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Guess What Happened The Last Time The Chinese Stock Market Crashed Like This?

Question Button - Public DomainThe second largest stock market in the entire world is collapsing right in front of our eyes.  Since hitting a peak in June, the most important Chinese stock market index has plummeted by well over 20 percent, and more than 3 trillion dollars of “paper wealth” has been wiped out.  Of course the Shanghai Composite Index is still way above the level it was sitting at exactly one year ago, but what is so disturbing about this current crash is that it is so similar to what we witnessed just prior to the great financial crisis of 2008 in the United States.  From October 2006 to October 2007, the Shanghai Composite Index more than tripled in value.  It was the greatest stock market surge in Chinese history.  But after hitting a peak, it began to fall dramatically.  From October 2007 to October 2008, the Shanghai Composite Index absolutely crashed.  In the end, more than two-thirds of all wealth in the market was completely wiped out.  You can see all of this on a chart that you can find right here.  What makes this so important to U.S. investors is the fact that Chinese stocks started crashing well before U.S. stocks started crashing during the last financial crisis, and now it is happening again.  Is this yet another sign that a U.S. stock market crash is imminent?

Over the past several months, I have been trying to hammer home the comparisons between what we are experiencing right now and the lead up to the U.S. financial crisis in the second half of 2008.  Today, I want to share with you an excerpt from a New York Times article that was published in April 2008.  At that time, the Chinese stock market crash was already well underway, but U.S. stocks were still in great shape…

The Shanghai composite index has plunged 45 percent from its high, reached last October. The first quarter of this year, which ended Monday with a huge sell-off, was the worst ever for the market.

Suddenly, millions of small investors who were crowding into brokerage houses, spending the entire day there playing cards, trading stocks, eating noodles and cheering on the markets with other day traders and retirees, are feeling depressed and angry.

This sounds almost exactly like what is happening in China right now.  First we witnessed a ridiculous Chinese stock market bubble form, and now we are watching a nightmarish sell off take place.  This next excerpt is from a Reuters article that was just published…

Shanghai’s benchmark share index crashed below 4,000 points for the first time since April – a key support level that analysts said had been seen as a line in the sand that Beijing had to defend, below which more conservative investors would start ejecting from their leveraged positions, widening the rout.

Chinese markets, which had risen as much as 110 percent from November to a peak in June, have collapsed at an incredibly rapid pace in since June 12, losing more than 20 percent in jaw-dropping volatility as money surges in and out of the market.

That drop has wiped out nearly $3 trillion in market capitalization, more than the GDP of Brazil.

Did you catch that last part?

The amount of wealth that has been wiped out during this Chinese stock market crash is already greater than the entire yearly GDP of Brazil.

To me, that is absolutely incredible.

And now that the global financial system is more interconnected than ever, what goes on over in China has a greater impact on the rest of the globe than ever before.  Today, China has the largest economy on the planet on a purchasing power basis, and the Chinese stock market “is the second largest in the world in terms of market capitalization”

Just as in 1929, flighty retail investors make up the bulk of China’s stock market and, just as in 1929 in the U.S., they have heavily margined their accounts. The Financial Times puts the number of retail investors in the Chinese stock market at 80 to 90 percent of the total market. Retail investors, unlike sophisticated institutional investors, are prone to panic selling, which explains the wild intraday swings in the Shanghai Composite over the past week.

Last night, the Shanghai Composite broke a key technical support level, closing below 4,000 at 3,912.77. The index is now down 24 percent since it peaked earlier this month and has wiped out more than $2.4 trillion in value. China’s stock market is the second largest in the world in terms of market capitalization, with the U.S. ranking number one.

Making world markets even more worried about the situation in China, its regulators are showing a similar brand of leadership as Mario Draghi. After previously pledging to trim back risky margin lending, they have now done a complete flip flop and are permitting individual brokerage firms to avoid selling out accounts that miss margin calls by setting their own guidelines on the amount of collateral needed.

I know that a lot of Americans don’t really care about what happens over in Asia, but when the second largest stock market in the entire world crashes, it is a very big deal.

The great financial crisis of 2015 has now begun, and it is just going to get much, much worse.  On Thursday, Ron Paul declared that “the day of reckoning is at hand“, and I agree with him.

So what comes next?

The following is what Phoenix Capital Research is anticipating…

By the time it’s all over, I expect:

1)   Numerous emerging market countries to default and most emerging market stocks to lose 50% of their value.

2)   The Euro to break below parity before the Eurozone is broken up (eventually some new version of the Euro to be introduced and remain below parity with the US Dollar).

3)   Japan to have defaulted and very likely enter hyperinflation.

4)   US stocks to lose at least 50% of their value and possibly fall as far as 400 on the S&P 500.

5)   Numerous “bail-ins” in which deposits are frozen and used to prop up insolvent banks.

I tend to agree with most of that. I don’t agree that the euro is going to go away, but I do agree that the eurozone is going to break up and be reconstituted in a new form eventually.  And yes, we are going to see tremendous inflation all over the world down the road, but I wouldn’t say that it is imminent in Japan or anywhere else.  But overall, I think that is a pretty good list.

So what do you think is coming?  Please feel free to join the discussion by posting a comment below…

And So It Begins – Greek Banks Get Shut Down For A Week And A ‘Grexit’ Is Now Probable

Greece Financial MeltdownIs this the beginning of the end for the eurozone?  For years, European officials have been trying to “fix Greece”, but nothing has worked.  Now a worst case scenario is rapidly unfolding, and a “Grexit” has become more likely than not.  On Sunday, the European Central Bank announced that it was not going to provide any more emergency support for Greek banks.  But that was the only thing keeping them alive.  In order to prevent total chaos, Greek banks have been shut down for at least a week.  ATMs are still open, but it is being reported that daily withdrawals will be limited to 60 euros.  Of course nobody knows for sure if or when the banks will reopen after this “bank holiday” is over, so needless to say average Greek citizens are pretty freaked out right about now.  In addition, the stock market in Greece is not going to open on Monday either.  This is what a national financial meltdown looks like, and the nightmare that has been unleashed in Greece will soon start spreading to much of the rest of Europe.

This reminds me so much of what happened in Cyprus.  Up until the very last minute, politicians were promising everyone that their money was perfectly safe, and then the hammer was brought down.

The exact same pattern is playing out in Greece.  For example, just check out what one very prominent Greek politician said on television on Saturday

“Citizens should not be scared, there is no blackmail,” Panos Kammenos, head of the government’s coalition ally, told local television. “The banks won’t shut, the ATMs will (have cash). All this is exaggeration,” he said.

One day later, the banks did get shut down and ATMs all over the country started running out of cash.  The following comes from CNBC

Despite a tweet from Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis that his government “opposed the very concept” of any controls, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said later Sunday that he had forced the country’s central bank to recommend a bank holiday and capital controls.

The Athens stock exchange will also be closed as the government tries to manage the financial fallout of the disagreement with the European Union and the International Monetary Fund. Greece’s banks, kept afloat by emergency funding from the European Central Bank, are on the front line as Athens moves towards defaulting on a 1.6 billion euros payment due to the International Monetary Fund on Tuesday.

So what is the moral of this story?

Never trust politicians – especially when a major financial crisis is looming.

All over Greece, people are taking photos of very long lines at the ATMs that actually do still have some cash.  Here are just a couple of examples…

—–

Of course those that were smart enough to see this coming took their money out of the banks long ago.  And even as late as last week, people were pulling more than a billion euros out of the banks every single day.  Without direct intervention by the European Central Bank, most Greek banks would have totally collapsed by now

Customers have been withdrawing money in vast quantities ever since Syriza came to power, fearing that if Greece is thrown out of the single currency their euro savings will be converted into drachma – likely to be worth far less.

In the last week, the sums being taken out have risen to well over one billion euros a day, moved either to foreign banks or stashed in notes under mattresses.

It has been a slow and steady run on Greece’s banks which is now speeding up – for the finish line may well be in sight. Until now, the country’s banks have been kept afloat by €88 billion in loans from the European Central Bank.

So now that the banks are shut down, what happens next?

Needless to say, economic activity in Greece is going to come to a grinding halt.  In addition, very few foreigners are going to want to travel to Greece or deal with Greece financially until this crisis is resolved somehow

An extended bank shutdown and tough capital controls will likely wreak further havoc on the Greek economy by scaring away tourists and chilling commercial activity.

And with Greece unable to borrow from financial markets, and apparently unwilling to strike a deal with the only institutions prepared to lend it money, it will find itself sliding rapidly towards exit from the euro.

When the Greek banks finally do reopen, which of them will still be solvent?

Will some of them need “bail-ins”?

Will account holders be forced to take “haircuts” like we saw in Cyprus?

For the moment, what we do know is that the banks will all be shut down until at least July 6th.  Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has called for a national referendum to be held on July 5th.  The Greek people will get a chance to vote on whether or not the latest creditor proposals should be accepted.  But the funny thing is that Tsipras and the rest of Syriza are already encouraging the Greek people to vote no

Greece’s parliament has voted in favor of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’ motion to hold a referendum on the country’s creditor proposals for reforms in exchange for loans, the Associated Press reported. Tsipras and his coalition government have urged people to vote against the deal, throwing into question the country’s financial future.

The vote is to be held next Sunday, July 5. It has raised the question of whether Greece can remain in Europe’s joint currency, the euro.

So why hold a referendum if you just want everyone to vote no?

It is because Tsipras does not want to solely shoulder the blame for what comes next.  A “no vote” would essentially be a vote to leave the euro and go back to the drachma.  The following comes from the Daily Mail

Should Greeks vote against the new bailout, most economists believe Greece will be forced to quit the single currency and return to the drachma. The country could even eventually be forced out of the EU, though Greek politicians have long argued a Grexit would not be the automatic result of default.

However, next week’s referendum is likely to be billed as, in effect, an in-out vote on the euro.

If Greece does default and ends up leaving the euro, the short-term economic consequences for Greece will be catastrophic.

But the rest of Europe will feel a tremendous amount of pain as well.  In fact, we are already getting a sneak peek at coming attractions.  As we approach Monday morning in Europe, Asian stocks are crashing big time, and European futures are absolutely cratering.  It should be very interesting to see how Monday plays out.

In addition, the euro is already way down in early trading.  If Greece does ultimately leave the euro, the value of the euro is going to plunge like a rock.  As I have warned repeatedly, the euro is heading for parity with the U.S. dollar, and at some point it will drop below parity.

And once Greece is out, everyone is going to be speculating who the “next Greece” will be.  Expect bond yields for Italy, Spain, Portugal and France to go skyrocketing.

Just a couple of days ago, I issued a red alert for the second half of 2016.  We are entering a period of time when the global financial system is beginning to unravel.  Most people still have a tremendous amount of faith in the system and assume that those running it are fully capable of keeping it from collapsing.  In fact, many have accused me of being crazy for suggesting that the global financial system is in imminent danger of imploding.

A very wise man once said that “pride goeth before destruction”.  Our arrogance and our blind faith in the fundamentally flawed systems that we have established will contribute greatly to our undoing.

Events are starting to accelerate greatly now, and it is just a matter of time before we see who was right and who was wrong.

 

Investors Start To Panic As A Global Bond Market Crash Begins

Panic Keyboard - Public DomainIs the financial collapse that so many are expecting in the second half of 2015 already starting?  Many have believed that we would see bonds crash before the stock market crashes, and that is precisely what is happening right now.  Since mid-April, the yield on 10 year German bonds has shot up from 0.05 percent to 0.89 percent.  But much of that jump has come this week.  Just a couple of days ago, the yield on 10 year German bonds was sitting at just 0.54 percent.  And it isn’t just Germany – bond yields are going crazy all over Europe.  So far, it is being estimated that global investors have lost more than half a trillion dollars, and there is much more room for these bonds to fall.  In the end, the overall losses could be well into the trillions even before the stock market collapses.

I know that for most average Americans, talk about “bond yields” is rather boring.  But it is important to understand these things, because we could very well be looking at the beginning of the next great financial crisis.  The following is an excerpt from an article by Wolf Richter in which he details the unprecedented carnage that we have witnessed over the past few days…

On Tuesday, ahead of the ECB’s policy announcement today, German Bunds sagged, and the 10-year yield soared from 0.54% to 0.72%, drawing a squiggly diagonal line across the chart. In just one day, yield increased by one-third!

Makes you wonder to which well-connected hedge funds the ECB had once again leaked its policy statement and the all-important speech by ECB President Mario Draghi that the rest of us got see today.

And today, the German 10-year yield jump to 0.89%, the highest since October last year. From the low in mid-April of 0.05% to today’s 0.89% in just seven weeks! Bond prices, in turn, have plunged!  This is the definition of a “rout.”

Other euro sovereign bonds have gone through a similar rout, with the Spanish 10-year yield soaring from 1.05% in March to 2.07% today, and the Italian 10-year yields jumping from a low in March of 1.03% to 2.17% now.

What this means is that the central banks are losing control.

In particular, the European Central Bank has been trying very hard to force yields down, and now the exact opposite is happening.

This is very bad news for a global financial system that is absolutely teeming with red ink.  Since the last financial crisis, our planet has been on the greatest debt binge of all time.  If we are moving into a time of higher interest rates, that is going to cause enormous problems.  Unfortunately, CNBC says that is precisely where things are headed…

The wild breakout in German yields is rocking global debt markets, and giving investors an early glimpse of the uneasy future for bonds in a world of higher interest rates.

The shakeout also carries a message for corporate bond investors, who have snapped up a record level of new issuance this year, and are now seeing negative total returns in the secondary market for the first time this year.

So why is this happening?

Why are bond yields going crazy?

According to the Wall Street Journal, financial regulators in Europe are blaming the ECB’s quantitative easing program…

A recent surge in government bond market volatility can be blamed on the quantitative easing program of the European Central Bank, according to one of Europe’s top financial regulators.

EIOPA, the body responsible for regulating insurers and pension funds in the European Union, has warned that the ECB’s decision to buy billions of euros’ worth of sovereign bonds, to kick-start the region’s economy, has caused markets to become choppier.

And actually this is what should be happening.  When central banks start creating money out of thin air and pumping it into the markets, investors should rationally demand a higher return on their money.  This didn’t really happen when the Federal Reserve tried quantitative easing, so the Europeans thought that they might as well try to get away with it too.  Unfortunately for them, investors are starting to catch up with the scam.

So what happens next?

Well, European bond yields are probably going to keep heading higher over the coming weeks and months.  This will especially be true if the Greek crisis continues to escalate.  And unfortunately for Europe, that appears to be exactly what is happening

Greece will not make a June 5 repayment to the International Monetary Fund if there is no prospect of an aid-for-reforms deal with its international creditors soon, the spokesman for the ruling Syriza party’s lawmakers said on Wednesday.

The payment of 300 million euros ($335 million) is the first of four this month totaling 1.6 billion euros from a country that depends on foreign aid to stay afloat.

Greece owes a total of about 320 billion euros, of which about 65 percent to euro zone governments and the IMF, and about 8.7 percent to the European Central Bank.

On Tuesday, Greece’s creditors drafted the broad outlines of an agreement to put to the leftist government in Athens in a bid to conclude four months of negotiations and release aid before the country runs out of money.

“If there is no prospect of a deal by Friday or Monday, I don’t know by when exactly, we will not pay,” Nikos Filis told Mega TV.

In fact, there are reports that both the ECB and the Greek government are talking about Greece going to a “parallel domestic currency”

Biagio Bossone and Marco Cattaneo write that according to several recent media reports, both the Greek government and the ECB are taking into consideration the possibility (for Greece) to issue a parallel domestic currency to pay for government expenditures, including civil servant salaries, pensions, etc. This could happen in the coming weeks as Greece faces a severe shortage of euros. A new domestic currency would help make payments to public employees and pensioners while freeing up the euros needed to pay out creditors.

If Greece defaults and starts using another currency, the value of the euro is going to absolutely plummet and bond yields all over the continent are going to start heading into the stratosphere.

That is why it is so important to keep an eye on what is going on in Greece.

But no matter what happens in Greece, it appears that we are moving into a time when there will be higher interest rates around the world.  And since 505 trillion dollars in derivatives are directly tied to interest rate levels, that could lead to a financial unraveling unlike anything that we have ever seen before in the history of our planet.

As I have warned about so many times before, 2008 was just the warm up act.

The main event is still coming, and it is going to be extraordinarily painful.

Is The Stock Market Overvalued?

Stock Market Overvalued - Public DomainAre stocks overvalued?  By just about any measure that you could possibly name, stocks are at historically high prices right now.  From a technical standpoint, the stock market is more overvalued today than it was just prior to the last financial crisis.  The only two moments in U.S. history that even compare to our current state of affairs are the run up to the stock market crash of 1929 and the peak of the hysteria just before the dotcom bubble burst.  It is so obvious that stocks are in a bubble that even Janet Yellen has talked about it, but of course she will never admit that the Federal Reserve has played a key role in creating this bubble.  They say that hindsight is 20/20, but what is happening right in front of our eyes in 2015 is so obvious that everyone should be able to see it.  Just like with all other financial bubbles throughout our history, someday people will look back and talk about how stupid we all were.

Why can’t we ever learn from history?  We just keep on making the same mistakes over and over again.  And without a doubt, some of the smartest members of our society are trying to warn us about what is coming.  For example, Yale economics professor Robert Shiller has repeatedly tried to warn us that stocks are overvalued

I think that compared with history, US stocks are overvalued. One way to assess this is by looking at the CAPE (cyclically adjusted P/E) ratio that I created with John Campbell, now at Harvard, 25 years ago. The ratio is defined as the real stock price (using the S&P Composite Stock Price Index deflated by the CPI) divided by the ten-year average of real earnings per share. We have found this ratio to be a good predictor of subsequent stock market returns, especially over the long run. The CAPE ratio has recently been around 27, which is quite high by US historical standards. The only other times it has been that high or higher were in 1929, 2000, and 2007—all moments before market crashes.

But the CAPE ratio is not the only metric I watch. In my book Irrational Exuberance (3rd Ed., Princeton 2015) I discuss several metrics that help judge what’s going on in the market. These include my stock market confidence indices. One of the indicators in that series is based on a single question that I have asked individual and institutional investors over the years along the lines of, “Do you think the stock market is overvalued, undervalued, or about right?” Lately, what I call “valuation confidence” captured by this question has been on a downward trend, and for individual investors recently reached its lowest point since the stock market peak in 2000.

Other analysts prefer to use different valuation indicators than Shiller does.  But no matter which indicators you use, they all show that stocks are tremendously overvalued in mid-2015.  For instance, just consider the following chart.  It comes from Doug Short, and it shows the average of four of his favorite valuation indicators.  As you can see, there is only one other time in all of our history when stocks have been more overvalued than they are today according to the average of these four indicators…

Four Valuation Indicators - Doug Short

Another danger sign that many analysts are pointing to is the dramatic rise in margin debt that we have seen in recent years.  Investors are borrowing tremendous amounts of money to fund purchases of stock.  This is something that we witnessed during the dotcom bubble, it was something that we witnessed just prior to the financial collapse of 2008, and now it is happening again.  In fact, margin debt just surged to a brand new all-time record high.  Once again, the following chart comes from Doug Short

NYSE Margin Debt - Chart by Doug Short

All of this margin debt has helped drive stocks to ridiculous highs, but it can also serve to drive stock prices down very rapidly when the market turns.  This was noted by Henry Blodget of Business Insider in a recent editorial…

What is “margin debt”?

It’s the amount of money stock investors have collectively borrowed via traditional margin accounts to fund stock purchases.

In a bull market, the growth of margin debt serves as a turbocharger that helps drive stock prices higher.

As with a home mortgage, the more investors borrow, the more house or stock they can buy. So as margin debt grows, collective buying power grows. The borrowed money gets used to fund new stock purchases, which helps drives the prices of those stocks higher. The higher prices, in turn, allow traders to borrow more money to fund additional purchases. And so on.

It’s a self-reinforcing cycle.

The trouble is that it’s a self-reinforcing cycle on the way down, too.

If the overall U.S. economy was absolutely booming, these ultra-high stock prices would not be as much of a concern.  But the truth is that the financial markets have become completely divorced from economic reality.  Right now, corporate profits are actually falling and our exports are way down.  U.S. GDP shrunk during the first quarter, and there are a whole host of economic trouble signs on the horizon.  I am calling this a “recession within a recession“, and I believe that we are heading into another major economic downturn.

Unfortunately, our “leaders” are absolutely clueless about what is coming.  They assure us that everything is going to be just fine – just like they did back in 2008 before everything fell apart.  But the truth is that things are already so bad that even the big banks are sounding the alarm.  For instance, just consider the following words from Deutsche Bank

At issue is whether or not the Fed in particular but the market in general has properly understood the nature of the economic problem. The more we dig into this, the more we are afraid that they do not. So aside from a data revision tsunami, we would suggest that the Fed has the outlook not just horribly wrong, but completely misunderstood.

Ultimately, most people believe what they want to believe.

Our politicians want to believe that the economy is going to get better, and so do the bureaucrats over at the Federal Reserve.  The mainstream media wants to put a happy face on things, and they want all of us to continue to have faith in the system.

Unfortunately for them, the system is failing.  I truly do hope that this bubble can last for a few more months, but I don’t see it going on for much longer than that.

The greatest financial crisis in U.S. history is fast approaching, and it is going to be extraordinarily painful.

When it arrives, it is not just going to destroy faith in the system.  In the end, it is going to destroy the system altogether.

Stocks Began Falling Right At This Time Of The Year Just Prior To The Last Financial Crisis

Stock Market Crash Bear - Public DomainHave you heard of the saying “sell in May and go away”?  Traditionally, the period from May through October has been a time of weakness for stocks.  In fact, on average stocks hit their lowest point of the year on October 27th.  And most people don’t remember this, but the Dow Jones Industrial Average actually began plunging right at this time of the year just prior to the financial crisis of 2008.  Most people do remember the huge stock crash that happened in the fall of that year, but the market actually started to slide in May.  Throughout the first four and a half months of 2008, stocks moved up and down in a fairly narrow range, and the Dow closed at a short-term peak of 13,028.16 on May 19th.  From there it was all downhill for the rest of the year.  So will a similar thing happen in 2015 as we approach the next great financial crisis?  Since March 20th, the Dow Jones Transportation Average has already fallen by almost 800 points.  So will the Dow Jones Industrial Average soon follow?  Well, only time will tell, but the Dow was down 190 points on Tuesday.  Signs of trouble are popping up all over the place, and the “smart money” is getting out while the getting is good.

The chart that I have posted below shows how the Dow Jones Industrial Average performed during 2008.  As you can see, stocks began plummeting long before the financial crisis in the fall.  From May 19th through early July, the Dow fell by about 2,000 points.  Should we expect to see a similar pattern this summer?…

Dow Jones Industrial Average 2008

Like I stated earlier in this article, red flags and warning signs are starting to pop up all over the place.  The following are just a few of the trouble signs that we have seen this week…

-On Tuesday, the VIX (a closely watched measure of market volatility) jumped by the highest percentage that we have seen so far in 2015.  As I have explained so often before, markets tend to go up in calm markets and they tend to go down in volatile markets.  So the fact that volatility is on the rise is not a good sign.

-The U.S. dollar index is surging again.  In fact, we just witnessed the largest seven day rise in the U.S. dollar index since the collapse of Lehman Brothers.  This is another indication that big trouble is ahead.  For much more on this, please see my previous article entitled “Guess What Happened The Last Time The U.S. Dollar Skyrocketed In Value Like This?…

-Thanks to the ongoing Greek crisis, the euro is falling again.  It just hit a fresh one-month low, and if I am right it is going to go quite a bit lower as the European financial crisis intensifies.

-In the U.S., orders for durable goods have fallen year over year for four months in a row.  When orders for durable goods start going negative for a few months, it is usually a signal that we are entering a recession.

-After rebounding a little bit, the price of crude oil is falling again.  It just hit a new one-month low, and the number of oil rigs in operation has declined for 24 weeks in a row.  Once again, this is highly reminiscent of what happened back in 2008.

-Unfortunately, it isn’t just oil that is declining.  A whole host of other commodity prices are going down right now as well.  This happened just prior to the financial crisis of 2008, and it is a sign that we are heading into a deflationary economic slowdown.

The reason why I talk so much about what happened the last time around is that we should be able to learn from it.

Looking back, there were so many warning signs leading up to the financial crisis of 2008 but most people totally missed them.  Now, so many of those exact same signs are appearing once again, but they are being ignored.

Only this time the global financial system is in far worse shape than it was back in 2008.  Debt levels all over the planet have absolutely exploded over the past seven years, and the debt to GDP ratio for the entire world is now up to a mind blowing 286 percent.  In the United States, our national debt has approximately doubled since just prior to the last recession, and at this point it is mathematically impossible to pay it off.  We are in the midst of the greatest stock market bubble of all time, the greatest bond bubble of all time (76 trillion dollars) and the greatest derivatives bubble of all time.  Anyone that cannot see the trouble that is approaching is willingly blind.

In the western world, we have extremely short attention spans and we suffer deeply from something called “normalcy bias”.  The following is how “normalcy bias” is defined by Wikipedia

The normalcy bias, or normality bias, is a mental state people enter when facing a disaster. It causes people to underestimate both the possibility of a disaster and its possible effects. This may result in situations where people fail to adequately prepare for a disaster, and on a larger scale, the failure of governments to include the populace in its disaster preparations.

The assumption that is made in the case of the normalcy bias is that since a disaster never has occurred then it never will occur. It can result in the inability of people to cope with a disaster once it occurs. People with a normalcy bias have difficulties reacting to something they have not experienced before. People also tend to interpret warnings in the most optimistic way possible, seizing on any ambiguities to infer a less serious situation.

That is such a perfect description of what is happening in the western world today.  But just because things have always been a certain way in our past does not mean that they will continue to be that way in the future.  A great economic storm is rapidly approaching, and the signs of the times are all around us.

Hopefully more people will start listening to the warnings, because we have almost run out of time to prepare.

Why Are Exchange-Traded Funds Preparing For A ‘Liquidity Crisis’ And A ‘Market Meltdown’?

Financial Crisis 2015 - Public DomainSome really weird things are happening in the financial world right now.  If you go back to 2008, there was lots of turmoil bubbling just underneath the surface during the months leading up to the great stock market crash in the second half of that year.  When Lehman Brothers finally did collapse, it was a total shock to most of the planet, but we later learned that their problems had been growing for a long time.  I believe that we are in a similar period right now, and the second half of this year promises to be quite chaotic.  Apparently, those that run some of the largest exchange-traded funds in the entire world agree with me, because as you will see below they are quietly preparing for a “liquidity crisis” and a “market meltdown”.  About a month ago, I warned of an emerging “liquidity squeeze“, and now analysts all over the financial industry are talking about it.  Could it be possible that the next great financial crisis is right around the corner?

According to Reuters, the companies that run some of the largest exchange-traded funds in existence are deeply concerned about what a lack of liquidity would mean for them during the next financial crash.  So right now they are quietly “bolstering bank credit lines” so that they will be better positioned for “a market meltdown”…

The biggest providers of exchange-traded funds, which have been funneling billions of investor dollars into some little-traded corners of the bond market, are bolstering bank credit lines for cash to tap in the event of a market meltdown.

Vanguard Group, Guggenheim Investments and First Trust are among U.S. fund companies that have lined up new bank guarantees or expanded ones they already had, recent company filings show.

The measures come as the Federal Reserve and other U.S. regulators express concern about the ability of fund managers to withstand a wave of investor redemptions in the event of another financial crisis. They have pointed particularly to fixed-income ETFs, which tend to track less liquid markets such as high yield corporate bonds or bank loans.

So why are Vanguard Group, Guggenheim Investments and First Trust all making these kinds of preparations right now?

Do they know something that the rest of us do not?

Over recent months, I have been writing about how so many of the exact same patterns that we witnessed just prior to previous financial crashes seem to be repeating once again in 2015.

One of the things that we would expect to see happen just before a major event would be for the “smart money” to rush out of long-term bonds and into short-term bonds and other more liquid assets.  This is something that had not been happening, but during the past couple of weeks there has been a major change.  All of a sudden, long-term yields have been spiking dramatically.  The following comes from Martin Armstrong

The amount of cash rushing around on the short-end is stunning. Yields are collapsing into negative territory and this is the same flight to quality we began to see at the peak in the crisis back in 2009. The big money is selling the 10 year or greater paper and everyone is rushing into the short-term. There is not enough paper around to satisfy the demands. Capital is unwilling to hold long-term even the 10 year maturities of governments including Germany. This is illustrating the crisis that is unfolding and there is a collapse in liquidity.

There is that word “liquidity” once again.  It is funny how that keeps popping up.

Here is a chart that shows what has been happening to the yield on 30 year U.S. Treasuries in 2015.  As you can see, there has been a big move recently…

30 Year Yield

And what this chart doesn’t show is that the yield on 30 year Treasuries shot up to about 3.08% on Wednesday.

Of course it isn’t just yields in the U.S. that are skyrocketing.  This is happening all over the globe, and many analysts are now openly wondering if the 76 trillion dollar global bond bubble is finally imploding.  For instance, just consider what Deutsche Bank strategist Jim Reid recently told the Telegraph

Financial regulations introduced since the crisis have required banks to hold more bonds, as quantitative easing schemes have meant central banks hold many on their own balance sheets, reducing the number available to trade on the open market.

Simultaneously, central banks have attempted to boost so-called “high money liquidity” with quantitative easing schemes and their close to zero interest rates. “What has become increasingly clear over the last couple of years is that the combination of high money liquidity and low trading liquidity creates air pockets,” said Mr Reid.

He continued: “It’s a worry that these events are occurring in relatively upbeat markets. I can’t helping thinking that when the next downturn hits the lack of liquidity in various markets is going to be chaotic. These increasingly regular liquidity issues we’re seeing might be a mild dress rehearsal.”

Those are sobering words.

And without a doubt, we are in the midst of a massive stock market bubble as well.  The chaos that is coming is not just going to affect bonds.  In fact, I believe that the greatest stock market crash in U.S. history is coming.

So when will it happen?

Well, Phoenix Capital Research seems to think that we have reached an extremely important turning point…

This is something of a last hurrah for stocks. We are now officially in May. And historically the period from May to November has been one of the worst periods for stocks from a seasonal perspective.

Moreover, the fundamentals are worsening dramatically for the markets. By the look of things, 2014 represented the first year in which corporate sales FELL since 2009. Sales track actual economic activity much more closely than earnings: either the money comes in or it isn’t. The fact that sales are falling indicates the economy is rolling over and the “recovery” has ended.

Having cut costs to the bone and issued debt to buyback shares, we are likely at peak earnings as well. Thus far 90% of companies in the S&P 500 have reported earnings. Year over year earnings are down 11.9%.

So sales are falling and earnings are falling… at a time when stocks are so overvalued that even the Fed admits it. This has all the makings of a serious market collapse. And smart investors are preparing now BEFORE it hits.

Personally, I have a really bad feeling about the second half of 2015.  Everything seems to be gearing up for a repeat of 2008 (or even worse).  Let’s hope that does not happen, but let’s not be willingly blind to the great storm on the horizon either.

And once the next great crisis does hit us, governments around the world will have a lot less “ammunition” to fight it than the last time around.  For example, the U.S. national debt has approximately doubled since the beginning of the last recession, and the Federal Reserve has already pushed interest rates down as far as they can.  Similar things could also be said about other governments all over the planet.  This is something that HSBC chief economist Stephen King recently pointed out in a 17 page report entitled “The world economy’s titanic problem”.  The following is a brief excerpt from that report

“Whereas previous recoveries have enabled monetary and fiscal policymakers to replenish their ammunition, this recovery — both in the US and elsewhere — has been distinguished by a persistent munitions shortage. This is a major problem. In all recessions since the 1970s, the US Fed funds rate has fallen by a minimum of 5 percentage points. That kind of traditional stimulus is now completely ruled out.”

For a long time, I have had a practice of ending my articles by urging people to get prepared.  But now time for preparing is rapidly running out.  My new book entitled “Get Prepared Now” was just released, but honestly my co-author and I should have had it out last year.  In the very small amount of time that we have left before the financial markets crash, the amount of “prepping” that people are going to be able to do will be fairly limited.

I am not just pointing to a single event.  Once the financial markets crash this time, I believe that there is not going to be any sort of a “recovery” like we experienced after 2008.  I believe that the long-term economic collapse that we have been experiencing will accelerate very greatly, and it will usher in a horrible period of time for the United States unlike anything that we have ever seen before.

So what do you think?

Could I be wrong?

Please feel free to share your thoughts by posting a comment below…

Guess What Happened The Last Time Bond Yields Crashed Like This?…

Question Cube - Public DomainIf a major financial crisis was approaching, we would expect to see the “smart money” getting out of stocks and pouring into government bonds that are traditionally considered to be “safe” during a crisis.  This is called a “flight to safety” or a “flight to quality“.  In the past, when there has been a “flight to quality” we have seen yields for German government bonds and U.S. government bonds go way down.  As you will see below, this is exactly what we witnessed during the financial crisis of 2008.  U.S. and German bond yields plummeted as money from the stock market was dumped into bonds at a staggering pace.  Well, it is starting to happen again.  In recent months we have seen U.S. and German bond yields begin to plummet as the “smart money” moves out of the stock market.  So is this another sign that we are on the precipice of a significant financial panic?

Back in 2008, German bonds actually began to plunge well before U.S. bonds did.  Does that mean that European money is “smarter” than U.S. money?  That would certainly be a very interesting theory to explore.  As you can see from the chart below, the yield on 10 year German bonds started to fall significantly during the summer of 2008 – several months before the stock market crash in the fall…

German Bond Yields 2007 And 2008

So what are German bonds doing today?

As you can see from this next chart, the yield on 10 year German bonds has been steadily falling since the beginning of last year.  At this point, the yield on 10 year German bonds is just barely above zero…

German Bond Yields 2013 To Today

And amazingly, most German bonds that have a maturity of less than 10 years actually have a negative yield right now.  That means that investors are going to get back less money than they invest.  This is how bizarre the financial markets have become.  The “smart money” is so concerned about the “safety” of their investments that they are actually willing to accept negative yields.  I don’t know why anyone would ever put their money into investments that have a negative yield, but it is actually happening.  The following comes from Yahoo

The world’s scarcest resource right now is safe yield, and the shortage is getting more extreme. Most German government bonds that mature in less than 10 years now have negative yields – part of some $2 trillion worth of paper with yields below zero.

This is what happens when the European Central Bank begins a trillion-euro bond-buying binge with rates already miniscule.

Yesterday, ECB boss Mario Draghi – unfazed by the protest stunt at his press conference – reaffirmed his plan to keep bidding for paper that yields more than -0.2% – that’s minus 0.2%.

Yes, the ECB is driving a lot of this, but it is still truly bizarre.

So what about the United States?

Well, first let’s take a look at what happened back in 2008.  In the chart below, you can see the “flight to safety” that took place in late 2008 as investors started to panic…

US Bond Yield 2007 And 2008

And we have started to witness a similar thing happen in recent months.  The yield on 10 year U.S. Treasuries has plummeted as investors have looked for safety.  This is exactly the kind of chart that we would expect to see if a financial crisis was brewing…

US 10 Year Yield 2014 And 2015

What makes all of this far more compelling is the fact that so many other patterns that we have witnessed just prior to past financial crashes are happening once again.

Yes, there are other potential explanations for why bond yields have been going down.  But when you add this to all of the other pieces of evidence that a new financial crisis is rapidly approaching, quite a compelling case emerges.

For those that do not follow my website regularly, I encourage you to check out the following articles to get an idea of what I am talking about…

-“Guess What Happened The Last Time The Price Of Oil Crashed Like This?…

-“Not Just Oil: Guess What Happened The Last Time Commodity Prices Crashed Like This?…

-“10 Key Events That Preceded The Last Financial Crisis That Are Happening Again RIGHT NOW

-“Guess What Happened The Last Time The U.S. Dollar Skyrocketed In Value Like This?…

-“7 Signs That A Stock Market Peak Is Happening Right Now

-“Guess What Happened The Last Two Times The S&P 500 Was Up More Than 200% In Six Years?

Of course no two financial crashes ever look exactly the same.

The crisis that we are moving toward is not going to be precisely like the crisis of 2008.

But there are similarities and patterns that we can look for.  When things start to get bad, investors act in predictable ways.  And so many of the things that we are watching right now are just what we would expect to see in the lead up to a major financial crisis.

Sadly, most people are not willing to learn from history.  Even though it is glaringly apparent that we are in a historic financial bubble, most investors on Wall Street cannot see it because they do not want to see it.  They want to believe that somehow “things are different this time” and that stocks will just continue to go up indefinitely so that they can keep making lots and lots of money.

And despite what you may think, I actually want this bubble to continue for as long as possible.  Despite all of our problems, life is still relatively good in America today – at least compared to what is coming.

I like to refer to this next crisis as our “third strike”.

Back in 2000 and 2001, the dotcom bubble burst and we experienced a painful recession, but we didn’t learn any lessons.  That was strike number one.

Then came the financial crash of 2008 and the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.  But we didn’t learn any lessons from that either.  Instead, we just reinflated the same old financial bubbles and kept on making the exact same mistakes as before.  That was strike number two.

This next financial crisis will be strike number three.  After this next crisis, I don’t believe that there will ever be a return to “normal” for the United States.  I believe that this is going to be the crisis that unleashes hell in our nation.

So no, I am not eager for that to come.  Even though there is no way that this bubble of debt-fueled false prosperity can last indefinitely, I would like for it to last at least a little while longer.

Because what comes after it is going to be truly terrible.

If Anyone Doubts That We Are In A Stock Market Bubble, Show Them This Article

Bubble In Hands - Public DomainThe higher financial markets rise, the harder they fall.  By any objective measurement, the stock market is currently well into bubble territory.  Anyone should be able to see this – all you have to do is look at the charts.  Sadly, most of us never seem to learn from history.  Most of us want to believe that somehow “things are different this time”.  Well, about the only thing that is different this time is that our economy is in far worse shape than it was just prior to the last major financial crisis.  That means that we are more vulnerable and will almost certainly endure even more damage this time around.  It would be one thing if stocks were soaring because the U.S. economy as a whole was doing extremely well.  But we all know that isn’t true.  Instead, what we have been experiencing is clearly artificial market behavior that has nothing to do with economic reality.  In other words, we are dealing with an irrational financial bubble, and all irrational financial bubbles eventually burst.  And as I wrote about yesterday, the way that stocks have moved so far this year is eerily reminiscent of the way that stocks moved in early 2008.  The warning signs are there – if you are willing to look at them.

The first chart that I want to share with you today comes from Doug Short.  It is a chart that shows that the ratio of corporate equities (stocks) to GDP is the second highest that it has been since 1950.  The only other time it has been higher was just before the dotcom bubble burst…

The Buffett Indicator from Doug Short

Does that look like a bubble to you?

It sure looks like a bubble to me.

In order for the corporate equities to GDP ratio to get back to the mean (average) level, stock prices would have to fall nearly 50 percent.

If that happens, people will be calling it a crash, but in truth it would just be a return to normalcy.

This next chart comes from Phoenix Capital Research.  The CAPE ratio (cyclically adjusted price-to-earnings ratio) is considered to be an extremely accurate measure of the true value of stocks…

As I’ve noted before, the single best predictor of stock market performance is the cyclically adjusted price-to-earnings ratio or CAPE ratio.

Corporate earnings are heavily influenced by the business cycle. Typically the US experiences a boom and bust once every ten years or so. As such, companies will naturally have higher P/E’s at some points and lower P/E’s at other. This is based solely on the business cycle and nothing else.

CAPE adjusts for this by measuring the price of stocks against the average of ten years’ worth of earnings, adjusted for inflation. By doing this, it presents you with a clearer, more objective picture of a company’s ability to produce cash in any economic environment.

Based on a study completed Vanguard, CAPE was the single best metric for measuring future stock returns.

When the CAPE ratio is too high, that means that stocks are overpriced and are not a good value.  And right now the CAPE ratio is the 3rd highest that it has been since 1890.  That only times it has been higher than this were in 1929 (we all remember what happened then) and just before the dotcom bubble burst…

CAPE - Phoenix Capital Research

The funny thing is that stocks have continued to rise even as corporate revenues have begun to fall.

According to Wolf Richter, in the first quarter of 2015 corporate revenues are projected to decline at the fastest pace that we have seen since the depths of the last recession…

Week after week, corporations and analysts have been whittling down their estimates. By now, revenues of the S&P 500 companies are expected to decline 2.8% in Q1 from a year ago – the worst year-over-year decline since Q3 of crisis year 2009.

This next chart I want to share with you shows how the Nasdaq has performed over the past decade.  Looking at this chart alone, you would think that the U.S. economy must have been absolutely roaring since the end of the last recession.  But what is really going on is rampant speculation.  Some of the tech companies that make up the Nasdaq are not making any profits at all and yet they are supposedly worth billions of dollars.  If you cannot see a bubble in this chart, you need to get your vision checked…

NASDAQ Chart

And this kind of irrational euphoria is not just happening in the United States.

For example, Chinese stocks are up nearly 80 percent over the past nine months.

Meanwhile, the overall Chinese economy is growing at the slowest pace that we have seen in about 20 years.

Right now, we are in the calm before the storm.  We are right at the door of the next great financial crisis, and most of the people that work in the industry know this.

And once in a while they let the cat out of the bag.

For example, consider what Hans-Jörg Vetter, the CEO of Landesbank Baden-Württemberg in Germany, had to say during one recent press conference

“Risk is no longer priced in,” he said. And these investors aren’t paid for the risks they’re taking. This applies to all asset classes, he said. The stock and the bond markets, he said, are now both seeing “the mother of all bubbles.”

This can’t go on forever. Or for very long. But he couldn’t see the future either and pin down a date, which is what everyone wants to know so that they can all get out in time. “I cannot tell you when it will rumble,” he said, “but eventually it will rumble again.”

By “again” he meant the sort of thing that had taken the bank down last time, the Financial Crisis. It had been triggered by horrendous risk-taking, where risks hadn’t been priced into all kinds of securities. When those securities – mortgage-backed securities, for example, that were hiding the inherent risks under a triple-A rating – blew up, banks toppled.

What Vetter is telling us is what I have been warning about for a long time.

Another great stock market crash is coming.

It is just a matter of time.

The Stock Market In 2015 Is Starting To Look Remarkably Similar To The Stock Market In 2008

Bubble Mirror - Public DomainAre we watching a replay of the last financial crisis?  Over the past six months, the price of oil has collapsed, the U.S. dollar has soared, and a whole bunch of other patterns that we witnessed just before the stock market crash of 2008 are repeating once again.  But what we have not seen yet is the actual stock market crash.  So will there be one this year?  In this article, I am going to compare the performance of the Dow Jones Industrial Average during the first three months of 2008 to the performance of the Dow Jones Industrial Average during the first three months of 2015.  As you will see, there are some striking similarities.  And without a doubt, we are overdue for a major market downturn.  The S&P 500 has risen for six years in a row, but it has never had seven up years consecutively.  In addition, there has not even been a 10 percent stock market “correction” is almost three and a half years.  So will stocks be able to continue to defy both gravity and the forces of economic reality?  Only time will tell.

Below is a chart that shows how the Dow Jones Industrial Average performed during the first three months of 2008.  It was a time of increased volatility, but the market pretty much went nowhere.  This is typical of what we see in the months leading up to a market crash.  The markets start getting really choppy with large ups and large downs…

Dow First 3 Months Of 2008

This next chart shows how the Dow Jones Industrial Average has performed during the first three months of 2015.  Once again, we are witnessing a time of increased volatility, but the market is not really going anywhere.  In fact, after falling about 200 points on Tuesday (not shown on this chart) it is just barely below where it started the year…

Dow First 3 Months Of 2015

When the market becomes quite restless but it doesn’t really move anywhere, that is a sign that we have reached a turning point.  The following is what a recent CNN article had to say about the rising volatility that we have been witnessing…

The Dow fell nearly 3.7% in January, surged 5.6% in February and is down about 2% this month. The S&P 500 and Nasdaq have gone through similar sentiment swings. The Dow ended the quarter slightly in the red while the S&P 500 and Nasdaq were up a little bit.

Charles Schwab chief investment officer Liz Ann Sonders summed up this volatility the best — with a nod to U2. “Running to Stand Still: Wild Swings Taking Market Nowhere” is the title of her most recent market commentary.

What can investors expect for the rest of 2015? Probably a lot more of the same.

Now let’s look at a chart for the entire year of 2008.  After peaking for the year in early May, the Dow started to slide.  Things started to get really crazy in September, and by the end of the year the U.S. economy was plunged into the greatest crisis since the Great Depression…

Dow Full Year Of 2008

Will the rest of 2015 follow a similar pattern?

A lot of investors are actually betting that this will be the case.

Right now, hundreds of millions of dollars are flowing into VXX – an ETF that makes money when the Chicago Board Options Exchange Volatility Index goes up.  In other words, these investors are betting that we are going to see a lot more stock market volatility in the weeks and months to come.

And as I have said so many times before, stocks tend to rise in calm markets and they tend to fall when the markets become volatile.

So essentially these investors are betting that we are headed for a stock market crash.

The following is more on the massive inflow of money into VXX that we have been seeing from the Crux

Ways to speculate on how noisy the stock market will be have exploded in the last decade with the advent of products tied to the Chicago Board Options Exchange Volatility Index. Strategies include relatively simple hedges against equity losses, such as owning a security that aims to mimic the VIX.

VXX, one of the most popular ways to bet on bigger market swings, has absorbed $715 million in seven consecutive weeks of inflows, its longest streak of inflows since one ending in July 2012. The infusion of fresh cash has continued this week, swelling its market value to $1.5 billion, the highest since September 2013.

At the same time, short-sellers in VXX — people effectively betting the bull market will persist — have dropped out. Short interest has slid 35 percent since October, falling to the lowest in more than seven months last week, data compiled by Markit Ltd. show.

And many of the exact same people that warned us about the financial crisis of 2008 in advance are warning that another crisis is rapidly approaching.  For example, check out the following quote from Ann Pettifor that recently appeared in an article in the Guardian

As Janet Yellen’s Federal Reserve prepares to raise interest rates, boosting the value of the dollar, while the plunging price of crude puts intense pressure on the finances of oil-exporting countries, there are growing fears of a new debt crisis in the making.

Ann Pettifor of Prime Economics, who foreshadowed the credit crunch in her 2003 book The Coming First World Debt Crisis, says: “We’re going to have another financial crisis. Brazil’s already in great trouble with the strength of the dollar; I dread to think what’s happening in South Africa; then there’s Malaysia. We’re back to where we were, and that for me is really frightening.”

Pettifor is right on two counts – another major financial crisis is approaching, and it is going to be global in scope.

Before I end this article, there are two more items that I would like to share with you.

Firstly, it is being reported that the IPO market has really cooled off in 2015.  When the number of companies going public starts to decline, that is a clear sign that a stock market bubble is on borrowed time.  The following comes from Business Insider

The number of US companies going public has really dropped off lately.

“After a record year in 2014, the IPO market slowed dramatically in the first quarter of 2015,” Renaissance Capital analysts said.

The first quarter of 2015, which ended Tuesday, was the slowest quarter for IPOs since the first quarter of 2013. While stock prices have been near all-time highs, market volatility has been escalating, turning companies off from trying to unload shares onto the public markets.

Secondly, the San Francisco housing market has been a pretty reliable indicator of previous economic booms and busts.  The San Francisco housing market started to cool off before the dotcom bubble burst, it started to cool off before the stock market crash of 2008, and now it is cooling off once again.  The following chart comes from Zero Hedge

San Francisco - Zero Hedge

The warning signs are there.

But as with so many other things in life, most people are going to end up believing precisely what they want to believe.

So what do you believe about what the rest of the year will bring?  Please feel free to share your thoughts by posting a comment below…

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