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Why Are Wal-Mart And Boeing Laying Off Workers If The U.S. Economy Is In Good Shape?

wal-mart-photo-by-mikemozartjeepersmediaThe stock market has been on quite a roll in recent weeks, but signs of trouble continue to plague the real economy.  Earlier this week, I talked about the “retail apocalypse” that is sweeping America.  Major retail chains such as Sears and Macy’s are closing stores and laying off workers, but I didn’t think that Wal-Mart would be feeling the pain as well.  Unfortunately, that is precisely what is happening.  USA Today is reporting that approximately 1,000 jobs will be cut at Wal-Mart’s corporate headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas by the end of this month…

Walmart’s plan to lay off of hundreds of employees is the latest ripple in a wave of job cuts and store closures that are roiling the retail industry.

The world’s largest retailer is cutting roughly 1,000 jobs at its corporate headquarters in Bentonville, Ark., later this month, according to a person familiar with the matter who was not authorized to speak about it.

The company is saying that these cuts are necessary because Wal-Mart is always “looking for ways to operate more efficiently and effectively“.  But something doesn’t smell right here.  You don’t get rid of 1,000 employees at your corporate headquarters if everything is just fine.

I have driven past Wal-Mart’s headquarters in Bentonville a number of times, and it is in a beautiful part of the country.  Bentonville and the surrounding areas had been booming, but it looks like times may be changing.

Meanwhile, there are signs of trouble out on the west coast as well.  The Los Angeles Times is reporting that there is going to be a new round of engineering job cuts at Boeing…

Boeing Co. has internally announced a new round of employee buyouts for engineers companywide, including in Southern California, and warned that layoff notices will follow later this month to engineers in Washington state, where the company has a large presence.

Management did not cite a target for the number of projected job cuts.

The news comes after company Vice Chairman Ray Conner and the new chief executive of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, or BCA, Kevin McAllister, warned in December of the need to aim for further cuts in 2017.

And according to Boeing spokesperson Doug Alder, similar job cut announcements are coming for other classes of workers as well.

So why is Boeing getting rid of so many employees?

Well, the truth is that Boeing’s business is way down.  The following comes from Wolf Richter

Business has been tough. In 2016, deliveries fell by 14 jets from a year ago, to 748. Net orders dropped 13% from an already rotten level in 2015, to just 668, down 53% from 2014. And the lowest level since 2010!

When the economy is doing well, air traffic tends to rise, and when the economy is doing poorly it tends to go down.

Needless to say, the fact that Boeing is doing so poorly does not bode well for the future.

In addition to Wal-Mart, another major retailer that is letting people go is Petco

Petco is cutting 180 positions with about 50 at its San Diego headquarters, the pet supply retailer confirmed Wednesday.

The company made the cuts across its workforce and include both existing and open positions.

Petco has about 650 workers at its headquarters in Rancho Bernardo. It employs 27,000 in the U.S.

My wife and I have three cats, and even though Petco tends to be a bit overpriced we have always appreciated the work that they do.

Unfortunately, when the economy gets tough spending on pets tends to be one of the first things to get cut back, and this current trouble at Petco could be a sign that rough sledding is ahead for the entire economy.

Of course your personal perspective on these things is likely to be very heavily influenced by your immediate surroundings.  Those that live in wealthy enclaves of major cities such as San Francisco, New York City or Washington D.C. may be wondering how anyone could possibly be talking about economic trouble right now.

But if you live in economically depressed areas of Appalachia or the upper Midwest, it may seem like the last economic recession never even ended.

There have been pockets of economic prosperity in recent years, and this has resulted in some people becoming exceedingly wealthy.  Meanwhile, things have just continued to become even tougher for millions of other families as the cost of living always seems to grow faster than their paychecks do.

If you are in the top one percent of all income earners, maybe to you it seems like things have never been better.  But most of the country is living paycheck to paycheck and is just struggling to survive from month to month.  The following comes from CNN

The rich are money-making machines. Today, the top mega wealthy — the top 1% — earn an average of $1.3 million a year. It’s more than three times as much as the 1980s, when the rich “only” made $428,000, on average, according to economists Thomas Piketty, Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman.

Meanwhile, the bottom 50% of the American population earned an average of $16,000 in pre-tax income in 1980. That hasn’t changed in over three decades.

The workers being laid off at the companies discussed above are real people with real hopes and real dreams.  Perhaps many of them will be able to land other employment fairly soon, but the truth is that the job market is really tough in many areas of the country right now.

Finding a good job that will allow you to pay the bills and support your family is not easy.  You may find that out the hard way if you end up losing your current job during the economic troubles that will come in 2017.

Earlier today, I came across an excellent article by Gail Tverberg that detailed a whole bunch of reasons why a significant economic downturn appears to be imminent in 2017.  If you would like to read it, you can find it here.  She points to many of the same things that I have been pointing to for a very long time.

Even though economic conditions were fairly stable throughout 2016, our long-term problems just continued to get even worse.  So the truth is that we are more primed for a major crisis today than we have been at any point since the last recession.

My hope is that things will not be nearly as bad in 2017 as Gail Tverberg and others are projecting that they could be, but the warning signs are definitely there, and it isn’t going to take much to push the U.S. economy off the rails.

U.S. Economic Confidence Surges To The Highest Level That Gallup Has Ever Recorded

donald-trump-accepts-the-nomination-public-domainGallup’s U.S. Economic Confidence Index has never been higher than it is today.  The “Trumphoria” that has gripped the nation ever since Donald Trump’s miraculous victory on election night shows no signs of letting up.  Tens of millions of Americans that were deeply troubled by Barack Obama’s policies over the last eight years are feeling optimistic about the future for the first time in a very long time.  And it is hard to blame them, because what we have already seen happen since November 8th is nothing short of extraordinary.  The stock market keeps hitting record high after record high, the U.S. dollar is now the strongest that it has been in 14 years, and CEOs are personally promising Trump that they will bring jobs back to the United States.  These are things worth getting excited about, and so it makes perfect sense that Gallup’s U.S. Economic Confidence Index has now risen to the highest level that Gallup has ever seen

Americans’ confidence in the economy continues to gradually strengthen after last month’s post-election surge. Gallup’s U.S. Economic Confidence Index averaged +10 for the week ending Dec. 18, marking another new high in its nine-year trend.

The latest figure is up slightly from the index’s previous high of +8 recorded in both of the prior two weeks. The first positive double-digit index score since the inception of Gallup Daily tracking in 2008 reflects a stark change in Americans’ confidence in the U.S. economy from the negative views they expressed in most weeks over the past nine years.

And of course this booming level of confidence is not just reflected in Gallup’s numbers.  As I discussed in a previous article, the mammoth shift in the results of CNBC’s All-America Economic Survey after the election was nothing short of historic…

The CNBC All-America Economic Survey for the fourth quarter found that the percentage of Americans who believe the economy will get better in the next year jumped an unprecedented 17 points to 42 percent, compared with before the election. It’s the highest level since President Barack Obama was first elected in 2008.

The surge was powered by Republicans and independents reversing their outlooks. Republicans swung from deeply pessimistic, with just 15 percent saying the economy would improve in the next year, to strongly optimistic, with 74 percent believing in an economic upswing. Optimism among independents doubled but it fell by more than half for Democrats. Just 16 percent think the economy will improve.

On Tuesday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed at yet another all-time record high.

That was the 17th record close since election day, and overall the Dow is up a whopping 8 percent during that time span.

I don’t think that we have ever seen an extended post-election stock market rally quite like this one, and the U.S. dollar is rallying too.  On Tuesday, the U.S. dollar was the strongest that it has been in 14 years

The dollar hit a fresh 14-year high on Tuesday, boosted by upbeat comments from Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen that kept alive market expectations for swifter U.S. interest rate hikes next year than had been expected.

The greenback climbed broadly but its gains were strongest against the yen, which slid as much as 1 percent after the Bank of Japan kept monetary policy unchanged.

But of course not everything is rainbows and unicorns.  Signs of trouble continue to erupt all over the U.S. economy, and there are many that believe that Trump will be facing some very serious economic concerns very early in his presidency.

Just look at what is happening in the auto industry.  Unsold vehicles are piling up at an alarming pace at dealers all over the nation, and GM just announced that it is going to temporarily close five factories

GM has been reacting to its fabulously ballooning inventory glut by piling incentives on its vehicles. But that hasn’t worked all that well though it cost a lot of money. Now it’s time to get serious.

It will temporarily close five assembly plants in January and lay off over 10,000 employees, spokeswoman Dayna Hart said today.

And GM is definitely not alone.  Back in October, Ford made a similar announcement

In October, Ford announced that it would temporarily shut down production at one of its F-150 assembly plants (Kansas City), along with production at a plant that assembles the Escape and the Lincoln MKC (Louisville), plus two plants in Mexico. It would also lay off about 13,000 workers, 9,000 in the US and 4,000 in Mexico.

Another signal that the economy is slowing down is the tremendous difficulty that Uber is experiencing right now.  If you can believe it, they just announced that they lost a staggering 800 million dollars in the third quarter

Uber racked up pro-forma losses of more than $800m in the third quarter of this year as a price war with rival ride-hailing service Lyft in the US and heavy spending on new initiatives weighed on its figures, according to a person familiar with its recent financial performance, reports The Financial Times.

The third-quarter figures, first reported by tech news site The Information, show that Uber still faces steep losses even after pulling back from China.

I don’t understand how Uber could possibly lose 800 million dollars in three months.  Something is definitely very wrong over there.

Personally, I hope that things go as well as possible during the Trump administration.  If we truly are entering a new golden era of peace and prosperity, that would be more than okay with me.

But we should not forget that our economic fundamentals have continued to deteriorate all throughout the Obama years, and our nation has been steadily accumulating the largest mountain of debt the world has ever seen.

Unless there is some sort of unprecedented miracle, there is no way that this giant bubble that we are in at the moment is going to end well.  So it is definitely good to be optimistic, but we also need to be realistic about where we are right now and about the great challenges that we will soon be facing.

Trumphoria: Americans Are More Optimistic About The Economy Than They Have Been Since Obama’s Win In 2008

donald-trump-accepts-the-nomination-public-domainOptimism about the future of the U.S. economy has not been this strong since Barack Obama’s first presidential election victory in 2008. Donald Trump promised us an economic resurgence, and what is not to like so far? As I discussed earlier this week, stocks are soaring, businesses are already announcing that they are bringing jobs back to the United States, and the U.S. dollar has been lifted to levels that we haven’t seen in many years. Many are referring to this post-election surge as “Trumphoria”, and I think that is quite appropriate. Personally, I couldn’t imagine financial markets behaving this way if Hillary Clinton had won the election. Right now tens of millions of Americans are feeling deeply optimistic about the future for the first time in a very long time, and this is clearly reflected in the results of the most recent CNBC All-America Economic Survey

The CNBC All-America Economic Survey for the fourth quarter found that the percentage of Americans who believe the economy will get better in the next year jumped an unprecedented 17 points to 42 percent, compared with before the election. It’s the highest level since President Barack Obama was first elected in 2008.

The surge was powered by Republicans and independents reversing their outlooks. Republicans swung from deeply pessimistic, with just 15 percent saying the economy would improve in the next year, to strongly optimistic, with 74 percent believing in an economic upswing. Optimism among independents doubled but it fell by more than half for Democrats. Just 16 percent think the economy will improve.

It is funny how our political perspectives so greatly shape our view of the future. Because Trump won, Democrats now have an extremely dismal opinion of where the economy is heading, while Republicans suddenly believe that happy days are here again.

Of course the truth is that the president has far less power to influence the economy than the Federal Reserve does, and so most Americans greatly overestimate what a president can do to alter our economic trajectory.

But for now most Americans (excluding Democrats) are feeling really good about where things are headed. In fact, we just learned that the University of Michigan consumer confidence survey has soared to the highest level that we have seen since 2005.

And of course the financial markets continued to roll onward and upward on Friday. The Dow was up another 142 points, and it is now less than 250 points away from the magic number of 20,000.

I never thought that we would actually get to 20,000, but thanks to “Trumphoria” we may actually get there before the wheels start coming off.

This post-election run has really been unprecedented. The following comes from CNBC

All major indexes have been hitting record highs since the election. In fact, the Dow has notched 14 record closes since then and gains in 20 of the past 24 sessions.

The Dow, S&P 500, and Nasdaq also did something they haven’t done in more than five years: all three rose each day of this trading week. The last time all three rose every day during the same trading week was September 2011.

Wouldn’t it be great if every month during Trump’s presidency was like the last 30 days?

Trump promised that we would start winning so much that we would actually start getting tired of winning, and so far we are off to a tremendous start.

As I discussed yesterday, some of the biggest winners from “Trumphoria” have been the big banks

The shares of Wells Fargo, the most hated bank in America these days, soared 28% over the past 30 days, Citigroup 25%, JP Morgan 26%, Goldman Sachs, which is successfully placing its people inside the Trump administration, 37%.

But is this momentum in the financial markets sustainable?

Of course not.

There are signs of emerging economic trouble all around us. For instance, Sears just announced that it lost 748 million dollars last quarter and that it plans to liquidate even more stores.

How in the world do you lose three-quarters of a billion dollars in a single quarter? If you had employees in every store literally flushing dollar bills down the toilet all day I don’t think you could lose money that quickly.

And the moment that Trump takes office, he may immediately be faced with a major financial crisis in Europe which has been sparked by the meltdown of large Italian banks. The following comes from a Forbes article entitled “Italy’s Banking Crisis Is Nearly Upon Us“…

There is a high degree of probability (approaching 90%, I’d say) that Italy will experience a severe banking crisis in the next few quarters. Perhaps they can stave off the problem for a year, but something will have to be done about the banks.

Unfortunately, it looks like things are about to get very real for Italian banking giant Monte dei Paschi di Siena. According to Reuters, the European Central Bank has turned down their request for more time to raise needed capital…

The European Central Bank has rejected a request by Italy’s Monte dei Paschi di Siena (BMPS.MI) for more time to raise capital, a source said on Friday, a decision that piles pressure on the Rome government to bail out the lender.

Italy’s third-largest bank, and the world’s oldest, had asked for a three-week extension until January 20 to try to wrap up a privately funded, 5 billion euro ($5.3 billion) rescue plan in the face of fresh political uncertainty.

The ECB’s supervisory board turned down the request at a meeting on Friday on the grounds that a delay would be of little use and that it was time for Rome to step in, the source said.

But most Americans have no idea what is unfolding in Europe right now.

As Americans, we tend to be largely oblivious to what is going on in the rest of the world, and at this moment “Trumphoria” has gripped our nation.

It is certainly not wrong to celebrate the fact that we are getting Donald Trump instead of Hillary Clinton, but let us also not lose sight of the fact that we are likely to be facing some tremendous challenges very early in 2017.

Are We Being Set Up For A Crash? Stocks Hit A Level Only Seen During The Bubbles Of 1929, 2000 And 2007

stock-market-overvalued-public-domainWill the financial bubble that has been rapidly growing ever since Donald Trump won the election suddenly be popped once he takes office?  Could it be possible that we are being set up for a horrible financial crash that he will ultimately be blamed for?  Yesterday, I shared my thoughts on the incredible euphoria that we have seen since Donald Trump’s surprise victory on November 8th.  The U.S. dollar has been surging, companies are announcing that they are bringing jobs back to the U.S., and we are witnessing perhaps the greatest post-election stock market rally in Wall Street history.  In fact, the Dow, the Nasdaq and the S&P 500 all set new all-time record highs again on Thursday.  What we are seeing is absolutely unprecedented, and many believe that the good times will continue to roll as we head into 2017.

What has been most surprising to me is how well the stocks of the big Wall Street banks have been doing.  It is no secret that those banks poured a tremendous amount of money into Hillary Clinton’s campaign, and Donald Trump had some tough things to say about them leading up to election day.

So you wouldn’t think that it would be particularly good news for those banks that Trump won the election.  However, we seem to be living in “Bizarro World” at the moment, and in so many ways things are happening exactly the opposite of what we would expect.  Since Trump’s victory, all of the big banking stocks have been skyrocketing

Financial stocks in particular have been on fire. Citigroup (C) and JPMorgan Chase (JPM) are up about 20% since Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton — and that makes them laggards!

Morgan Stanley (MS) has gained more than 25%. So has troubled Wells Fargo (WFC), despite the lingering fallout from its fake account scandal. Bank of America (BAC) is up more than 30%.

And so is Goldman Sachs (GS) — the former employer of both Treasury Secretary nominee Steven Mnuchin and Trump chief strategist Steve Bannon.

But are these stock prices justified by the fundamentals?

Of course not, but during times of euphoria the fundamentals never seem to matter much.  Stocks were incredibly overvalued before the election, and now they are ridiculously overvalued.

Earlier today, a CNBC article pointed out that the cyclically-adjusted price to earnings ratio has only been higher than it is today at three points in our history…

“The cyclically adjusted P/E (CAPE), a valuation measure created by economist Robert Shiller now stands over 27 and has been exceeded only in the 1929 mania, the 2000 tech mania and the 2007 housing and stock bubble,” Alan Newman wrote in his Stock Market Crosscurrents letter at the end of November.

Newman said even if the market’s earnings increase by 10 percent under Trump’s policies “we’re still dealing with the same picture, overvaluation on a very grand scale.”

And of course a historic stock market crash immediately followed each of those three bubbles.

So are we being set up for a huge crash in early 2017?

There are some out there that believe that this is purposely being orchestrated.  For example, Mike Adams of Natural News believes that the markets “will be deliberately and destructively imploded under President Trump”

Right now, the U.S. stock market is surging, with the Dow leaping toward 20,000, a number rooted in fiscal insanity and delusional expectations. There are no fundamentals that support a 20,000 Dow, but fundamentals have long since ceased to matter in a financial world hyperventilating on debt fumes while hallucinating about utopian economic models that will soon prove to generate fools instead of real wealth.

Today I’m going on the record with a prediction that I’ll offer with near absolute certainty: The rigged markets that now seem to defy gravity will be deliberately and destructively imploded under President Trump for all the obvious reasons. There will be financial chaos like we’ve never seen before: Investors leaping off tall buildings, banks declaring extended “holidays” that freeze transactions, and California pensioners slitting their wrists after they discover their promised pension funds were just vaporized by incompetent bureaucrats.

On the other hand, there are others that believe that Trump is just walking into a very bad situation and that a crash would be inevitable no matter who was president.

History tells us that there is no possible way that stock prices can stay at this irrational level indefinitely.  But for now a wave of optimism is sweeping the nation, and many of those that are caught up in it will get seriously angry with you if you try to inject a dose of reality into the conversation.

But like I said yesterday, let’s hope that the optimists are correct.  A survey that was just taken of 600 business executives found that 62 percent of them were optimistic about the U.S. economy over the next 12 months.

Incredibly, that number was sitting at just 38 percent the previous quarter.

For the moment, business leaders seem to be quite thrilled that we have a business executive in the White House.

Hopefully Donald Trump’s business experience will translate well to his new position.  And it is certainly my hope that he is as successful as possible.

But even during the campaign Trump talked about how stocks were in a giant bubble, and the euphoria that we have seen since his election victory has just made that bubble even larger.

Throughout U.S. history, every giant financial bubble has always ended very badly, and this time around will not be any exception.

Trump may get the blame for it when it bursts, but the truth is that the conditions for the coming crisis have been building for a very, very long time.

We Are Being Set Up For Higher Interest Rates, A Major Recession And A Giant Stock Market Crash

bear-market-bull-market-public-domainSince Donald Trump’s victory on election night we have seen the worst bond crash in 15 years.  Global bond investors have seen trillions of dollars of wealth wiped out since November 8th, and analysts are warning of another tough week ahead.  The general consensus in the investing community is that a Trump administration will mean much higher inflation, and as a result investors are already starting to demand higher interest rates.  Unfortunately for all of us, history has shown that higher interest rates always cause an economic slowdown.  And this makes perfect sense, because economic activity naturally slows down when it becomes more expensive to borrow money.  The Obama administration had already set up the next president for a major recession anyway, but now this bond crash threatens to bring it on sooner rather than later.

For those that are not familiar with the bond market, when yields go up bond prices go down.  And when bond prices go down, that is bad news for economic growth.

So we generally don’t want yields to go up.

Unfortunately, yields have been absolutely soaring over the past couple of weeks, and the yield on 10 year Treasury notes has now jumped “one full percentage point since July”

The 10-year Treasury yield jumped to 2.36% in late trading on Friday, the highest since December 2015, up 66 basis point since the election, and up one full percentage point since July!

The 10-year yield is at a critical juncture. In terms of reality, the first thing that might happen is a rate increase by the Fed in December, after a year of flip-flopping. A slew of post-election pronouncements by Fed heads – including Yellen’s “relatively soon” – have pushed the odds of a rate hike to 98%.

As I noted the other day, so many things in our financial system are tied to yields on U.S. Treasury notes.  Just look at what is happening to mortgages.  As Wolf Richter has noted, the average rate on 30 year mortgages is shooting into the stratosphere…

The carnage in bonds has consequences. The average interest rate of the a conforming 30-year fixed mortgage as of Friday was quoted at 4.125% for top credit scores. That’s up about 0.5 percentage point from just before the election, according to Mortgage News Daily. It put the month “on a short list of 4 worst months in more than a decade.”

If mortgage rates continue to shoot higher, there will be another housing crash.

Rates on auto loans, credit cards and student loans will also be affected.  Throughout our economic system it will become much more costly to borrow money, and that will inevitably slow the overall economy down.

Why bond investors are so on edge these days is because of statements such as this one from Steve Bannon

In a nascent administration that seems, at best, random in its beliefs, Bannon can seem to be not just a focused voice, but almost a messianic one:

“Like [Andrew] Jackson’s populism, we’re going to build an entirely new political movement,” he says. “It’s everything related to jobs. The conservatives are going to go crazy. I’m the guy pushing a trillion-dollar infrastructure plan. With negative interest rates throughout the world, it’s the greatest opportunity to rebuild everything. Ship yards, iron works, get them all jacked up. We’re just going to throw it up against the wall and see if it sticks. It will be as exciting as the 1930s, greater than the Reagan revolution — conservatives, plus populists, in an economic nationalist movement.”

Steve Bannon is going to be one of the most influential voices in the new Trump administration, and he is absolutely determined to get this “trillion dollar infrastructure plan” through Congress.

And that is going to mean a lot more borrowing and a lot more spending for a government that is already on pace to add 2.4 trillion dollars to the national debt this fiscal year.

Sadly, all of this comes at a time when the U.S. economy is already starting to show significant signs of slowing down.  It is being projected that we will see a sixth straight decline in year-over-year earnings for the S&P 500, and industrial production has now contracted for 14 months in a row.

The truth is that the economy has been barely treading water for quite some time now, and it isn’t going to take much to push us over the edge.  The following comes from Lance Roberts

With an economy running at below 2%, consumers already heavily indebted, wage growth weak for the bulk of American’s, there is not a lot of wiggle room for policy mistakes.

Combine weak economics with higher interest rates, which negatively impacts consumption, and a stronger dollar, which weighs on exports, and you have a real potential of a recession occurring sooner rather than later.

Yes, the stock market soared immediately following Trump’s election, but it wasn’t because economic conditions actually improved.

If you look at history, a stock market crash almost always follows a major bond crash.  So if bond prices keep declining rapidly that is going to be a very ominous sign for stock traders.

And history has also shown us that no bull market can survive a major recession.  If the economy suffers a major downturn early in the Trump administration, it is inevitable that stock prices will follow.

The waning days of the Obama administration have set us up perfectly for higher interest rates, a major recession and a giant stock market crash.

Of course any problems that occur after January 20th, 2017 will be blamed on Trump, but the truth is that Obama will be far more responsible for what happens than Trump will be.

Right now so many people have been lulled into a sense of complacency because Donald Trump won the election.

That is an enormous mistake.

A shaking has already begun in the financial world, and this shaking could easily become an avalanche.

Now is not a time to party.  Rather, it is time to batten down the hatches and to prepare for very rough seas ahead.

All of the things that so many experts warned were coming may have been delayed slightly, but without a doubt they are still on the way.

So get prepared while you still can, because time is running out.

Desperately Poor Teens In America’s Impoverished Inner Cities Are Trading Sex For Food

sad-girl-public-domainWhen people get hungry enough, they will do just about anything for some food.  According to brand new research that was just released this week from Feeding America and the Urban Institute, there are millions of teenagers in America that live in “food insecure” households, and researchers were stunned to learn what some of these teens are willing to do to feed themselves.  Some resort to shoplifting, others deal drugs, and there were a surprising number of participants in the study that actually admitted to trading sex for food.  It wouldn’t be a shock to hear that these kinds of things are going on in an economically-depressed nation such as Venezuela, but this is the United States of America.  We are supposed to be the wealthiest nation on the entire planet.  Sadly, even while the stock market has been soaring in recent years, poverty in America has been on the rise.  For those on the low end of the economic scale, things have gone from bad to worse since the end of the last recession, and millions of children are deeply suffering as a result.

Let’s start with some of the hard numbers.  The following comes directly from the Urban Institute website

An estimated 6.8 million people ages 10 to 17 are food insecure, meaning they don’t have reliable access to enough affordable, nutritious food. Another 2.9 million are very food insecure, and roughly 4 million live in marginally food secure households, where the threat of running out of food is real.

Food insecurity takes a tremendous toll on teenagers. Poor nutrition—and the stress of hunger and poverty—can jeopardize their physical and mental health and development and their academic success. But despite the gravity and prevalence of teen food insecurity, we know very little about how these young people experience and cope with hunger.

The researchers already knew that lots of young people were hungry in America.  But what surprised them were the lengths that many of these youngsters said that they would go to in order to get food

Some of the youths said they or someone they know — mostly young men — have turned to shoplifting food, selling drugs or stealing items to sell.

The teens also reported knowing young women who have sold their bodies for food or had sex for money so they could buy food for their families.

Going to jail or failing a class in order to have to attend summer school were also some of the lengths teens went to.

Could you imagine your daughter or your granddaughter exchanging her body for food?

For most of us that is absolutely unthinkable, but the truth is that this is taking place on the streets of America every single day.

And this wasn’t just some blind random phone survey.  The researchers conducted personal interviews with focus groups, and what these kids were willing to admit doing was absolutely astounding.  Here is another excerpt directly out of the report

  • When faced with acute food insecurity, teens in all but two of the communities said that youth engage in criminal behavior, ranging from shoplifting food directly to selling drugs and stealing items to resell for cash. These behaviors were most common among young men in communities with the most limited job options.
  • Teens in all 10 communities and in 13 of the 20 focus groups talked about some youth selling sex for money to pay for food. These themes arose most strongly in high-poverty communities where teens also described sexually coercive environments. Sexual exploitation most commonly took the form of transactional dating relationships with older adults.
  • In a few communities, teens talked about going to jail or failing school (so they could attend summer classes and get school lunch) as viable strategies for ensuring regular meals.

Many of these young people understand that what they are doing is wrong.  Just consider what some of them told the researchers

A girl in Portland, Oregon told researchers: “It’s really like selling yourself. Like you’ll do whatever you need to do to get money or eat.”

Another comment from Portland: “You’re not even dating … they’ll be like … ‘I don’t really love him, but I’m going to do what I have to do.’”

Many prefer to rationalise what they are doing as dating of sorts. A boy in rural North Carolina said: “When you’re selling your body, it’s more in disguise. Like if I had sex with you, you have to buy me dinner tonight … that’s how girls deal with the struggle … That’s better than taking money because if they take money, they will be labeled a prostitute.”

When I read the information in this report, I was stunned.  Yes, I write about our economic decline and the rise in poverty all the time, but I didn’t know that things were this bad.

And the researchers were surprised by what they were hearing as well.  One of them said that the fact that girls are trading their bodies for food “was really shocking to me”, and she believes that things are “just getting worse over time”

“I’ve been doing research in low-income communities for a long time, and I’ve written extensively about the experiences of women in high poverty communities and the risk of sexual exploitation, but this was new,” said Susan Popkin, a senior fellow at the Urban Institute and lead author of the report, Impossible Choices.

“Even for me, who has been paying attention to this and has heard women tell their stories for a long time, the extent to which we were hearing about food being related to this vulnerability was new and shocking to me, and the level of desperation that it implies was really shocking to me. It’s a situation I think is just getting worse over time.”

But aren’t we being told that things are getting better?

Aren’t we being told that our leaders “fixed” the economy?

Of course the truth is that America is mired in a long-term economic decline that stretches back for decades.  With each passing year the middle class gets smaller as a percentage of the population, and poverty continues to grow.  Last year the middle class became a minority of the population for the first time ever, and a lot of formerly middle class Americans are now among those that aren’t sure that they are going to have enough food to eat this month.

Hunger in America is a major crisis and it is growing.  Just because you may live in a comfortable home in a wealthy neighborhood does not mean that this problem is not real.

Tonight there are millions of Americans that do not know where their next meal is going to come from, and they deserve our love and compassion.

Tent Cities Full Of Homeless People Are Booming In Cities All Over America As Poverty Spikes

HomelessJust like during the last economic crisis, homeless encampments are popping up all over the nation as poverty grows at a very alarming rate.  According to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, more than half a million people are homeless in America right now, but that figure is increasing by the day.  And it isn’t just adults that we are talking about.  It has been reported that that the number of homeless children in this country has risen by 60 percent since the last recession, and Poverty USA says that a total of 1.6 million children slept either in a homeless shelter or in some other form of emergency housing at some point last year.  Yes, the stock market may have been experiencing a temporary boom for the last couple of years, but for those on the low end of the economic scale things have just continued to deteriorate.

Tonight, countless numbers of homeless people will try to make it through another chilly night in large tent cities that have been established in the heart of major cities such as Seattle, Washington, D.C. and St. Louis.  Homelessness has gotten so bad in California that the L.A. City Council has formally asked Governor Jerry Brown to officially declare a state of emergency.   And in Portland the city has extended their “homeless emergency” for yet another year, and city officials are really struggling with how to deal with the booming tent cities that have sprung up

There have always been homeless people in Portland, but last summer Michelle Cardinal noticed a change outside her office doors.

Almost overnight, it seemed, tents popped up in the park that runs like a green carpet past the offices of her national advertising business. She saw assaults, drug deals and prostitution. Every morning, she said, she cleaned human feces off the doorstep and picked up used needles.

“It started in June and by July it was full-blown. The park was mobbed,” she said. “We’ve got a problem here and the question is how we’re going to deal with it.”

But of course it isn’t just Portland that is experiencing this.  The following list of major tent cities that have become so well-known and established that they have been given names comes from Wikipedia

Most of the time, those that establish tent cities do not want to be discovered because local authorities have a nasty habit of shutting them down and forcing homeless people out of the area.  For example, check out what just happened in Elkhart, Indiana

A group of homeless people in Elkhart has been asked to leave the place they call home. For the last time, residents of ‘Tent City’ packed up camp.

City officials gave residents just over a month to vacate the wooded area; Wednesday being the last day to do so.

The property has been on Mayor Tim Neese’s radar since he took office in January, calling it both a safety and health hazard to its residents and nearby pedestrian traffic.

“This has been their home but you can’t live on public property,” said Mayor Tim Neese, Elkhart.

If they can’t live on “public property”, where are they supposed to go?

They certainly can’t live on somebody’s “private property”.

This is the problem – people don’t want to deal with the human feces, the needles, the crime and the other problems that homeless people often bring with them.  So the instinct is often to kick them out and send them away.

Unfortunately, that doesn’t fix the problem.  It just passes it on to someone else.

As this new economic downturn continues to accelerate, our homelessness boom is going to spiral out of control.  Pretty soon, there will be tent cities in virtually every community in America.

In fact, there are people that are living comfortable middle class lifestyles right at this moment that will end up in tents.  We saw this during the last economic crisis, and it will be even worse as this next one unfolds.

Just like last time around, the signs that the middle class is really struggling can be subtle at first, but when you learn to take note of them you will notice that they are all around you.  The following comes from an excellent article in the New York Post

Do you see grocery stores closing? Do you see other retailers, like clothing stores and department stores, going out of business?

Are there shuttered storefronts along your Main Street shopping district, where you bought a tool from the hardware store or dropped off your dry cleaning or bought fruits and vegetables?

Are you making as much money annually as you did 10 years ago?

Do you see homes in neighborhoods becoming run down as the residents either were foreclosed upon, or the owner lost his or her job so he or she can’t afford to cut the grass or paint the house?

Did that same house where the Joneses once lived now become a rental property, where new people come to live every few months?

Do you know one or two people who are looking for work? Maybe professionals, who you thought were safe in their jobs?

Don’t look down on those that are living in tents, because the truth is that many “middle class Americans” will ultimately end up joining them.

The correct response to those that are hurting is love and compassion.  We all need help at some point in our lives, and I know that I am certainly grateful to those that have given me a helping hand at various points along my journey.

Sadly, hearts are growing cold all over the nation, and the weather is only going to get colder over the months ahead.  Let us pray for health and safety for the hundreds of thousands of Americans that will be sleeping in tents and on the streets this winter.

Marc Faber Issues A Stunning Warning That A Gigantic 50 Percent Stock Market Crash Could Be Coming

Danger Button - Public DomainAre we about to witness one of the largest stock market crashes in U.S. history?  Swiss investor Marc Faber is the publisher of the “Gloom, Boom & Doom Report”, and he has been a regular guest on CNBC for years.  And even though U.S. stocks have been setting new record high after new record high in recent weeks, he is warning that a massive stock market crash is in our very near future.  According to Faber, we could “easily” see the S&P 500 plunge all the way down to 1,100.  As I sit here writing this article, the S&P 500 is sitting at 2,181.74, so that would be a drop of cataclysmic proportions.  The following is an excerpt from a CNBC article that discussed the remarks that Faber made on their network on Monday…

The notoriously bearish Marc Faber is doubling down on his dire market view.

The editor and publisher of the Gloom, Boom & Doom Report said Monday on CNBC’s “Trading Nation” that stocks are likely to endure a gut-wrenching drop that would rival the greatest crashes in stock market history.

I think we can easily give back five years of capital gains, which would take the market down to around 1,100,” Faber said, referring to a level 50 percent below Monday’s closing on the S&P 500.

Of course Faber is far from alone in believing that the market is heading for hard times.  Just recently, I wrote about how legendary investor Jeffrey Gundlach is warning that “stocks should be down massively” and that he believes this is the time to “sell everything“.

And on Tuesday, Donald Trump told Fox News that the stock market is “a big bubble”

“If rates go up, you’re going to see something that’s not pretty,” the billionaire businessman told Fox News during a Tuesday morning phone interview. “It’s all a big bubble.”

Worries that the Fed has created a market bubble have shadowed the second-longest bull market in history as the central bank has kept its key rate near zero and expanded its balance sheet by $3.8 trillion in order to pump liquidity into the financial system.

Trump actually has a vested interest in seeing the stock market go down, because that would help his chances in November.

In a previous article on The Most Important News, I explained that the stock market has indicated who would win the presidential election 86 percent of the time since 1928.  During the final three months before election day, if the stock market goes up the incumbent party almost always wins.  But if the stock market goes down, the incumbent party almost always loses.  The only times this correlation has not held up since 1928 were in 1956, 1968 and 1980.

For the moment, the stock market is defying the laws of economics, and that is a very good thing for Hillary Clinton.  But if this bubble suddenly bursts and the market starts catching up with economic reality, that is going to turn out to be very favorable for Donald Trump.

And without a doubt, the fundamental economic numbers just continue to get worse.  Earlier today, we learned that productivity in the U.S. has now been falling for three quarters in a row

Productivity, a sore spot for the U.S. economy over the past few years, has now declined in three straight quarters, according to data released Tuesday.

Productivity in the second quarter unexpectedly fell 0.5%, well below expectations, the Labor Department said. Economists surveyed by MarketWatch had forecast a 0.3% gain in productivity in the quarter.

Productivity is down 0.4% from a year earlier, the first year-over-year decline since the second quarter of 2013.

On Tuesday we also learned that real estate sales in Las Vegas were down about 10 percent in July compared to the same period a year ago, and things are not looking so good in San Francisco either.  Just check out what has been going on at Twitter

Twitter is shaking up San Francisco. It’s the city’s 10th largest employer, and second largest tech employer, after Salesforce. But it hasn’t yet figured out, despite a decade of trying, how to make money. Last October, it announced that it would lay off 8% of its workforce. A couple of weeks ago, it reported a second-quarter net loss of $107 million along with disappointing user metrics and lousy projections. Its shares have lost 74% since their miracle-IPO-hype peak at the end of December 2014.

And now Twitter is dumping nearly one third of its total office space on the San Francisco sublease market.

Las Vegas and San Francisco are both prone to huge “booms” and “busts”.  So the fact that it appears that both cities are starting to move into the “bust” end of the cycle is a very ominous sign.

Conditions are changing, and now is the time to position yourself for the exceedingly challenging times that are coming.  As I end this article today, I want to share with you something written by Jim Quinn.  He recently went out to visit his son Kevin in Colorado for a couple of weeks, and the following is how he ended his article about that trip…

After spending a week in this stunning paradise, it’s tougher than you know to go back to my two and half hour daily round trip commute into the slums of West Philly. John Muir’s words were right 100 years ago and they are right today. I am losing precious days and my days are spent trying to make money. I’ve got responsibilities. I’ve got bills to pay. I’ve got kids to get through college. We’ve got aging parents to help. I work because I have to.

I’m not learning anything in this trivial world of distractions and iGadgets. I don’t fit into this materialistic society. I don’t do small talk. I have no patience for fools. I prefer solitude. If I can survive this despicable rat race for seven more years, I’ll be joining Kevin in Colorado and living the life I’d like to live. The sun is setting and time is slipping away. Those mountains are calling me home.

I can definitely identify with what Jim is going through, because I once experienced similar emotions.

To Jim and everyone else that hopes that someday in the future they will be able to live the lives that they would like to be living right now, I would say this…

Don’t put it off.

Seize the day and find a way to make your dreams a reality.

Things are rapidly changing in this country, and if you keep putting off the life you want to be living for too long it may end up slipping away for good.

The Dow And The S&P 500 Soar To Brand New All-Time Record Highs – How Is This Possible?

Stock Market Soaring - Public DomainThe Dow and the S&P 500 both closed at all-time record highs on Tuesday, and that is very good news.  You might think that is an odd statement coming from the publisher of The Economic Collapse Blog, but the truth is that I am not at all eager to see the financial system crash and burn.  We all saw what took place when it happened in 2008 – millions of people lost their jobs, millions of people lost their homes, and economic suffering was off the charts.  So no, I don’t want to see that happen again any time soon.  All of our lives will be a lot more comfortable if the financial markets are stable and stocks continue to go up.  If the Dow and the S&P 500 can keep on soaring, that will suit me just fine.  Unfortunately, I don’t think that is going to be what happens.

Of course I never imagined we would be talking about new record highs for the stock market in mid-July 2016.  We have seen some crazy ups and downs for the financial markets over the last 12 months, and the downs were pretty severe.  Last August, we witnessed the greatest financial shaking since the historic financial crisis of 2008, and that was followed by an even worse shaking in January and February.  Then in June everyone was concerned that the surprising result of the Brexit vote would cause global markets to tank, and that did happen briefly, but since then we have seen an unprecedented rally.

So what is causing this sudden surge?

We’ll get to that in a moment, but first let’s review some of the numbers from Tuesday.  The following comes from USA Today

All three major indexes gained 0.7% apiece, as the Dow jumped 121 points to a new all-time closing high and the S&P 500 built upon its record close notched Monday. The blue chips now stand at 18,347.67, about 35 points above the previous record set May 19, 2015.

The new mark for the S&P 500 is 2,152.14, a 15-point improvement on its Monday close.

Overall, we have seen stocks shoot up more than eight percent over the last two weeks.  Normally, a rise of 10 percent for an entire year is considered to be quite healthy

Interior Minister Theresa May is set to become the U.K.’s prime minister on Wednesday. Stock markets across the globe have risen sharply, after a steep sell-off, following the United Kingdom’s decision to leave the European Union.

“In the past two weeks, post Brexit, the S&P 500 has vaulted over 8 percent,” said Adam Sarhan, CEO at Sarhan Capital. “Typically, a 10 percent move for the entire year is considered normal.”

What makes all of this even stranger is the fact that investors have been pulling money out of stocks as if it was 2008 all over again.  In fact, Zero Hedge tells us that on balance investors have been taking money out of equity funds for 17 weeks in a row.

So why are stocks still going up?

If your guess is “central bank intervention”, you are right on the nose.

Across the Pacific, the Bank of Japan has been voraciously gobbling up assets, and the architect of “Abenomics” just won a major electoral victory which has fueled a huge market rally over there…

Meanwhile, in Japan, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe ordered new stimulus after his coalition won an election in Japan’s upper chamber by a landslide. Japan’s Nikkei 225 rose nearly 2.5 percent overnight, while the yen erased all of its post-Brexit gains against the dollar.

“In the short term, I think it’s going to help, but in the long term, we’ll see,” said JJ Kinahan, chief strategist at TD Ameritrade. “I feel like a lot of people are getting themselves into situations that they can’t get out of.”

In Europe, the ECB has feverishly been pumping money into the financial system, and the result of the Brexit vote seems to have lit a renewed fire under the central bankers in Europe.  Collectively, intervention by the Japanese and the Europeans has created “a surge in net global central bank asset purchases to their highest since 2013″

Fast forward six months when Matt King reports that “many clients have been asking for an update of our usual central bank liquidity metrics.”

What the update reveals is “a surge in net global central bank asset purchases to their highest since 2013.”

And just like that the mystery of who has been buying stocks as everyone else has been selling has been revealed.

So now you know the rest of the story.

The economic fundamentals have not changed.  China is still slowing down.  Japan is still mired in a multi-year economic crisis.  Much of Europe is still dealing with a full-blown banking crisis.  Much of South America is still experiencing a full-blown depression.

Here in the United States, just about every indicator that you can think of says that the economy is slowing down.  If you doubt this, please see my previous article entitled “15 Facts About The Imploding U.S. Economy That The Mainstream Media Doesn’t Want You To See“.

The artificially-induced rally that we are witnessing right now can be compared to a “last gasp” of a dying patient.

But my hope is that this “last gasp” can last for as long as possible.  Because as much as I warn people about it, I am not actually eager to see what comes next.

The economic and financial suffering that are coming are inevitable, but they are not going to be pleasant for any of us.  So let us all hope that we still have a little bit more time before the party is over and it is time to turn out the lights.

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