9 weeks in a row.  Are there some people out there that are quietly repositioning their money for tough times ahead?….

Investors yanked money out of U.S. equity mutual funds for a ninth-consecutive week despite a bullish 2012 outlook from Wall Street and a December rally that’s carried over into the New Year.

#7 There are signs that the Chinese economy is seriously slowing down.  The following comes from a recent article in the Guardian….

Growth had slowed to an annual rate of 1.5% in the second and third quarters of 2011, below the “stall speed” that historically led to recession.

#8 The Bank of Japan says that the economic recovery in that country “has paused“.

#9 Manufacturing activity in the euro zone has fallen for five months in a row.

#10 Germany’s economy actually contracted during the 4th quarter of 2011.  At this point many economists believe that Germany is already experiencing a recession.

#11 According to a recent article by Bloomberg, it is being projected that the French economy is heading into a recession….

The French economy will shrink this quarter and next, suggesting the nation is in a recession as investment and consumer spending stagnate, national statistics office Insee said.

#12 There are a multitude of statistics that indicate that the UK economy is definitely slowing down.

#13 The credit ratings of Italy, Spain, Portugal, France and Austria all just got downgraded.

#14 It is being reported that the Spanish economy contracted during the 4th quarter of 2011.

#15 Bad loans in Spain recently hit a 17-year high and the unemployment rate is at a 15-year high.

#16 According to a recent article in the Telegraph, the Italian government is forecasting that there will be a recession for the Italian economy in 2012….

The Italian government predicts GDP will contract 0.4pc next year, but many economists fear the figure is optimistic.

“We can say without mincing words that we have already slipped into recession,” said Intesa Sanpaolo analyst Paolo Mameli. “We expect GDP to keep contracting for the next 3-4 quarters.”

#17 Italy’s youth unemployment rate has hit the highest level ever.

#18 The unemployment rate in Greece for those under the age of 24 is now at 39 percent.

#19 Greece is already experiencing a full-blown economic depression.  About a third of the country is now living in poverty and extreme medicine shortages are being reported.  Things have gotten so bad that entire families are being ripped apart.  According to the Daily Mail, hundreds of Greek children are being abandoned because the economy has gotten so bad that their parents simply cannot afford to take care of them anymore.  The note that one mother left with her child was absolutely heartbreaking….

One mother, it said, ran away after handing over her two-year-old daughter Natasha.

Four-year-old Anna was found by a teacher clutching a note that read: ‘I will not be coming to pick up Anna today because I cannot afford to look after her. Please take good care of her. Sorry.’

#20 In Greece, large numbers of people are simply giving up on life.  Sadly, the number of suicides in Greece has increased by 40 percent in just the past year.

#21 In many European countries, the money supply continues to contract rapidly.  The following comes from a recent article in the Telegraph….

Simon Ward from Henderson Global Investors said “narrow” M1 money – which includes cash and overnight deposits, and signals short-term spending plans – shows an alarming split between North and South.

While real M1 deposits are still holding up in the German bloc, the rate of fall over the last six months (annualised) has been 20.7pc in Greece, 16.3pc in Portugal, 11.8pc in Ireland, and 8.1pc in Spain, and 6.7pc in Italy. The pace of decline in Italy has been accelerating, partly due to capital flight. “This rate of contraction is greater than in early 2008 and implies an even deeper recession, both for Italy and the whole periphery,” said Mr Ward.

#22 The major industrialized nations of the world must roll over trillions upon trillions of dollars in debt during 2012.  At a time when credit is becoming much tighter, this is going to be quite a challenge.  The following list compiled by Bloomberg shows the amount of debt that some large nations must roll over in 2012….

Japan: 3,000 billion
U.S.: 2,783 billion
Italy: 428 billion
France: 367 billion
Germany: 285 billion
Canada: 221 billion
Brazil: 169 billion
U.K.: 165 billion
China: 121 billion
India: 57 billion
Russia: 13 billion

Keep in mind that those numbers do not include any new borrowing.  Those are just old debts that must be refinanced.

As I mentioned at the top of this article, things do not look good.

The last thing that we need is another devastating global recession.

As I wrote about yesterday, the U.S. economy is in the midst of a nightmarish long-term decline.  The last major global recession helped to significantly accelerate that decline.

So what will happen if this next global recession is worse than the last one?

Sadly, the people that will get hurt the most by another recession will not be the wealthy.

The people that will get hurt the most will be the poor and the middle class.

So what should all of us be doing about this?

We should use the time during this “calm before the storm” to prepare for the hard times that are coming.

As always, let us hope for the best and let us prepare for the worst.

But things certainly do not look promising for the global economy in 2012.

If A Global Recession Is Not Looming, Then Why Are Bailouts Flying Around As If The End Of The World Is Coming?

I have learned that watching what people do is much more important than listening to what they say.  Back in 2008, financial authorities in the United States insisted that everything was gone to be okay.  But we all know now that was a lie.  Well, right now financial authorities in the U.S. and Europe are once again trying to assure us that everything is under control and that we are not headed for a global recession.  Unfortunately, their actions are telling a very different story.  All over the world, bailouts are flying around as if the end of the world is coming.  Governments and central banks are stepping in with gigantic mountains of money to prop up bond yields, major banks and even stock markets.  What we have seen over the past few months has been absolutely unprecedented.  So why are such desperate measures being taken if everything is going to be just fine?  Unfortunately, debt problems are never solved with more debt, so these bailouts really aren’t solving anything.  We are still headed for a massive amount of financial pain.  It would just be nice if the authorities would quit lying to us and would actually admit how bad things really are.

Today it was announced that the European Central Bank has agreed to make $638 billion in 3 year loans to 523 different banks.  Never before (not even during the last financial crisis) has the ECB loaned so much cheap money to European banks at one time.

This move by the ECB made headlines all over the globe.  CNBC is calling them “ultra-long and ultra-cheap loans“.

European authorities are hoping that European banks will use this money to make loans to businesses and to buy up the debt of troubled European governments.

But as we have seen in the United States, bailout money does not always get spent the way that the authorities intend for it to be spent.

The truth is that the banks could end up just sitting on the money.  That is what happened with a lot of bailout money in the United States during the last financial crisis.

European authorities hope, however, that European banks will take this super cheap money and lend it to European governments at much higher interest rates.

Unfortunately, global financial markets were not terribly impressed with this move by the ECB.  European bond yields actually rose and the euro just kept on falling.

Every few days another major “solution” to the European debt crisis is put out there, but so far nothing has worked.

For example, the European Central Bank has already spent over 274 billion dollars directly buying up European government bonds, and yet bond yields continue to hover in very dangerous territory.

But without ECB intervention, we probably would have already seen a major financial collapse in Europe.

The financial system of Europe is a total mess right now, and everyone is becoming incredibly dependent on the ECB.  The following comes from a recent Reuters article….

One of the key factors certain to have boosted demand is that banks are now more reliant than ever on central bank funds. The ECB said on Monday, in its semi-annual Financial Stability Review, that this dependency could be difficult to cure.

French banks have almost quadrupled their intake of ECB money since June to 150 billion euros, while banks in Italy and Spain are each taking more than 100 billion euros.

At this point, the ECB has the weight of the entire world on its shoulders.  One false move and we could see a huge wave of bank failures and we could be plunged into a major global recession.

But even with all of this unprecedented assistance, we have already seen some big time European banks fail.

Back in Obtober, Dexia was the first major European bank to be bailed out, and the cost of that bailout is going to exceed 100 billion dollars.

The funny thing is that Dexia actually passed the banking stress test that was conducted earlier this year with flying colors.

So what does that say about all of the other major European banks that did not do so well on the stress test?

In addition, it was recently announced that Germany’s second largest bank is going to need a bailout.

The following comes from a Sky News report….

Germany’s second largest bank, Commerzbank, is reportedly in discussions with the German government about a bailout after regulators said it needed to raise more money to cope with a potential default on its loans to governments.

“Intense talks” have been going on for several days, according to sources who spoke to the news agency Reuters.

Even with unprecedented intervention by the ECB, the truth is that the European banking system is rapidly failing.

In Greece, a full-blown run on the banks is happening.  According to a recent Der Spiegel article, funds are being pulled out of Greek banks at a pace that is astounding….

He means that the outflow of funds from Greek bank accounts has been accelerating rapidly. At the start of 2010, savings and time deposits held by private households in Greece totalled €237.7 billion — by the end of 2011, they had fallen by €49 billion. Since then, the decline has been gaining momentum. Savings fell by a further €5.4 billion in September and by an estimated €8.5 billion in October — the biggest monthly outflow of funds since the start of the debt crisis in late 2009.

In all, approximately 20 percent of all deposits in Greek banks have been withdrawn since the start of 2011.

Other European nations are implementing draconian measures in an attempt to protect their banks.  For example, in Italy all cash transactions over 1000 euros have been permanently banned.  People will either have to use checks, debit cards or credit cards for large transactions.  This will “encourage” people to keep more money in the banks, and this will also make it much easier for the Italian government to track transactions and to collect taxes.

But it is not just in the EU where we find unusual steps being taken.

In the UK, the Bank of England is acting like the end of the world is about to happen.  The following comes from a recent article on the This Is Money website….

The deputy governor of the Bank of England today warned the situation surrounding the single currency was ‘worrying’ and that the Bank was making preparations to support British banks, should the eurozone collapse.

A temporary loan facility has been introduced as a precaution, for use in the event of contagion from the eurozone crisis endangering UK institutions, Charlie Bean said in an interview on BBC Radio 4’s World at One.

An article posted on Business Insider a while back says that Switzerland is also preparing for “a euro collapse”….

The Swiss government is preparing for a collapse of the euro, according to Swiss Finance Minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf.

She told parliament that a work group was studying the imposition of capital controls and negative interest rates to protect Switzerland from the capital flight that a euro collapse would engender

Frightening stuff.

On the other side of the world, the government of China is also taking action.  In fact, China is actually injecting money into the stock market in order to prop up stock prices.

The following comes from an article in the China Post….

In a movement considered “long overdue” by some analysts, the injection of government money into the tanking stock market to prop up stock prices has been given the green light, government officials announced yesterday.

Vice Premier Chen, the topmost government official charged with the country’s financial stability, however, insisted the fundamentals of the economy and the stock market are sound, expressing his hope for continued optimism among the people.

Of course the Federal Reserve is not going to stand on the sideline while all of this is going on.  In a recent article, I described how the Federal Reserve is helping to bail out European banks….

The Federal Reserve, the European Central Bank, the Bank of England, the Bank of Canada, the Bank of Japan and the Swiss National Bank have announced a coordinated plan to provide liquidity support to the global financial system.  According to the plan, the Federal Reserve is going to substantially reduce the interest rate that it charges the European Central Bank to borrow dollars.  In turn, that will enable the ECB to lend dollars to European banks at a much cheaper rate.  The hope is that this will alleviate the credit crunch which has gripped the European financial system by the throat.  So where is the Federal Reserve going to get all of these dollars that it will be loaning out at very low interest rates?  You guessed it – the Fed is just going to create them out of thin air.  Our currency is being debased so that Europe can be helped out.

If the global financial system was in good shape, all of these bailouts would not be happening.

These desperate measures are a clear sign that something is up.

The financial authorities of the world are doing their best to keep the system together, but in the end they are not going to be able to prevent the collapse that is coming.

The world is heading for incredibly hard economic times.

So is the end of the world coming?

No.

But to many in the financial world it may feel like it.  The coming global recession is not going to be fun.

We have now reached a point where it has become “normal” for governments and central banks to throw money at one financial crisis after another.

At one time, bailouts were so unusual that they provoked a great deal of outrage.

Today, bailouts have become standard operating procedure.

The bailouts will continue to get larger and larger, and authorities all over the globe will do their very best to keep the house of cards from coming crashing down.

Unfortunately, they will not be successful.

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