11 Economic Crashes That Are Happening RIGHT NOW

11 Economic Crashes That Are Happening RIGHT NOWThe stock market is not crashing yet, but there are lots of other market crashes happening in the financial world right now.  Just like we saw back in 2008, it is taking stocks a little bit of extra time to catch up with economic reality.  But almost everywhere else you look, there are signs that a financial avalanche has begun.  Bitcoins are crashing, gold and silver are plunging, the price of oil and the overall demand for energy continue to decline, markets all over Europe are collapsing and consumer confidence in the United States just had the biggest miss relative to expectations that has ever been recorded.  In many ways, all of this is extremely reminiscent of 2008.  Other than the Bitcoin collapse, almost everything else that is happening now also happened back then.   So does that mean that a horrible stock market crash is coming as well?  Without a doubt, one is coming at some point.  The only question is whether it will be sooner or later.  Meanwhile, there are a whole lot of other economic crashes that deserve out attention at the moment.

The following are 11 economic crashes that are happening RIGHT NOW…

#1 Bitcoins

As I write this, the price of Bitcoins has fallen more than 70 percent from where it was on Wednesday.  This is one of the reasons why I have never recommended Bitcoins to anyone.  Yes, alternative currencies are a good thing, but there are a lot of big problems with Bitcoins.  Why would anyone want to invest in a currency that could lose 70 percent of its purchasing power in just two days?  Why would anyone want to invest in a currency where a single person can arbitrarily decide to suspend trading in that currency at any time?

An article by Mike Adams of Natural News described some of the things that we have learned about Bitcoins this week…

#1) The bitcoin infrastructure cannot handle a selloff. Once the rush for the exits gains momentum, you will not be able to get out. Only those who sell early will be able to exit the market.

#2) The bitcoin infrastructure is subject to the whims of just one person running MTGox who can arbitrarily decide to shut it down whenever he thinks the market needs a “cooling period.” This is nearly equivalent to a financial dictatorship where one person calls the shots.

#3) Every piece of bad news will be “spun” by exchanges like MTGox into good-sounding news. As bitcoin was crashing yesterday by 60% in value in mere hours, MTGox announced it was a “victim of our own success!” So while bitcoin holders watched $1 billion in market valuation evaporate, MTGox called it a success. Gee, then what would you call it when bitcoin loses 99%? A “raging” success?

#2 Gold

The price of gold was down by about 4 percent on Friday.  Gold has now fallen below $1500 an ounce for the first time since July 2011.  Overall, the price of gold has fallen by about 10 percent since the beginning of the year, and it is about 22 percent below the record high set back in September 2011.

Yes, the price of gold is likely being pushed down by the banksters.  And yes, gold is a fantastic investment for the long-term.  But there will be times when the price of gold does fall dramatically just like we saw back in 2008.

#3 Silver

The price of silver fell by about 5 percent on Friday.  If it falls much more it is going to be at a level that presents a historically good buying opportunity.

Just like gold, there will be times when the price of silver swings dramatically.  But the truth is that silver is probably an even better long-term investment than gold is.

#4 Oil

The price of oil declined by about 3 percent on Friday.  Many will consider this a positive thing, but just remember what happened back in 2008.  Back then, the price of oil dropped like a rock.  If the price of oil gets below $80, that could very well be a clear signal that a major economic crisis is about to happen.

#5 Consumer Confidence

As I mentioned above, consumer confidence in the U.S. just had its biggest miss relative to expectations that has ever been recorded.  The following is from an article posted on Zero Hedge on Friday

Well if this doesn’t send the market into all-time record high territory, nothing ever will: seconds ago the UMich Consumer Confidence plummeted from 78.6 to 72.3, on expectations of an unchanged 78.6 print. This was not only a 9 month low in the index, but more importantly the biggest miss to expectations in recorded history!

#6 Retirement Accounts

According to Wells Fargo, the number of Americans taking loans from their 401(k) accounts has risen by 28 percent over the past year…

Through an analysis of participants enrolled in Wells Fargo-administered defined contribution plans, the bank announced today that in the fourth quarter of 2012, there was a 28 percent increase in the number of people taking loans out from their 401(k) and that the average new loan balances increased to $7,126 from those taken out in the fourth quarter of 2011 – a 7% increase from $6,662.

Of the participants who took out loans, the greatest percentage were to people in their 50s (34.2%), followed by those in their 60s (28.9%) and then by those in their 40s (27.3%). The increase among participants in their 50s was nearly double the increase among those under 30. This is based on an analysis of a subset of 1.9 million eligible participants in retirement plans that Wells Fargo administers.

“The increased loan activity particularly among older participants is concerning because those are the years when workers can start to make ‘catch-up’ contributions and really need to focus on preparing for retirement,” said Laurie Nordquist, director of Wells Fargo Retirement.

#7 Casino Spending

Casino spending is declining again.  Many people (including myself) would consider this to be a good thing, but casino spending is also one of the most reliable indicators about the overall health of the economy.  Remember, casino spending crashed during the last financial crisis as well.  That is why it is so alarming that casino spending is now back to levels that we have not seen since the last recession.

#8 Employment In Greece

Over in Europe, things just continue to get worse.  According to numbers that were just released, the unemployment rate in Greece has soared to 27.2 percent, which was up from 25.7 percent the previous month.  That means that the unemployment rate in Greece rose by 1.5 percent in just a single month.  That is not just a crash – that is an avalanche of unemployment.

#9 European Financial Stocks

European financial stocks have been hit particularly hard lately.  And for good reason actually – most of the major banks in Europe are essentially insolvent at this point.  This week, European financial stocks fell to seven month lows, and this is probably only just the beginning.

#10 Spanish Bankruptcies

According to Reuters, the number of Spanish companies going bankrupt has risen by 45 percent over the past year…

A record number of Spanish companies went bust in the first quarter of 2013 as companies remained under intense pressure from tight credit conditions and meager demand, a study showed on Monday.

The 2,564 firms filing for insolvency proceedings in first three months of the year was a 10 percent rise from the previous quarter and a 45 percent increase on the same period in 2012, the survey by credit rating agency Axesor said.

#11 Demand For Energy

Just like we saw back in 2008, the overall demand for energy in the United States is falling rapidly.  There are some shocking charts that prove this that were recently posted on Zero Hedge that you can find right here.

Yes, it is good for people to use a bit less energy, but it is also a clear indication that economic activity is really starting to slow down.

But despite everything that you have just read, the Dow and the S&P 500 have been setting new record highs.

And if you listen to the mainstream media, you would think that this stock market bubble can continue indefinitely.

Fortunately, there are a few voices of reason out there.  For example, just check out what Marc Faber recently told CNBC

In the near-term, the U.S. stock market is overbought and adding that any more near-term gains portend big trouble for the market, “The Gloom, Boom & Doom Report” publisher Marc Faber told CNBC on Monday.

“If we continue to move up, the probability of a crash becomes higher,” Faber predicted in a “Squawk Box” interview, saying it could happen “sometime in the second half of this year.”

As I have written about previously, a bubble is always the biggest right before it bursts.  I hope that we still have at least a little bit more time before it happens, but I wouldn’t count on it.

The economic fundamentals tell us that the stock market should be plunging, not rising.  At some point the boys over on Wall Street will get the message and the market will catch up to reality very, very rapidly.

But for the moment, the American people are feeling really good.  According to CNN, Americans are now more optimistic than they have been in six years…

As the stock market continues to show record highs, the number of Americans who say things are going well in the country has reached 50% for the first time in more than six years, according to a new national survey.

So what do you think will happen for the rest of the year?

Do you think that the good times will continue to roll, or do you believe that the bubble is about to burst?

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

A Market Crash Is Coming

Watch The Financial Markets In Europe

Watch The Financial Markets In EuropeIs the financial system of Europe on the verge of a meltdown?  I have always maintained that the next wave of the economic crisis would begin in Europe, and right now the situation in Europe is unraveling at a frightening pace.  On Monday, European stocks had their worst day in over six months, and over the past four days we have seen the EUR/USD decline by the most that it has in nearly seven months.  Meanwhile, scandals are erupting all over the continent.  A political scandal in Spain, a derivatives scandal in Italy and banking scandals all over the eurozone are seriously shaking confidence in the system.  If things move much farther in a negative direction, we could be facing a full-blown financial crisis in Europe very rapidly.  So watch the financial markets in Europe very carefully.  Yes, most Americans tend to ignore Europe because they are convinced that the U.S. is “the center of the universe”, but the truth is that Europe actually has a bigger population than we do, they have a bigger economy then we do, and they have a much larger banking system than we do.  The global financial system is more integrated today than it ever has been before, and if there is a major stock market crash in Europe it is going to deeply affect the United States and the rest of the globe as well.  So pay close attention to what is going on in Europe, because events over there could spark a chain reaction that would have very serious implications for every man, woman and child on the planet.

As I noted above, European markets started off the week very badly and things have certainly not improved since then.  The following is how Zero Hedge summarized what happened on Thursday…

EuroStoxx (Europe’s Dow) closed today -1% for 2013. France, Germany, and Spain are all lower on the year now. Italy, following ENI’s CEO fraud, collapsed almost 3% from the US day-session open, leaving it up less than 1% for the year. Just as we argued, credit markets have been warning that all is not well and today’s afternoon free-fall begins the catch-down.

In addition, the euro has been dropping like a rock all of a sudden.  Just check out this chart which shows what happened to the euro on Thursday.  It is very rare to see the euro move that dramatically.

So what is causing all of this?

Well, we already know that the economic fundamentals in Europe are absolutely horrible.  Unemployment in the eurozone is at a record high, and the unemployment rates in both Greece and Spain are over 26 percent.  Those are depression-level numbers.

But up until now there had still been a tremendous amount of confidence in the European financial system.  But now that confidence is being shaken by a whole host of scandals.

In recent days, a number of major banking scandals have begun to emerge all over Europe.  Just check out this article which summarizes many of them.

One of the worst banking scandals is in Italy.  A horrible derivatives scandal has pushed the third largest bank in Italy to the verge of collapse

Monte dei Paschi di Siena (BMPS.MI), Italy’s third biggest lender, said on Wednesday losses linked to three problematic derivative trades totaled 730 million euros ($988.3 million) as it sought to draw a line under a scandal over risky financial transactions.

There is that word “derivative” that I keep telling people to watch for.  Of course this is not the big “derivatives panic” that I have been talking about, but it is an example of how these toxic financial instruments can bring down even the biggest banks.  Monte dei Paschi is the oldest bank in the world, and now the only way it is able to survive is with government bailouts.

Another big scandal that is shaking up Europe right now is happening over in Spain.  It is being alleged that Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and other members of his party have been receiving illegal cash payments.  The following summary of the scandal comes from a recent Bloomberg article

On Jan. 31, the Spanish newspaper El Pais published copies of what it said were ledgers from secret accounts held by Luis Barcenas, the former treasurer of the ruling People’s Party, which revealed the existence of a party slush fund. The newspaper said 7.5 million euros in corporate donations were channeled into the fund and allegedly doled out from 1997 to 2009 to senior party members, including Rajoy.

That doesn’t sound good at all.

So what is the truth?

Could Rajoy actually be innocent?

Well, at this point most of the population of Spain does not believe that is the case.  Just check out the following poll numbers from the Bloomberg article quoted above…

According to the Metroscopia poll, 76 percent of Spaniards don’t believe the People’s Party’s denials of the slush-fund allegations. Even more damning, 58 percent of the party’s supporters think it’s lying. All of the Spanish businessmen with whom I discussed the latest scandal expect it to get worse before it gets better. Their assumption that there are more skeletons in the government’s closet indicates what little trust they have in their leaders.

Meanwhile, the underlying economic fundamentals in Europe just continue to get worse.  One of the biggest concerns right now is France.  Just check out this excerpt from a recent report by Phoenix Capital Research

The house of cards that is Europe is close to collapsing as those widely held responsible for solving the Crisis (Prime Ministers, Treasurers and ECB head Mario Draghi) have all been recently implicated in corruption scandals.

Those EU leaders who have yet to be implicated in scandals are not faring much better than their more corrupt counterparts. In France, socialist Prime Minister Francois Hollande, has proven yet again that socialism doesn’t work by chasing after the wealthy and trying to grow France’s public sector… when the public sector already accounts for 56% of French employment.

France was already suffering from a lack of competitiveness. Now that wealthy businesspeople are fleeing the country (meaning investment will dry up), the economy has begun to positively implode.

As the report goes on to mention, over the past few months the economic numbers coming out of France have been absolutely frightful

Auto sales for 2012 fell 13% from those of 2011. Sales of existing homes outside of Paris fell 20% year over year for the third quarter of 2012. New home sales fell 25%. Even the high-end real estate markets are collapsing with sales for apartments in Paris that cost over €2 million collapsing an incredible 42% in 2012.

Today, the jobless rate in France is at a 15-year high, and industrial production is headed into the toilet.  The wealthy are fleeing France in droves because of the recent tax increases, and the nation is absolutely drowning in debt.  Even the French jobs minister recently admitted that France is essentially “bankrupt” at this point…

France’s government was plunged into an embarrassing row yesterday after a minister said the country was ‘totally bankrupt’.

Employment secretary Michel Sapin said cuts were needed to put the damaged economy back on track.

‘There is a state but it is a totally bankrupt state,’ he said.

So what does all of this mean?

It means that the crisis in Europe is just beginning.  Things are going to be getting a lot worse.

Perhaps that is one reason why corporate insiders are dumping so much stock right now as I noted in my article yesterday entitled “Do Wall Street Insiders Expect Something Really BIG To Happen Very Soon?”  There are a whole host of signs that both the United States and Europe are heading for recession, and a lot of financial experts are warning that stocks are way overdue for a “correction”.

For example, Blackstone’s Byron Wien told CNBC the other day that he expects the S&P 500 to drop by 200 points during the first half of 2013.

Seabreeze Partners portfolio manager Doug Kass recently told CNBC that what is happening right now in the financial markets very much reminds him of the stock market crash of 1987…

“I’m getting the ‘summer of 1987 feeling’ in the U.S. equity market,” Kass told CNBC, “which means we’re headed for a sharp fall.”

Toward the end of 2012 and at the very beginning of 2013 we saw markets both in the U.S. and in Europe move up steadily even though the underlying economic fundamentals did not justify such a move.

In many ways, that move up reminded me of the “head fakes” that we have seen prior to many of the largest “market corrections” of the past.  Often financial markets are at their most “euphoric” just before a crash hits.

So get ready.

Even if you don’t have a penny in the financial markets, now is the time to prepare for what is ahead.

We all need to learn from what Europe is going through right now.  In Greece, formerly middle class citizens are now trampling one another for food.  We all need to prepare financially, mentally, emotionally, spiritually and physically so that we can weather the economic storm that is coming.

Most Americans are accustomed to living paycheck to paycheck and being constantly up to their eyeballs in debt, but that is incredibly foolish.  Even in the animal kingdom, animals work hard during the warm months to prepare for the winter months.  Even so, we should all be working very hard to prepare during prosperous times so that we will have something stored up for the lean years that are coming.

Unfortunately, if events in Europe are any indication, we may be rapidly running out of time.

Time Is Running Out

Do Wall Street Insiders Expect Something Really BIG To Happen Very Soon?

Do Wall Street Insiders Expect Something Really BIG To Happen Very Soon? - Photo by nosha on flickrWhy are corporate insiders dumping huge numbers of shares in their own companies right now?  Why are some very large investors suddenly making gigantic bets that the stock market will crash at some point in the next 60 days?  Do Wall Street insiders expect something really BIG to happen very soon?  Do they know something that we do not know? What you are about to read below is startling.  Every time that the market has fallen in recent years, insiders have been able to get out ahead of time.  David Coleman of the Vickers Weekly Insider report recently noted that Wall Street insiders have shown “a remarkable ability of late to identify both market peaks and troughs”.  That is why it is so alarming that corporate insiders are selling nine times as many shares as they are buying right now.  In addition, some extraordinarily large bets have just been made that will only pay off if the financial markets in the U.S. crash by the end of April.  So what does all of this mean?  Well, it could mean absolutely nothing or it could mean that there are people out there that actually have insider knowledge that a market crash is coming.  Evaluate the evidence below and decide for yourself…

For some reason, corporate insiders have chosen this moment to unload huge amounts of stock.  According to a CNN article, corporate insiders are now selling nine times more of their own shares than they are buying…

Corporate insiders have one word for investors: sell.

Insiders were nine times more likely to sell shares of their companies than buy new ones last week, according to the Vickers Weekly Insider report by Argus Research.

What makes this so alarming is that corporate insiders have been exceedingly good at “timing the market” in recent years.  The following comes from a recent CNBC article entitled “Sucker Alert? Insider Selling Surges After Dow 14,000“…

“In almost perfect coordination with an equity market that was rushing toward new all-time highs, insider sentiment has weakened sharply — falling to its lowest level since late March 2012,” wrote David Coleman of the Vickers Weekly Insider report, one of the longest researchers of executive buying and selling on Wall Street. “Insiders are waving the cautionary flag in an increasingly aggressive manner.”

There have been more than nine insider sales for every one buy over the past week among NYSE stocks, according to Vickers. The last time executives sold their company’s stock this aggressively was in early 2012, just before the S&P 500 went on to correct by 10 percent to its low for the year.

“Insiders know more than the vast majority of market participants,” said Enis Taner, global macro editor for RiskReversal.com. “And they’re usually right over a long period of time.”

There are other indications that the stock market may be headed for a significant tumble in the months ahead.  For example, as a Zero Hedge article recently pointed out, the last time that the financial markets in the U.S. were as “euphoric” as they are now was right before the financial crisis of 2008.

And as I mentioned above, some people out there have recently made some absolutely jaw-dropping bets against stocks which will only pay off if there is a financial crash at some point in the next few months.

According to Business Insider, the recent purchase of 100,000 put options by a mystery investor has a lot of people on Wall Street talking…

According to Barron’s columnist Steven Sears, someone made a big bet against the financials ETF yesterday (ticker symbol XLF), and it has everybody buzzing.

The trader bought 100,000 put options on the ETF (a put option increases in value when the price of the underlying asset, in this case, the ETF, goes down).

To put that number in perspective, Sears writes, “Few investors ever trade more than 500 contracts, so a 100,000 order tends to stop traffic and prompt all sorts of speculation about what’s motivating the trade.” According to Sears, the trade “has sparked conversations across the market.”

Reportedly, those put options expire in April.

And as Art Cashin of UBS has noted, there was also another extremely large bet that was placed recently that is banking on a financial crash within the next two months…

A Very Big Bet In A Somewhat Unlikely Instrument – My friend, Jim Brown, the ever-alert consummate professional over at Option Investor pointed us to a rather unusual trade. Here’s what he wrote in last night’s edition of his valuable newsletter:

In past years I have reported on trades that were so large it appeared someone had inside knowledge of a pending event. Sometimes those were massive put positions on the S&P. A new trade just appeared that suggests there will be a market event in the near future. Last week somebody put on a call spread on the VIX using the April 20 and 25 puts. They bought 150,000 contracts for a net of $75 per contract. That is an $11,250,000 bet that the VIX will move over 20 over the next 60 days. You would have to be VERY confident in your outlook to risk $11 million on a directional position with the VIX at five year lows and the markets trying to break out to new highs.

So does all of this guarantee that the stock market is going to move a certain way?

Of course not.

But when you step back and look at the bigger picture, it does appear that Wall Street insiders are preparing for something.

Meanwhile, the government continues to assure us that happy days are here again for the U.S. economy and that we don’t have anything to worry about.

The Congressional Budget Office has just released a report that contains their outlook for the next decade.  The report is entitled “The Budget and Economic Outlook: Fiscal Years 2013 to 2023”, and if you want a good laugh you should read it.

Here are some of the things that the CBO believes will happen…

-The CBO believes that government revenues will more than double by 2023.

-The CBO believes that government revenue as a percentage of GDP will rise from 15.8 percent today to 19.1 percent in 2023.

-The CBO believes that the unemployment rate will continually fall over the next decade.

-The CBO believes that the federal budget deficit will fall to just 2.4% of GDP in fiscal year 2015.

-The CBO believes that the federal budget deficit will only be $430 billion in 2015.

-The CBO believes that we will not have a single recession over the next decade.

-The CBO believes that inflation will stay at about 2 percent for the next decade.

-The CBO believes that U.S. GDP will grow by a total of 67 percent by 2023.

Wow, all of that sounds great until you go back and take a look at how CBO projections have fared in the past.

In fact, Bruce Krasting has gone back and looked at the numbers from the Congressional Budget Office’s Budget and Economic Outlook 2003.  I think that you will find the differences between the CBO projections and what really happened to be very humorous…

Estimated 10-year budget surplus = $5.6T.

Reality = $6.6T deficit. A 200+% miss.

 

Estimate for 2012 Debt Held by Public = $1.2T (5% of GDP).

Reality = Debt Held by Public = $11.6T. A 1000% miss.

 

Estimated fiscal 2012 GDP = $17.4T.

Reality = $15.8T. A $1.6T (10%) miss.

So should we trust what the CBO is telling us now?

Of course not.

Instead, perhaps we should listen to some of the men that successfully warned us about the last financial crisis…

-“Dr. Doom” Marc Faber recently stated that he “loves the high odds of a ‘big-time’ market crash“.

-Economist Nouriel Roubini says that we should “prepare for a perfect storm“.

-Pimco’s Bill Gross says that we are heading for a “credit supernova“.

-Nomura’s Bob Janjuah believes that the financial markets will experience one more huge spike before collapsing by up to 50%

I continue to believe that the S&P500 can trade up towards the 1575/1550 area, where we have, so far, a grand double top. I would not be surprised to see the S&P trade marginally through the 2007 all-time nominal high (the real high was of course seen over a decade ago – so much for equities as a long-term vehicle for wealth creation!). A weekly close at a new all-time high would I think lead to the final parabolic spike up which creates the kind of positioning extreme and leverage extreme needed to create the conditions for a 25% to 50% collapse in equities over the rest of 2013 and 2014, driven by real economy reality hitting home, and by policymaker failure/loss of faith in “their system”.

The truth is that no matter how much money printing the Federal Reserve does, it is only a matter of time before the financial markets catch up with economic reality.

The U.S. economy has been in decline for a very long time, and things just continue to get even worse.  Here are just a few numbers…

-The percentage of the civilian labor force that is employed has fallen every single year since 2006.

-According to John Williams of shadowstats.com, truly accurate numbers would show that U.S. GDP growth has actually been continuously negative all the way back to 2005.

-U.S. families that have a head of household that is under the age of 30 have a poverty rate of 37 percent.

-One recent survey found that nearly half of all Americans are living on the edge of financial ruin.

-According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are more than 146 million Americans that are considered to be either “poor” or “low income” at this point.

For many more statistics that demonstrate that the U.S. economy has continued to decline in recent years, please see this article: “37 Statistics Which Show How Four Years Of Obama Have Wrecked The U.S. Economy“.

So where is all of this headed?

Well, after the next major financial crisis in America things are going to get very tough.

We can get a hint for how things are going to be by taking a look at what is going on over in Europe right now.

Can you imagine people trampling each other for food?  That is what is happening in Greece.  Just check out this excerpt from a Reuters article

Hundreds of people jostled for free vegetables handed out by farmers in a symbolic protest earlier on Wednesday, trampling one man and prompting an outcry over the growing desperation created by economic crisis.

Images of people struggling to seize bags of tomatoes and leeks thrown from a truck dominated television, triggering a bout of soul-searching over the new depths of poverty in the debt-laden country.

The suffering that the Greeks are experiencing right now will come to this country soon enough.

So enjoy this false bubble of debt-fueled prosperity while you can.  It is going to end way too soon, and after that there will be a whole lot of pain.

Wall Street - Photo by Andrés Nieto Porras

Goldman Sachs And The Big Hedge Funds Are Pushing Leverage To Ridiculous Extremes

Goldman Sachs And The Big Hedge Funds Are Pushing Leverage To Ridiculous Extremes - Photo by bfishadow on FlickrAs stocks have risen in recent years, the big hedge funds and the “too big to fail” banks have used borrowed money to make absolutely enormous profits.  But when you use debt to potentially multiply your profits, you also create the possibility that your losses will be multiplied if the markets turn against you.  When the next stock market crash happens, and the gigantic pyramid of risk, debt and leverage on Wall Street comes tumbling down, will highly leveraged banks such as Goldman Sachs ask the federal government to bail them out?  The use of leverage is one of the greatest threats to our financial system, and yet most Americans do not even really understand what it is.  The following is a basic definition of leverage from Investopedia: “The use of various financial instruments or borrowed capital, such as margin, to increase the potential return of an investment.”  Leverage allows firms to make much larger bets in the financial markets than they otherwise would be able to, and at this point Goldman Sachs and the big hedge funds are pushing leverage to ridiculous extremes.  When the financial markets go up and they win on those bets, they can win very big.  For example, revenues at Goldman Sachs increased by about 30 percent in 2012 and Goldman stock has soared by more than 40 percent over the past 12 months.  Those are eye-popping numbers.  But leverage is a double-edged sword.  When the markets turn, Goldman Sachs and many of these large hedge funds could be facing astronomical losses.

Sadly, it appears that Wall Street did not learn any lessons from the financial crisis of 2008.  Hedge funds have ramped up leverage to levels not seen since before the last stock market crash.  The following comes from a recent Bloomberg article entitled “Hedge-Fund Leverage Rises to Most Since 2004 in New Year“…

Hedge funds are borrowing more to buy equities just as loans by New York Stock Exchange brokers reach the highest in four years, signs of increasing confidence after professional investors trailed the market since 2008.

Leverage among managers who speculate on rising and falling shares climbed to the highest level to start any year since at least 2004, according to data compiled by Morgan Stanley. Margin debt at NYSE firms rose in November to the most since February 2008, data from NYSE Euronext show.

So why is this so important?

Well, as a recent Zero Hedge article explained, even a relatively small drop in stock prices could potentially absolutely devastate many hedge funds…

What near record leverage means is that hedge funds have absolutely zero tolerance for even the smallest drop in prices, which are priced to absolute and endless central bank-intervention perfection – sorry, fundamentals in a time when global GDP growth is declining, when Europe and Japan are in a double dip recession, when the US is expected to report its first sub 1% GDP quarter in years, when corporate revenues and EPS are declining just don’t lead to soaring stock prices.

It also means that with virtually all hedge funds in such hedge fund hotel names as AAPL (the stock held by more hedge funds – over 230 – than any other), any major drop in the price would likely lead to a wipe out of the equity tranche at the bulk of AAPL “investors”, sending them scrambling to beg for either more LP generosity, or to have their prime broker repo desk offer them even more debt. And while the former is a non-starter, the latter has so far worked, which means that most hedge funds have been masking losses with more debt, which then suffers even more losses, and so on.

By the way, Apple (AAPL) just fell to an 11-month low.  Apple stock has now declined by 26 percent since it hit a record high back in September.  That is a very bad sign for hedge funds.

But hedge funds are not the only ones flirting with disaster.  In a previous article about the derivatives bubble, I pointed out the ridiculous amount of derivatives exposure that some of these “too big to fail” banks have relative to their total assets…

According to the Comptroller of the Currency, four of the largest U.S. banks are walking a tightrope of risk, leverage and debt when it comes to derivatives.  Just check out how exposed they are…

JPMorgan Chase

Total Assets: $1,812,837,000,000 (just over 1.8 trillion dollars)

Total Exposure To Derivatives: $69,238,349,000,000 (more than 69 trillion dollars)

Citibank

Total Assets: $1,347,841,000,000 (a bit more than 1.3 trillion dollars)

Total Exposure To Derivatives: $52,150,970,000,000 (more than 52 trillion dollars)

Bank Of America

Total Assets: $1,445,093,000,000 (a bit more than 1.4 trillion dollars)

Total Exposure To Derivatives: $44,405,372,000,000 (more than 44 trillion dollars)

Goldman Sachs

Total Assets: $114,693,000,000 (a bit more than 114 billion dollars – yes, you read that correctly)

Total Exposure To Derivatives: $41,580,395,000,000 (more than 41 trillion dollars)

Take another look at those figures for Goldman Sachs.  If you do the math, Goldman Sachs has total exposure to derivatives contracts that is more than 362 times greater than their total assets.

That is utter insanity, but we haven’t had a derivatives crash yet so everyone just keeps pretending that the emperor actually has clothes on.

When the derivatives crisis happens, things in the financial markets are going to fall apart at lightning speed.  A recent article posted on goldsilverworlds.com explained what a derivatives crash may look like…

When one big bank faces some kind of trouble and fails, the banks with the largest exposure to derivates (think JP Morgan, Citygroup, Goldman Sachs) will realize that the bank on the other side of the derivatives trade (the counterparty) is no longer good for their obligation. All of a sudden the hedged position becomes a naked position. The net position becomes a gross position. The risk explodes instantaneously. Markets realize that their hedged positions are in reality not hedged anymore, and all market participants start bailing almost simultaneously. The whole banking and financial system freezes up. It might start in Asia or Europe, in which case Americans will wake up in the morning to find out that their markets are  not functioning anymore; stock markets remain closed, money at the banks become inaccessible, etc.

But for now, the party continues.  Goldman Sachs and many of the big hedge funds are making enormous piles of money.

In fact, according to the Wall Street Journal, Goldman Sachs recently gave some of their top executives 65 million dollars worth of restricted stock…

Goldman Sachs Group Inc. GS -0.76% handed insiders including Chief Executive Lloyd Blankfein and his top lieutenants a total of $65 million in restricted stock just hours before this year’s higher tax rates took effect.

The New York securities firm gave 10 of its directors and executives early vesting on 508,104 shares previously awarded as part of prior years’ compensation, according to a series of filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission late Monday.

And the bonuses that employees at Goldman receive are absolutely obscene.  A recent Daily Mail article explained that Goldman employees in the UK are expected to receive record-setting bonuses this year…

Britain’s army of bankers will re-ignite public fury over lavish pay rewards as staff at Goldman Sachs are expected to reward themselves £8.3 billion in bonuses on Wednesday.

The American investment bank, which employs 5,500 staff in the UK, will be the first to unveil its telephone number-sized rewards – an average of £250,000 a person – as part of the latest round of bonus updates.

The increase, up from £230,000 last year, comes as British families are still struggling to make ends meet five years after banks brought the economy to the brink of meltdown.

Wouldn’t you like to get a “bonus” like that?

Life is good at these firms while the markets are going up.

But what happens when the party ends?

What happens if the markets crash in 2013?

When you bet big, you either win big or you lose big.

For now, the gigantic bets that Wall Street firms are making with borrowed money are paying off very nicely.

But a day of reckoning is coming.  The next stock market crash is going to rip through Wall Street like a chainsaw and the carnage is going to be unprecedented.

Are you sure that the people holding your money will be able to make it through what is ahead?  You might want to look into it while you still can.

Goldman Sachs New World Headquarters

Warnings That A Massive Stock Market Crash Is Imminent

In the financial world, the month of October is synonymous with stock market crashes.  So will a massive stock market crash happen this year?  You never know. The truth is that our financial system is even more vulnerable than it was back in 2008, and financial experts such as Doug Short, Peter Schiff, Robert Wiedemer and Harry Dent are all warning that the next crash is rapidly approaching.  We are living in the greatest debt bubble in the history of the world and Wall Street has been transformed into a giant casino that is based on a massive web of debt, risk and leverage.  When that web breaks we are going to see a stock market crash that is going to make 2008 look like a Sunday picnic.  Yes, the Federal Reserve has tried to prevent any problems from erupting in the financial markets by initiating another round of quantitative easing, but 40 billion dollars a month will not be nearly enough to stop the massive collapse that is coming.  This will be explained in detail toward the end of the article.  Hopefully we will get through October (and the rest of this year) without seeing a stock market collapse, but without a doubt one is coming at some point.  Those on the wrong end of the coming crash are going to be absolutely wiped out.

A lot of people focus on the month of October because of the history of stock market crashes in this month.  This history was detailed in a recent USA Today article….

When it comes to wealth suddenly disappearing, October can be diabolically frightful. The stock market crash of 1929 that led to the Great Depression occurred in October. So did the 22.6% plunge suffered by the Dow Jones industrial average in 1987 on “Black Monday.”

The scariest 19-day span during the 2008 financial crisis also went down in October, when the Dow plunged 2,675 points after investors fearing a financial collapse went on a panic-driven stock-selling spree that resulted in five of the 10 biggest daily point drops in the iconic Dow’s 123-year history.

So what will we see this year?

Only time will tell.

If a stock market crash does not happen this month or by the end of this year, that does not mean that the experts that are predicting a stock market crash are wrong.

It just means that they were early.

As I have said so many times, there are thousands upon thousands of moving parts in the global financial system.  So that makes it nearly impossible to predict the timing of events with perfect precision.  Financial conditions are constantly shifting and changing.

But without a doubt another major financial collapse similar to what happened back in 2008 (or even worse) is on the way.  Let’s take a look at some of the financial experts that are predicting really bad things for our financial markets in the months ahead….

Doug Short

According to Doug Short, the vice president of research at Advisor Perspectives, the stock market is somewhere between 33% and 51% overvalued at this point.  In a recent article he offered the following evidence to support his position….

● The Crestmont Research P/E Ratio (more)

● The cyclical P/E ratio using the trailing 10-year earnings as the divisor (more)

● The Q Ratio, which is the total price of the market divided by its replacement cost (more)

● The relationship of the S&P Composite price to a regression trendline (more)

Peter Schiff

Peter Schiff, the CEO of Euro Pacific Capital, has been one of the leading voices in the financial community warning people about the crisis that is coming.

During a recent interview with Fox Business, Schiff stated that the massive financial collapse that we witnessed back in 2008 “wasn’t the real crash” and he boldly declared that the “real crash is coming”.

So is Schiff right?

We shall see.

Robert Wiedemer

Economist Robert Wiedemer warned people what was coming before the crash of 2008, and now he is warning that what is coming next is going to be even worse….

“The data is clear, 50% unemployment, a 90% stock market drop, and 100% annual inflation . . . starting in 2012.”

Harry Dent

Financial author Harry Dent believes that the stock market could fall by as much as 60 percent in the coming months.  He is convinced that stocks are hugely overvalued right now….

“We have the greatest debt bubble in history. We will see a worldwide downturn. And when you are in this type of recessionary environment stocks should be trading at five to seven times earnings.”

So are these guys right?

We shall see.

But I do find it interesting that some of the biggest names in the financial world are currently making moves as if they also believe that a massive financial crisis is coming.

For example, as I have written about previously, George Soros has dumped all of his holdings in banking giants JP Morgan, Citigroup and Goldman Sachs.

Infamous billionaire hedge fund manager John Paulson, the man who made somewhere around 20 billion dollars betting against the U.S. housing market during the last financial crisis, is making massive bets against the euro right now.

So where are these financial titans putting their money?

According to the Telegraph, both of these men are pouring enormous amounts of money into gold….

There was also news last week in an SEC filing that both George Soros and John Paulson had increased their investment in SPDR Gold Trust, the world’s largest publicly traded physical gold exchange traded fund (ETF).

Mr Soros upped his stake in the ETF to 884,400 shares from 319,550 and Mr Paulson bought 4.53m shares, bringing his stake to 21.3m.

At the current price of about $156 a share, these are new investments of about $88m of Mr Soros’ cash and more than $700m from Mr Paulson’s funds. These are significant positions.

So why would they do this?

Why would they pour millions upon millions of dollars into gold?

Well, it would make perfect sense to put so much money into gold if a massive financial crisis was coming.

So is the next financial crisis imminent?

We will see.

Most “financial analysts” that appear in the mainstream media would laugh at the notion that a stock market crash is imminent.

Most of them would insist that everything is going to be perfectly fine for the foreseeable future.

In fact, most of them are convinced that quantitative easing is going to cause stocks to go even higher.

After all, isn’t quantitative easing supposed to be good for stocks?

Didn’t I write an article just last month that detailed how quantitative easing drives up stock prices?

Yes I did.

So how can I be writing now about the possibility of a stock market crash?

Aren’t I contradicting myself?

Not at all.

Let me explain.

The first two rounds of quantitative easing did indeed drive up stock prices.  The same thing will happen under QE3, unless the effects of QE3 are overwhelmed by a major crisis.

For example, if we were to see a total collapse of the derivatives market it would render QE3 totally meaningless.

Estimates of the notional value of the worldwide derivatives market range from 600 trillion dollars all the way up to 1.5 quadrillion dollars.  Nobody knows for sure how large the market for derivatives is, but everyone agrees that it is absolutely massive.

When we are talking about amounts that large, the $40 billion being pumped into the financial system each month by the Federal Reserve during QE3 would essentially be the equivalent of spitting into Niagara Falls.  It would make no difference at all.

Most Americans do not understand what “derivatives” are, so they kind of tune out when people start talking about them.

But they are very important to understand.

Essentially, derivatives are “side bets”.  When you buy a derivative, you are not investing in anything.  You are just gambling that something will or will not happen.

I explained this more completely in a previous article entitled “The Coming Derivatives Crisis That Could Destroy The Entire Global Financial System“….

A derivative has no underlying value of its own.  A derivative is essentially a side bet.  Usually these side bets are highly leveraged.

At this point, making side bets has totally gotten out of control in the financial world.  Side bets are being made on just about anything you can possibly imagine, and the major Wall Street banks are making a ton of money from it.  This system is almost entirely unregulated and it is totally dominated by the big international banks.

Over the past couple of decades, the derivatives market has multiplied in size.  Everything is going to be fine as long as the system stays in balance.  But once it gets out of balance we could witness a string of financial crashes that no government on earth will be able to fix.

Five very large U.S. banks (including Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan and Bank of America) have combined exposure to derivatives in excess of 250 trillion dollars.

Keep in mind that U.S. GDP for 2011 was only about 15 trillion dollars.

So we are talking about an amount of money that is almost inconceivable.

That is why I cannot talk about derivatives enough.  In fact, I apologize to my readers for not writing about them more.

If you want to understand the coming financial collapse, one of the keys is to understand derivatives.  Our entire financial system has been transformed into a giant casino, and at some point all of this gambling is going to cause a horrible crash.

Do you remember the billions of dollars that JP Morgan announced that they lost a while back?  Well, that was caused by derivatives trades gone bad.  In fact, they are still not totally out of those trades and they are going to end up losing a whole lot more money than they originally anticipated.

Sadly, that was just the tip of the iceberg.  Much, much worse is coming.  When you hear of a major “derivatives crisis” in the news, you better run for cover because it is likely that the entire house of cards is about to start falling.

And don’t get too caught up in the exact timing of predictions.

If a stock market crash does not happen this month, don’t think that the storm has passed.

A major financial crisis is coming.  It might not happen this week, this month or even this year, but without a doubt it is approaching.

And when it arrives it is going to be immensely painful and it is going to change all of our lives.

I hope you are ready for that.

Is There Going To Be A Stock Market Crash In The Fall?

Is the stock market going to crash by the end of this year?  Are we on the verge of major financial chaos on a global scale? Well, this is the time of the year when investors start getting nervous.  We all remember what happened during the fall of 1929, the fall of 1987 and the fall of 2008.  However, it is important to keep in mind that we do not see a stock market crash in the fall of every year.  Some years the stock market cruises through the months of September, October, November and December without any problems whatsoever.  But this year conditions certainly seem to be right for a “perfect storm” to develop.  Technical indicators are screaming that a stock market decline is imminent and sources in the financial industry all over the world are warning that a massive crisis is on the way.  What you are about to read should alarm you.  But it is not a guarantee that anything will or will not happen.  When Ben Bernanke gives his speech at the Jackson Hole summit on Friday he could announce to the rest of the world that the Federal Reserve has decided to launch QE3 and that the Fed will be printing up trillions of new dollars.  If that happened global financial markets would leap for joy.  So it is always a dangerous thing when anyone out there tries to tell you that they can “guarantee” what is about to happen in the financial world.  There are just so many moving parts.  But if we do not see major intervention by the governments of the world or by global central banks a major financial crisis could rapidly develop this fall.  The conditions are certainly right for a stock market collapse, and we could easily see a repeat of what happened back in 2008.

The truth is that the second half of 2012 looks a little bit more like the second half of 2008 with each passing day.

Just check out what Bob Janjuah of Nomura Securities has been saying….

Based on the reasons set out earlier and also covered in my two prior notes, over the August to November period I am looking for the S&P500 to trade off down from around 1400 to 1100/1000 – in other words, I expect over the next four months to see global equity markets fall by 20% to 25% from current levels and to trade at or below the lows of 2011! US equity markets, along with parts of the EM spectrum, will I think underperform eurozone equity markets, where already very little hope resides.

Others are issuing similar warnings.  For example, the following is what a couple of Bank of America analysts said in a report the other day….

Our strategists see an unusually high number of macro catalysts over the next 3-6 months that could take markets lower. We expect economic growth to disappoint in the second half of the year in anticipation of the fiscal cliff. This would exacerbate any slowdown from the deepening recession in Europe and decelerating growth in emerging markets. There is also the ongoing tension in the Middle East, the potential for a US credit downgrade and accelerating downward analyst estimate revisions. To top it off, September is seasonally the weakest month of the year for stock price returns.

There has been an unusual amount of chatter in the financial world about the September to December time frame.

That could mean something or it could mean nothing.

But is is very interesting to watch what some top financial insiders are doing with their stocks right now.

Dennis Gartman, the publisher of the Gartman Leter, has dumped all of his stocks at this point.

As I have written about previously, George Soros has dumped all of his stock in banking giants JP Morgan, Citigroup and Goldman Sachs.

Are they just being paranoid?

Or do they know something that we do not?

If you are looking for the next “Lehman Brothers moment” in the United States, you might want to watch Morgan Stanley.  Morgan Stanley was heavily involved in the Facebook IPO disaster, earlier this year their credit rating was downgraded, and now there are persistent rumors that Morgan Stanley is in big trouble and that it will be allowed to fail.  You can check out some of these rumors for yourself here, here and here.

But of course as I have said all along the center of the coming crisis is going to be in Europe, and many analysts agree with me.  For example, the following is what the chairman of Casey Research, Doug Casey, had to say during a recent interview….

Europe is a full cycle ahead of the U.S. Its governments and its banks are both bankrupt. It’s a couple of drunks standing on the street corner holding each other up at this point. Europe is in much worse shape than the U.S. It’s highly regulated, highly taxed and much more socially unstable.

Europe is going to be the epicenter of the coming storm. Japan is waiting in the wings, as is China. This is going to be a worldwide phenomenon. Of course, the U.S. will be in it, too. We’re going to see this all over the world.

Much of southern Europe is already experiencing depression-like conditions.  Unemployment in both Greece and Spain is well above 20 percent and both economies are steadily shrinking.

Money is flowing out of Spanish banks at an unprecedented rate right now.  Just take a look at these charts.  The only thing that is going to keep the Spanish banking system from totally collapsing is outside intervention.

But the truth is that all of Europe is in big trouble.  Even German companies are slashing job right now. For example, check out what Siemens is up to….

German engineering conglomerate Siemens (SIEGn.DE) is in early internal talks to cut thousands of jobs in response to a weakening economy, particularly in Europe, a German newspaper reported.

Decisions could be made in October or November, according to daily Boersen-Zeitung, which did not specify its sources.

A Siemens spokesman declined to comment.

We are living in the greatest debt bubble in the history of the world, and at some point that bubble is going to burst in a very messy way.

It is vital that people understand that our system is not even close to sustainable.

Knowing exactly when it will collapse is not nearly as important as understanding that a collapse is absolutely inevitable.

I think what former World Bank economist Richard Duncan had to say recently is very helpful….

“The explosion in credit drove economic growth in the U.S. and around the world, and now that’s the only thing that’s keeping us from collapsing in a debt/deflation spiral,” he said. “[What] I think everybody needs to understand is that the kind of economy that we have now, it’s not capitalism. It has very little in common with capitalism. Capitalism was an economic system in which the government played very little role …. Under capitalism, gold was money and the government had nothing to do with it. Now the central bank creates the money and manipulates its value.”

And he is very right.

We aren’t seeing a failure of capitalism.

What we are witnessing is the failure of debt-based central banking.

And if you think that the global elite are not aware of what is happening then you have not been paying attention.

This summer the global elite have been preparing very hard.  Either they are getting very paranoid or they know things that we do not.

If you want to catch up on what the global elite have been up to recently, check out these three articles that I have published previously….

-“Are The Government And The Big Banks Quietly Preparing For An Imminent Financial Collapse?

-“Startling Evidence That Central Banks And Wall Street Insiders Are Rapidly Preparing For Something BIG

-“Jacob Rothschild, John Paulson And George Soros Are All Betting That Financial Disaster Is Coming

If you are waiting for the nightly news to tell you what to do, then you have not learned anything.

Did anyone in the mainstream media warn you about what was about to happen back in 2008?

Of course not.

The “authorities” insisted that everything was going to be just fine and many average Americans were absolutely wiped out.

So don’t expect someone to come along and nicely inform you that your retirement savings are about to be absolutely devastated.

In this day and age it is absolutely critical for people to learn to think for themselves.

Barack Obama is not going to save you.

Mitt Romney is not going to save you.

The U.S. Congress is not going to save you.  They are too busy living the high life at taxpayer expense.

The system is not looking out for you.  Nobody is really going to care if your financial planning gets turned upside down.  This is a cold, cruel world and you need to understand how the game is played.  The financial insiders are looking out for themselves and most of them usually are able to avoid financial disaster.

Average folks like you and I are normally not so fortunate.

There are lots of warning signs that indicate that this fall could be a very turbulent time for global financial markets.

Ignore them at your own peril.

8 Economic Threats That We Were Not Even Talking About At The Beginning Of The Summer

In the crazy times in which we live, it helps to expect the unexpected.  Sometimes you can think that you have it all figured out and then this world can throw a real curveball at you. Very few people anticipated that we would see a massive outbreak of the West Nile Virus in Texas this year or that the Mississippi River would be in danger of drying up after experiencing historic flooding last year.  Who would have thought that we would see the worst drought in more than 50 years or that horrific wildfires would burn nearly 7 million acres of land?  This is why economic conditions are always so hard to predict.  A single “black swan event” can come along and change everything almost overnight.  Our world has become incredibly unstable, and so who really knows what the rest of 2012 will bring?  Will we see a stock market crash?  Will the hurricane season be unusually bad?  Will war erupt in the Middle East?  Will we see a major earthquake on the west coast or even a volcanic eruption?  Will the upcoming election cause an eruption of anger and frustration in America?  We don’t know the answers to those questions yet, and the truth is that we will probably see some things happen that very few of us are anticipating at this point.

This is an exciting time to be a “news junkie”, but unfortunately the vast majority of the news these days is bad.

It is almost as if a “perfect storm” is developing.  Our weather is going crazy, our financial system is on the verge of collapse, our politicians seem more insane than ever, there is evidence of social decay all around us and the drumbeats of war in the Middle East grow louder with each passing day.

As strange as 2012 has been so far, I fear that things are about to get a whole lot stranger.

Not that we haven’t had some very unanticipated events happen this year up to this point.

The following are 8 economic threats that we were not even talking about at the beginning of the summer….

#1 West Nile Virus

What is up with all of the strange disease outbreaks that we have seen so far this year?

Flesh eating disease and the bird flu have both been making global headlines this summer, but in the U.S. right now it is the West Nile Virus that is getting the most attention.

So far more than 1,100 cases of the West Nile Virus have been diagnosed in the United States and more than 41 people have died from it.

More than half of the cases so far have been in Texas, but we have also seen people come down with West Nile Virus in Mississippi, Louisiana, South Dakota, and Oklahoma.

If you live in any of those areas, you might want to do your best to avoid mosquitos for the rest of the summer.

#2 Historic Drought

This summer, the United States has experienced the worst drought that it has seen in more than 50 years.

This weather has been absolutely crippling for farmers and ranchers all over the nation.  As I wrote about the other day, about half of all corn being grown in the U.S. is currently either in “poor” or “very poor” condition.

As the drought has dragged on, many farmers and ranchers have become increasingly desperate.  In fact, one farmer has even been feeding his cows candy in an attempt to deal with rising feed prices.

Needless to say, this drought has been causing commodity prices to soar.

On Tuesday, the price of corn closed at a record $8.38 a bushel, and the price of soybeans closed at $17.30 a bushel.

#3 The Mississippi River Is Drying Up

Thanks to this drought, rivers and lakes all over the United States are drying up.  In fact, there have been reports that millions of fish have been dying because water levels have gotten so low in many areas.

Even the mighty Mississippi River has dropped to dangerously low levels.

At this point, the Mississippi is lower than most people living along the river can ever remember.  If it drops much lower, it could potentially have an absolutely devastating impact on the U.S. economy.

A recent NBC News report described what is at stake….

About $180 billion worth of goods move up and down the river on barges, 500 million tons of the basic ingredients for much of the U.S. economy, according to the American Waterways Operators, a trade group. It carries 60 percent of the nation’s grain, 22 percent of the oil and gas and 20 percent of the coal, according to American Waterways Operators. It would take 60 trailer trucks to carry the cargo in just one barge, 144 18-wheeler tankers to carry the oil and gas in one petroleum barge.

If all traffic along the Mississippi was forced to stop, it is estimated that it would cost the U.S. economy about 300 million dollars a day.

And already there have been stoppages along one 11 mile stretch of the river….

Nearly 100 boats and barges were waiting for passage Monday along an 11-mile stretch of the Mississippi River that has been closed because of low water levels, the U.S. Coast Guard said. New Orleans-based Coast Guard spokesman Ryan Tippets said the stretch of river near Greenville, Miss., has been closed intermittently since Aug. 11, when a vessel ran aground.

So what happens if the Mississippi gets even lower?

#4 Wildfires

The extreme heat has also been responsible for the horrific outbreak of wildfires that we have seen in the western United States this year.

So far in 2012, nearly 7 million acres have been burned up.

That is an area about as big as the states of Maryland and Delaware combined.

#5 The Global Elite Hoarding Gold

In the past, the global elite and the mainstream media would mock those who are hoarding gold in anticipation of a major financial collapse.

But now it is the global elite who are hoarding gold.

In a previous article, I discussed how men such as George Soros and John Paulson are investing mind-boggling amounts of money in gold right now.  The amount of money that these two individuals are investing in gold is difficult to comprehend….

There was also news last week in an SEC filing that both George Soros and John Paulson had increased their investment in SPDR Gold Trust, the world’s largest publicly traded physical gold exchange traded fund (ETF).

Mr Soros upped his stake in the ETF to 884,400 shares from 319,550 and Mr Paulson bought 4.53m shares, bringing his stake to 21.3m.

At the current price of about $156 a share, these are new investments of about $88m of Mr Soros’ cash and more than $700m from Mr Paulson’s funds. These are significant positions.

Combined, Soros and Paulson dumped more than three quarters of a billion dollars into gold during the second quarter of 2012 alone.

So what are they anticipating?

The central banks of the world have been very busy hoarding gold as well.  According to the World Gold Council, global central banks were net buyers of 157.5 metric tons of gold during the second quarter of 2012.

Over the past 20 years there has never been a time when global central banks have accumulated that much gold during a single quarter.

So just what in the world is going on?

#6 Recession In The UK

Everyone knew that Greece was in deep trouble.

And everyone knew that Italy and Spain were in deep trouble.

But it was a surprise to see the UK economy plunge deep into recession.  During the second quarter of 2012 alone, the UK economy shrunk by 0.7 percent.

At this point the British economy has contracted for three quarters in a row.

Hopefully things will not get even worse over there.

#7 Major Economic Slowdown In The United States

Considering the fact that the U.S. economy never even came close to recovering from the last recession, it is a bit disheartening to see that it looks like we are headed for another major downturn.

According to Michael Panzer of Financial Armageddon, measurements of economic activity compiled by the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia indicate that the U.S. economy is rapidly heading into another recession.  If you doubt this, just check out this chart.

And for a lot more reasons why the U.S. economy is entering another recession, check out this article.

#8 Hauled Off To A Mental Institution For What You Believe

Do you ever worry that what you post on Facebook could get you involuntarily committed to a mental institution?

Well, that is exactly what happened to one military vet recently.

A former Marine named Brandon Raub was hauled off to a mental institution because of what he posted on his Facebook page.

This is how the Economic Policy Journal summarized what happened to Raub….

The muscle used to grab Brandon Raub was local Chesterfield County, VA police. Also present during the grab were agents of the FBI and of the Secret Service.

Both the FBI and the Secret Service claim that they were only observing and not participating in the grab. The Chesterfield County police initially stated that they were only carrying out a request from the federal agencies.

The police also claim Raub is not under arrest, even though he was led away in handcuffs and is not permitted to leave the psychiatric ward of a hospital—even though it appears that Raub is not in  any way in need of psychological care.

I note this happened in the United States of America, with local police, FBI agents and Secret Service taking part.

The claim that Raub is “not under arrest” is completely and totally ridiculous.  The authorities came to his door, slapped handcuffs on him and are holding him in a mental institution against his will.

And now he has been transferred to a facility that is 3 hours away from his family, his supporters and his legal team.

What in the world is America turning into?

The Rutherford Institute is defending Raub, and the following is an excerpt from a statement about this case on their website….

“This is not how justice in America is supposed to work—with Americans being arrested for doing nothing more than exercising their First Amendment rights, forced to undergo psychological evaluations, detained against their will and isolated from their family, friends and attorneys. This is a scary new chapter in our history,” said John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute. “Brandon Raub is no different from the majority of Americans who use their private Facebook pages to post a variety of content, ranging from song lyrics and political hyperbole to trash talking their neighbors, friends and government leaders.”

This is the kind of thing that we have seen under brutal totalitarian regimes in the past.  Dissidents are grabbed by authorities and taken to mental institutions where they are conveniently “disappeared”.

This kind of thing is not supposed to happen in America.

But it is happening.

And you know what?  Before the authorities start attacking people for exercising free speech on Facebook perhaps they should clean up their own house.

It turns out that thousands of DHS employees have been convicted of crimes in recent years.  The following is from a recent CNS News article….

There have been 2,527 Department of Homeland Security (DHS) employees and co-conspirators convicted of corruption and other criminal misconduct since 2004, according to a federal auditor.

Our world is becoming a very crazy place.

One thing that most people did see coming this summer was the continuing economic decline in Greece.

At this point Greece is experiencing a full-blown economic depression and it gets worse by the day.

If you can believe it, 1,250 companies have shut down in the second largest city in Greece in 2012 alone.

Ouch.

And many in the financial world believe the the situation in Greece is going to go beyond the breaking point fairly soon.

In fact, analysts at Citibank believe that there is a 90 percent chance that Greece will leave the euro over the next 12 to 18 months.

90 percent?

They sound pretty sure of themselves.

Not that the rest of Europe is in such great shape either.

According to Bloomberg, it looks like Europe will soon be losing about half a million auto industry jobs….

Efforts by PSA Peugeot Citroen (UG) and Fiat SpA (F) to end losses in Europe could cost more than 500,000 people their jobs as automakers and parts suppliers grapple with the effects of the European sovereign debt crisis.

We live in very unusual times.

Things are falling apart all around us and we seem to be rapidly approaching another major economic crisis.

Central banks, governments and Wall Street insiders all seem to be preparing for the worst.

Are you?

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