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The Dow Falls Another 138 Points As Geopolitical Shaking Forces Investors To Race For The Exits

Stock prices just keep on falling, and many analysts are now wondering if a full-blown stock market crash is in our near future.  On Thursday, the S&P 500 and the Dow both closed at 2 month lows after Donald Trump dropped “the mother of all bombs” in Afghanistan.  It was the first time that one of these bombs has ever been used in live combat, and it is being reported that each of these bombs weighs 22,000 pounds and costs 16 million dollars to make.  Of course Trump was trying to send a very clear message to the rest of the world by dropping this bomb, and investors interpreted it as a sign that we are getting even closer to war.

The financial markets will be closed on Friday for the long holiday weekend, and with so much uncertainty about what may happen in Syria and in North Korea, many investors wanted to get their money out of the market while they still could.  The historic losing streak for S&P 500 tech stocks extended to 10 days in a row on Thursday, and all of the major stock indexes are now below their 50 day moving averages for the first time since the election.

And the VIX closed above 16 to close the week, which many analysts saw as a sign that more market volatility is on the way

The fear index on Thursday hit 16.22, its highest since Nov. 10, after closing above its 200-day moving average on Monday for the first time since Nov. 8.

“The VIX confirmed a breakout above its 200-day moving average [Tuesday], supporting a pickup in volatility in the days ahead,” BTIG’s chief technical strategist, Katie Stockton, said in a Wednesday note.

On Tuesday, I wrote about how geopolitical instability is causing many investors to seek out safe havens such as gold and silver, and that trend continued on Thursday.  As I write this, the price of gold is sitting at $1289.20, and the price of silver is up to $18.50.  Of course if the French election goes badly for the globalists or we see a full-blown shooting war erupt in either Syria or North Korea, those prices will go far, far higher.

For quite a while I have been very strongly warning that these ridiculously inflated stock prices were not sustainable.  It was inevitable that they would start to decline, because the underlying economic numbers simply did not support them.

And just today we got some more bad news.  According to Zero Hedge, the mortgage business at one of America’s biggest banks has been absolutely crashing…

When we reported Wells Fargo’s Q4 earnings back in January, we drew readers’ attention to one specific line of business, the one we dubbed the bank’s “bread and butter“, namely mortgage lending, and which as we then reported was “the biggest alarm” because “as a result of rising rates, Wells’ residential mortgage applications and pipelines both tumbled, specifically in Q4 Wells’ mortgage applications plunged by $25bn from the prior quarter to $75bn, while the mortgage origination pipeline plunged by nearly half to just $30 billion, and just shy of all time lows recorded in late 2013 and 2014.”

Fast forward one quarter when what was already a troubling situation, just got as bad as it has been since the financial crisis for America’s largest mortgage lender, because buried deep in its presentation accompanying otherwise unremarkable Q1 results (EPS small beat, revenue small miss), Wells just reported that its ‘bread and butter’ is virtually gone, and in Q1 the amount of all-important Mortgage Applications has tumbled by a whopping 23% to just $59 billion, below the lows hit in early 2014, and at fresh lows since the financial crisis.

Unfortunately, what is going on at Wells Fargo is just part of an enormous “loan collapse” that we are witnessing all over the nation.

This is exactly what we would expect to see if a new recession was beginning.  When economic conditions show down, banks and other lending institutions begin to get tighter with their money, and a tightening of credit causes economic activity to slow down even further.

It can be exceedingly difficult to break out of such a cycle once it starts.

But the mainstream media doesn’t seem to understand these things.  Instead, they are pointing the blame at other sources for the emerging economic slowdown.  For example, consider the following excerpt from a CNN article entitled “Americans have become lazy and it’s hurting the economy”

Americans have become lazy, argues economist Tyler Cowen.

They don’t start businesses as much as they once did. They don’t move as often as they used to. And they live in neighborhoods that are about as segregated as they were in the 1960s.

All of this is causing the U.S. to stagnate economically and politically, Cowen says in his new book: “The Complacent Class: The Self-Defeating Quest for the American Dream.” Growth is far slower than it was in the 1960s, 70s and 80s and productivity growth is way down, despite everyone claiming they are working so hard.

No, our economic problems are not the result of Americans being too lazy.

Rather, the truth is that we have accumulated way too much debt as a society, we have been way too greedy, and there has been way too much manipulation by the Federal Reserve and other central banks.

For decades we have been living way above our means.  We have been able to do this by stealing trillions upon trillions of dollars from future generations of Americans, and now a day of reckoning is rapidly approaching.

Unfortunately for Donald Trump, he just happens to be the president at this moment in history, and so much of the blame for what is about to happen will be pinned on him.  The following comes from a recent interview with Peter Schiff

Trump doesn’t want to preside over a major decline in our standard of living, but ultimately that has to happen. Because this is the consequence of all this excess consumption that went on before he was president. You know, we sacrificed our future to indulge our past. The future is now the present. We’re here, and it’s time to pay the piper.

Schiff is precisely correct.

For decades we have just kept sacrificing the future in order to inflate our current standard of living.

But the funny thing about the future is that it always arrives at some point, and now we are going to pay an enormously high price for being so exceedingly reckless all these years.

What Is America Going To Look Like When Stocks, Home Prices And Even Used Cars All Crash By At Least 50 Percent?

Have you ever thought about what comes after the bubble?  In 2008 we got a short preview of what life will be like, but most Americans seem to have come to the conclusion that the last financial crisis was just a minor bump in the road toward endless economic prosperity.  But of course the truth is that the ridiculously high debt-fueled standard of living that we are enjoying now is not sustainable, and after this bubble bursts it will be an extremely painful adjustment for our society.

Since the last financial crisis, the U.S. national debt has nearly doubled, corporate debt has doubled, stock valuations have reached exceedingly ridiculous extremes, the student loan debt bubble has surpassed a trillion dollars, we are facing the largest unfunded pension crisis in U.S. history, and in many parts of the country (particularly the west coast) we are facing a housing bubble that is even worse than the one that burst in 2007 and 2008.

And even with all of these bubbles, U.S. GDP growth has been absolutely anemic.  Even if you believe the grossly manipulated numbers that the federal government puts out, the U.S. economy grew at a “miserably low” rate of just 1.6 percent in 2016…

In terms of GDP, the fourth quarter was revised up slightly, but there were adjustments for prior quarters, and overall GDP growth for the year 2016 remained at a miserably low 1.6%. We’ve come to call this the “stall speed.” It’s difficult for the US economy to stay aloft at this slow speed. As Q4 gutted any hopes for a strong finish, GDP growth in 2016 matched the worst year since the Great Recession.

And corporate profits, despite a stock market that has been surging for years, are even worse. A lot worse. They’ve declined for years. In fact, they declined for years during the prior two stock market bubbles, the dotcom bubble and the pre-Financial-Crisis bubble. Both ended in crashes.

Things have continued to get even worse early in 2016.  At this point, it is being projected that U.S. GDP will grow at an annual rate of just 0.9 percent during the first quarter of 2017.

So anyone that tries to tell you that the U.S. economy is in good shape is simply not being honest with you.

But even though things don’t look great now, they are going to look far, far worse after the biggest debt bubble in human history bursts.

For example, what do you think that America will look like after half of all stock market wealth disappears?  In a recent note to his clients, John P. Hussman stated that his team is projecting that by the end of this current market cycle “roughly half of U.S. equity market capitalization – $17 trillion in paper wealth – will simply vanish”.

And of course that projection lines up perfectly with what I have been saying for quite a while.  In order for key measures of stock market valuation (such as CAPE, etc.) to return to their long-term averages, stocks are going to have to fall at least 40 to 50 percent from their current levels.

As this coming crisis unfolds, other asset classes will experience astounding downturns as well.  This week, Morgan Stanley (one of the too big to fail banks) released a report that said that used car prices “could crash by up to 50%” over the next several years…

For months we’ve been talking about the massive lending bubble propping up the U.S. auto market. Now, noting many of the same concerns that we’ve highlighted repeatedly, Morgan Stanley’s auto team, led by Adam Jonas, has just issued a report detailing why they think used car prices could crash by up to 50% over the next 4-5 years.

Housing prices are primed for a major plunge as well.  This is especially true on the west coast where tech money and foreign purchasers from Asia have pushed home values up to dizzying levels.  Half a million dollars will be lucky to get you a “starter home” in San Francisco, and it was being reported that one poor techie living there was paying $1400 a month just to live in a closet.  Many believe that some cities on the west coast will be quite fortunate if home values only go down by 50 percent during the coming crash.

Everywhere you look there are bubbles.  In a recent piece, Daniel Lang pointed out some more of them

  • Eric Rosengren, the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, recently made a startling tacit admission. We may be in the midst of yet another real estate bubble. Major financial institutions in this country are in possession of over $14 trillion worth of residential real estate loans. That’s well over $40,000 for every man woman and child in America.
  • Low interest rates have fueled a bubble in subprime auto loans, and that bubble appears to be reaching its limits. There are now over 1 million ordinary and subprime auto loans that are delinquent, a number that hasn’t been this high since 2009.
  • There is now well over a trillion dollars worth of student loan debt in this country; much of it owned by low income families. And there’s little hope that these students will ever see a return on their investment. That’s why at least 27% of student loans are in default. While more than one in four students are in default now, that number was one in nine a decade ago. And if current trends continue, there could be $3.3 trillion of student loan debt by the end of the next decade.

At some point the imbalances become just too great and the system collapses in upon itself.

In other words, we are heading for a massive implosion.

And once the implosion happens, people are going to go absolutely nuts.  Anger and frustration are already rising to the boiling point all over the country, and it isn’t going to take much to push millions of Americans completely over the edge.

In a recent interview with Greg Hunter, author James Rickards warned that when things get really bad in America we could actually see what he refers to as “money riots”

So, could we be facing a “Mad Max” world if the financial system totally crashes? Rickards says, “In ‘Road to Ruin,’ I talk about what I call the money riots.  There is a lot of reasons for rioting.  When you start shutting banks and the stock exchange and they say you can’t get your money, it’s only temporary, trust us, people will go out and start to burn down banks.  The government is ready for that also with emergency response and martial law. . . . Governments don’t go down without a fight. . . . You can see the shutdown coming because they will try to buy time until they come up with a solution, whether it’s gold, Special Drawing Rights (SDR), guarantees or whatever it might be.  There are only two or three possibilities here, but all of them will take time, and they will have to shut down the system. . . . People will not sit for that.  So, that means people will riot.  They’ll burn down banks.  They will smash windows, but what is the reaction to that?  The answer is martial law, militarized police, actual military units and you get something that looks like fascism pretty quickly.”

I very much agree with his assessment.

All it is going to take is another major financial crisis and this nation will go completely and utterly insane.

Unfortunately, all of our long-term economic problems have proceeded to get a lot worse since the last time around, and so when things fall apart this time we will likely be looking at a scenario that is absolutely unprecedented in American history.

A lot of people have become very complacent out there these days, but that is a huge mistake.

Just because a crisis is delayed does not mean that it is canceled.  And because our leaders have kept making this economic bubble larger and larger, that just means that the coming crisis will be even more painful than it otherwise could have been.

Virtually Everyone Agrees That Current Stock Market Valuations Are Not Sustainable And That A Great Crash Is Coming

Stock Market Collapse Toilet Paper - Public DomainCurrent stock market valuations are not sustainable.  If there is one thing that I want you to remember from this article, it is that cold, hard fact.  In 1929, 2000 and 2008, stock prices soared to absolutely absurd levels just before horrible stock market crashes.  What goes up must eventually come down, and the stock market bubble of today will be no exception.  In fact, virtually everyone in the financial community acknowledges that stock prices are irrationally high right now.  Some are suggesting that there is still time to jump in and make money before the crash comes, while others are recommending a much more cautious approach.  But what almost everyone agrees on is the fact that stocks cannot go up like this forever.

On Tuesday, the Dow, the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq all set brand new record highs once again.  Overall, U.S. stocks are now up more than 10 percent since the election, and this is probably the greatest post-election stock market rally in our entire history.

But stocks were already tremendously overvalued before the election, and at this point stock prices have reached a level of ridiculousness only matched a couple of times before in the past 100 years.

Only the most extreme optimists will try to tell you that stock prices can stay this disconnected from economic reality indefinitely.  We are in the midst of one of the most outrageous stock market bubbles of all time, and as MarketWatch has noted, all stock market bubbles eventually burst…

The U.S. stock market at this level reflects a combination of great demand, great complacency, and great greed. Stocks are clearly in a bubble, and like all bubbles, this one is about to burst.

If corporations were making tremendous amounts of money, rapidly rising stock prices would make logical sense.

But that is not the case at all.  Corporate earnings for the fourth quarter of 2016 were actually quite dismal, and this disconnect between Wall Street and economic reality is starting to really bug financial analysts such as Brian Sozzi

The S&P 500 has gone 89 straight sessions without a 1% decline. Considering that Corporate America didn’t exactly light up on the top and bottom lines during the fourth quarter, such a streak is rather troublesome. Granted, the stock market is a forward-looking mechanism that appears to be trading on hopes that Trump’s unannounced stimulus and tax plans will be lifting economic growth in 2018. Even so, the inability of investors to at least acknowledge persistent struggles among companies and ongoing chaos in Washington is starting to become disturbing.

It is a basic fact of economics that stock prices should accurately reflect current and future earnings.

So if corporate earnings are at the same level they were at in 2011, why has the S&P 500 risen by 87 percent since then?  The following comes from Wolf Richter

The S&P 500 stock index edged up to an all-time high of 2,351 on Friday. Total market capitalization of the companies in the index exceeds $20 trillion. That’s 106% of US GDP, for just 500 companies! At the end of 2011, the S&P 500 index was at 1,257. Over the five-plus years since then, it has ballooned by 87%!

These are superlative numbers, and you’d expect superlative earnings performance from these companies. Turns out, reality is not that cooperative. Instead, net income of the S&P 500 companies is now back where it first had been at the end of 2011.

The cyclically adjusted price-to-earnings ratio was originally created by author Robert Shiller, and it is widely regarded as one of the best measures of the true value of stocks in existence.  According to the Guardian, there have only been two times in our entire history when this ratio has been higher.  One was just before the stock market crash of 1929, and the other was just before the bursting of the dotcom bubble…

Traditionally, one of the best yardsticks for whether shares are over-valued or under-valued has been the cyclically adjusted price earnings ratio constructed by the economist Robert Shiller. This ratio is currently at about 29 and has only twice been higher: in 1929 ahead of the Wall Street Crash, and in the last frantic months of the dotcom bubble of the late 1990s.

We can definitely wish for the current euphoria on Wall Street to last for as long as possible, but let there be absolutely no doubt that it is going to end at some point.

It would take a market decline of 40 or 50 percent to get the cyclically adjusted price-to-earnings ratio back to a level that makes economic sense.  Let us hope that the market does not make such a violent move very rapidly, because that would likely be absolutely crippling for our financial system.

Markets tend to go down a lot faster than they go up, and every other major stock market bubble in U.S. history has ended very badly.

And this bubble is definitely overdue to burst.  The bull market that led up to the great crash of 1929 lasted for 2002 days, and this week the current bull market will finally exceed that record.

Trying to pick a specific date for a market crash is typically a fruitless exercise, but market watchers are becoming very concerned about some of the signs that we are now seeing.  For example, the “CCT indicator” is currently showing “the lowest bullish energy ever”

The first factor is the CCT indicator. This indicator is a proprietary internal measurement of the general volume of the New York Stock Exchange. The measurements take into account the institutional participation as a ratio of the overall volume. Also measured is the duration of heavy block buying in rallies.

The sum total of all the measurements now shows the lowest bullish energy ever — even lower than in 2008, just before the market crash.

In other words, this current bull market appears to be completely and utterly exhausted.

The laws of economics cannot be defied forever.  Traditionally, commodity prices and stock prices have tended to move in unison.  And this makes perfect sense, because commodity prices tend to rise when economic conditions are good, and in such an environment stock prices are typically going to move up.

But now we are in a time when commodity prices and stock prices have become completely disconnected.  In order to bring this ratio back into line, the S&P 500 would need to fall by about 1000 points, and such a decline would cause a level of financial chaos that would be absolutely unprecedented.

This current stock market bubble has lasted much longer than many of the experts originally anticipated, but that just means that the eventual crash will likely be that much more devastating.

In the end, you don’t need to know all of the technical details in this article.

But what you do need to know is that current stock market valuations are not sustainable and that a great crash is coming.

It may not happen next week or next month, but it is going to happen.  And when it does happen, it is likely to make what happened in 2008 look like a Sunday picnic.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But are these stock prices justified by the fundamentals?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Stock Market Crash Of 2016: Stocks Have Already Crashed In 6 Of The World’s 8 Largest Economies

Network Earth Continents - Public DomainOver the past 12 months, stock market investors around the planet have lost trillions of dollars.  Since this time last June, stocks have crashed in 6 of the world’s 8 largest economies, and stocks in the other two are down as well.  The charts that you are about to see are absolutely stunning, and they are clear evidence that a new global financial crisis has already begun.  Of course it is true that we are still in the early chapters of this new crisis and that there is much, much more damage to be done, but let us not minimize the carnage that we have already witnessed.

In general, there have been three major waves of financial panic over the past 12 months.  Late last August we saw the biggest financial shaking since the financial crisis of 2008, then in January and February there was an even bigger shaking, and now a third “wave” has begun in June.  Not all areas around the globe have been affected equally by each wave, but without a doubt this new financial crisis is a global phenomenon.

The charts that I am about to show you come from Trading Economics.  It is an absolutely indispensable website that is packed full of useful data, and I encourage everyone to check it out.

Let’s talk about China first.  The Chinese economy is the second largest on the entire planet, and since this time last year Chinese stocks are down an astounding 40 percent

Chinese Stocks

As things have started to unravel in China, the Chinese have been selling off U.S. debt and U.S. stocks like crazy.  The following comes from Bloomberg

For the past year, Chinese selling of Treasuries has vexed investors and served as a gauge of the health of the world’s second-largest economy.

The People’s Bank of China, owner of the world’s biggest foreign-exchange reserves, burnt through 20 percent of its war chest since 2014, dumping about $250 billion of U.S. government debt and using the funds to support the yuan and stem capital outflows.

While China’s sales of Treasuries have slowed, its holdings of U.S. equities are now showing steep declines.

Unfortunately for China, their economy just continues to slow down, and George Soros is so alarmed by this and a potential “Brexit” that he has been selling off stocks and buying enormous amounts of gold in anticipation of an even bigger global downturn.

Japan has the third largest economy in the world, and over the past year Japanese stocks are down a total of 26 percent from the peak…

Japan Stocks

Personally, I have been extremely alarmed by what has been happening in Japan lately.  Japanese stocks were down almost 500 points last night, and overall the Nikkei is down a whopping 1,800 points so far in June.

Of course the Japanese economy as a whole is essentially a basket case at this point.  For a detailed analysis of this, please see my previous article entitled “Watch Japan – For All Is Not Well In The Land Of The Rising Sun“.

Germany has the fourth largest economy in the world, and over the past year their stocks have fallen 19 percent from the peak of the market…

German Stocks

The key thing to watch for in Germany are serious troubles at their biggest bank.  I wrote a long article about the slow-motion implosion of Deutsche Bank last month, and just this week Deutsche Bank stock hit an all-time low.

The fifth largest economy on the planet belongs to the United Kingdom, and since last June their stocks have fallen about 13 percent

British Stocks

One week from today, the “Brexit” vote will be held in the UK, and if they vote to leave the EU that could have very serious economic and financial implications for them and for the rest of Europe as well.  For an in-depth look at this, please see my previous article entitled “June 23, 2016: The Brexit Vote Could Change EVERYTHING And Plunge Europe Into Financial Chaos“.

France has the sixth largest economy in the world, and over the past year French stocks are down 20 percent from the peak of the market…

French Stocks

The French economy is really struggling these days, and we have not heard much about it in the U.S. media, but there have been tremendous riots in major cities in France in recent weeks.

The seventh largest economy on our planet belongs to India.  Even though India is facing some very serious economic problems, their stocks are doing okay for the moment.  Even though stocks in India are down over the past 12 months, we have not seen a major financial crisis over there just yet.

But there is definitely a major crisis in the eighth largest economy in the world.  Italian stocks are down a staggering 32 percent from the peak of the market.  That means approximately a third of all stock market wealth in Italy is already gone…

Italian Stocks

Earlier this year, I wrote about the horrifying collapse of the Italian banking system that has greatly accelerated since the start of 2016.  It looks like virtually all of their big banks will ultimately need to be bailed out, and this threatens to become a far bigger crisis than the crisis in Greece ever was.

And let us not leave off the ninth largest economy in the world.  Not too long ago, CNN ran an article entitled “Brazil: Economic collapse worse than feared“.  So not only are they admitting that the ninth largest economy on the globe is collapsing, they are also admitting that it is even worse than what the experts had anticipated.

So did I leave anyone off the list?

Ah yes, I haven’t even addressed what has been going on in the United States yet.

U.S. stocks did crash last August, but then they recovered.

Then they crashed again in January, but then they recovered again.

Now U.S. stocks have been taking another tumble here in June, but we are being assured that there is nothing to worry about.

Meanwhile, the underlying numbers for the U.S. economy just continue to get worse and worse and worse.  If you have any doubt about this, please see the article that I posted yesterday entitled “15 Facts About The Imploding U.S. Economy That The Mainstream Media Doesn’t Want You To See“.

Hopefully this article will clear a lot of things up.  In this piece, I have presented undeniable evidence that a new global financial crisis has begun over the past 12 months.  We have not seen global stock declines of this nature since the great financial crisis of 2008, but much worse is still to come.

I would love to be wrong about that last part.

It would be wonderful if the worst was now behind us and good times for the global financial system were ahead.

Unfortunately, every single indicator that I am watching is telling me just the opposite.

*About the author: Michael Snyder is the founder and publisher of The Economic Collapse Blog. Michael’s controversial new book about Bible prophecy entitled “The Rapture Verdict” is available in paperback and for the Kindle on Amazon.com.*

Undeniable Evidence That The Real Economy Is Already In Recession Mode

Evidence - Public DomainYou are about to see a chart that is undeniable evidence that we have already entered a major economic slowdown.  In the “real economy”, stuff is bought and sold and shipped around the country by trucks, railroads and planes.  When more stuff is being bought and sold and shipped around the country, the “real economy” is growing, and when less stuff is being bought and sold and shipped around the country, the “real economy” is shrinking.  I know that might sound really basic, but I want everyone to be on the same page as we proceed in this article.  Just because stock prices are artificially high right now does not mean that the U.S. economy is in good shape.  In fact, there was a stock rally at this exact time of the year in 2008 even though the underlying economic fundamentals were rapidly deteriorating.  We all remember what happened later that year, so we should not exactly be rejoicing that precisely the same pattern that we witnessed in 2008 is happening again right in front of our eyes.

During the month of April, the Cass Transportation Index was down 4.9 percent on a year over year basis.  What this means is that a lot less stuff was bought and sold and shipped around the country in April 2016 when compared to April 2015.  The following comes from Wolf Richter

Freight shipments by truck and rail in the US fell 4.9% in April from the beaten-down levels of April 2015, according to the Cass Transportation Index, released on Friday. It was the worst April since 2010, which followed the worst March since 2010. In fact, shipment volume over the four months this year was the worst since 2010.

This is no longer statistical “noise” that can easily be brushed off.

Of course this was not just a one month fluke.  The reality is that we have now seen the Cass Shipping Index decline on a year over year basis for 14 consecutive months.  Here is more commentary and a chart from Wolf Richter

The Cass Freight Index is not seasonally adjusted. Hence the strong seasonal patterns in the chart. Note the beaten-down first four months of 2016 (red line):

Cass Freight Index - Wolfstreet

This is undeniable evidence that the “real economy” has been slowing down for more than a year.  In 2007-2008 we saw a similar thing happen, but the Federal Reserve and most of the “experts” boldly assured us that there was not going to be a recession.

Of course then we immediately proceeded to plunge into the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression of the 1930s.

Traditionally, railroad activity has been a key indicator of where the U.S. economy is heading next.  Just a few days ago, I wrote about how U.S. rail traffic was down more than 11 percent from a year ago during the month of April, and I included a photo that showed 292 Union Pacific engines sitting in the middle of the Arizona desert doing absolutely nothing.

Well, just yesterday one of my readers sent me a photograph of a news article from North Dakota about how a similar thing is happening up there.  Hundreds of rail workers are being laid off, and engines are just sitting idle on the tracks because there is literally nothing for them to do…

North Dakota Railroad Engines Idle

Intuitively, does it seem like this should be happening in a “healthy” economy?

Of course not.

The reason why this is happening is because businesses have been selling less stuff.  Total business sales have now been declining for almost two years, and they are now close to 15 percent lower than they were in late 2014.

Because sales are way down, unsold inventories are really starting to pile up.  The inventory to sales ratio is now close to the level it was at during the worst moments of the last recession, and many analysts expect it to continue to keep going up.

Why can’t people understand what is happening?  So far this year, job cut announcements are up 24 percent and the number of commercial bankruptcies is shooting through the roof.  Signs that we are in the early chapters of a new economic downturn are all around us, and yet denial is everywhere.

For instance, just consider this excerpt from a CNBC article entitled “This key recession signal is broken“…

Treasury yields are behaving as if they are signaling a recession, but strategists say this time it’s more likely a sign of something else.

The market has been buzzing about the flattening yield curve, or the fact that yields on longer duration Treasurys are getting closer to yields on shorter duration securities.

In the case of 10-year notes and two-year notes, that spread was the flattest Friday than it has been on a closing basis since late 2007. The yield curve had turned negative in 2006 and stayed there for months in 2007 before turning higher ahead of the Great Recession. The spread was at 95 at Friday’s curve but widened Monday to more than 96.

Treasury yields are very, very clearly telling us that a new recession is here, but because the “experts” don’t want to believe it they are telling us that the signal is “broken”.

For many Americans, all that seems to matter is that the stock market has recovered from the horrible crashes last August and earlier this year.  But in the end, I am convinced that those crashes will simply be regarded as “foreshocks” of a much greater crash in our not too distant future.

But if you don’t want to believe me, perhaps you will listen to Goldman Sachs.  They just came out with six reasons why stocks are about to tumble.

Or perhaps you will believe Bank of America.  They just came out with nine reasons why a big stock market decline is on the horizon.

To me, one of the big developments has been the fact that stock buybacks are really starting to dry up.  In fact, announced stock buybacks have declined 38 percent so far this year

After snapping up trillions of dollars of their own stock in a five-year shopping binge that dwarfed every other buyer, U.S. companies from Apple Inc. to IBM Corp. just put on the brakes. Announced repurchases dropped 38 percent to $244 billion in the last four months, the biggest decline since 2009, data compiled by Birinyi Associates and Bloomberg show. “If the only meaningful source of demand in the market is companies buying their own shares back, then what happens if that goes away?” asked Brad McMillan, CIO of Commonwealth “We should be concerned.”

Stock buybacks have been one of the key factors keeping stock prices at artificially inflated levels even though underlying economic conditions have been deteriorating.  Now that stock buybacks are drying up, it is going to be difficult for stocks to stay disconnected from economic reality.

A lot of people have been asking me recently when the next crisis is going to arrive.

I always tell them that it is already here.

Just like in early 2008, economic conditions are rapidly deteriorating, but the stock market has not gotten the memo quite yet.

And just like in 2008, when the financial markets do finally start catching up with reality it will likely happen very quickly.

So don’t take your eyes off of the deteriorating economic fundamentals, because it is inevitable that the financial markets will follow eventually.

Corporations Are Defaulting On Their Debts Like It’s 2008 All Over Again

Corporate Debt Defaults - Public DomainThe Dow closed above 18,000 on Monday for the first time since July.  Isn’t that great news?  I truly wish that it was.  If the Dow actually reflected economic reality, I could stop writing about “economic collapse” and start blogging about cats or football.  Unfortunately, the stock market and the economy are moving in two completely different directions right now.  Even as stock prices soar, big corporations are defaulting on their debts at a level that we have not seen since the last financial crisis.  In fact, this wave of debt defaults have become so dramatic that even USA Today is reporting on it

Get ready to step over some landmines, investors. The number of companies defaulting on their debt is hitting levels not seen since the financial crisis, and it’s not just a problem for bondholders.

So far this year, 46 companies have defaulted on their debt, the highest level since 2009, according to S&P Ratings Services. Five companies defaulted this week, based on the latest data available from S&P Ratings Services. That includes New Jersey-based specialty chemical company Vertellus Specialties and Ohio-based iron ore producer Cliffs Natural. Of the world’s defaults this year, 37 are of companies based in the U.S.

Meanwhile, coal producer Peabody Energy (BTU) and surfwear seller Pacific Sunwear (PSUN) this week filed plans for bankruptcy protection. Shares of Peabody have dropped 97% over the past year to $2 a share and Pacific Sunwear stock is off 98% to 4 cents a share.

A lot of big companies in this country have fallen on hard times, and it looks like bankruptcy attorneys are going to be absolutely swamped with work for the foreseeable future.

So why are stock prices soaring right now?  After all, it doesn’t seem to make any sense whatsoever.

And it isn’t just a few bad apples that we are talking about.  All across the spectrum, corporate revenues and corporate earnings are down.  At this point, earnings for companies on the S&P 500 have plunged a total of 18.5 percent from their peak in late 2014, and it is being projected that corporate earnings overall will be down 8.5 percent for the first quarter of 2016 compared to one year ago.

As earnings decline, a lot of big companies are getting into trouble with debt, and we have already seen a very large number of corporate debt downgrades.  In recent interviews, I have been bringing up the fact that the average rating on U.S. corporate debt has now fallen to “BB”, which is already lower than it was at any point during the last financial crisis.

A lot of people don’t seem to believe me when I share that fact, but it is absolutely true.

One of the big reasons why corporate debt is being downgraded is because a lot of these big companies have been going into enormous amounts of debt in order to buy back their own stock.  The following comes from Wolf Richter

Downgrades ascribed to “shareholder compensation,” as Moody’s calls share buybacks and dividends, have been soaring, according to John Lonski, Chief Economist at Moody’s Capital Markets Research. The moving 12-month sum of Moody’s credit rating downgrades of US companies, jumped from 32 in March 2015, to 48 in December 2015, and to 61 in March 2016, nearly doubling within a year.

The last time the number of downgrades attributed to financial engineering reached 61 was in early 2007. It would hit its peak of 79 in mid- 2007, a few months before the beginning of the Great Recession in Q4 2007. At the time, stocks were on the verge of commencing their epic crash.

When corporations go into the market and buy back their own stock, they are slowly cannibalizing themselves.  But we have seen these stock buybacks soar to record levels for a couple of reasons.  Number one, big investors want to see stock prices go up, and so big investors tend to really like these stock buybacks and will generally support corporate executives that wish to engage in doing this.  Number two, if you are a greedy corporate executive that is heavily compensated by stock options, you very much want to see the stock price go up as well.

So the name of the game is greed, and stock buybacks have been fueling much of the rise in U.S. stock prices that we have been seeing recently.

However, the truth is that nothing in the financial world lasts forever, and this irrational bubble will ultimately come to an end as well.

Earlier today, I am across an article that included a comment from Michael Hartnett of Bank of America Merrill Lynch.  He believes that there are a lot of parallels between what is happening today and the period of time that immediately preceded the bursting of the dotcom bubble

Back then, as could be the case today, a bull market & a US-led economic recovery was rudely interrupted by a crisis in Emerging Markets. The crisis threatened to hurt Main Street via Wall Street (the Nasdaq fell 33% between Jul-Oct 1998, when [Long-Term Capital Management] went under). Policy makers panicked and monetary policy was eased (with hindsight unnecessarily). Fresh liquidity combined with apocalyptic investor sentiment very quickly morphed into a violent but narrow equity bull market/bubble in 1998/99, one which ultimately took valuations & interest rates sharply higher to levels that eventually caused a “pop”.

Like Hartnett, I definitely believe that a major “pop” is on the way, although I would like for it to be delayed for as long as possible.

Someday we will look back on these times with utter amazement.  It has been absolutely incredible how the financial markets have been able to defy economic reality for so long.

But they can’t do it forever, and according to a brand new CNN survey Americans are becoming increasingly pessimistic about where the real economy is heading…

In a new CNNMoney/E*Trade survey of Americans who have at least $10,000 in an online trading account, over half (52%) gave the U.S. economy as a “C” grade. Another 15% rated the economy a “D” or “F.”

This gloom persists despite the fact that the stock market is on the upswing again. The Dow topped 18,000 Monday for the first time since July 2015.

If some Americans think that the U.S. economy deserves a “D” or an “F” grade right now, just wait until they see what is in our immediate future.

Personally, I give our economy an “A” for being able to maintain our unsustainable debt-fueled standard of living for as long as it has.  Somehow we have managed to consume far more than we produce for decades, and the largest debt bubble in the history of the planet just keeps getting bigger and bigger and bigger.

Of course we are very much living on borrowed time at this point, but I truly hope that the bubble economy can keep going for at least a little while longer, because nobody should want to see what is coming afterwards.

*About the author: Michael Snyder is the founder and publisher of The Economic Collapse Blog. Michael’s controversial new book about Bible prophecy entitled “The Rapture Verdict” is available in paperback and for the Kindle on Amazon.com.*

Day Of Reckoning: The Collapse Of The Too Big To Fail Banks In Europe Is Here

Europe Lightning - Public DomainThere is so much chaos going on that I don’t even know where to start.  For a very long time I have been warning my readers that a major banking collapse was coming to Europe, and now it is finally unfolding.  Let’s start with Deutsche Bank.  The stock of the most important bank in the “strongest economy in Europe” plunged another 8 percent on Monday, and it is now hovering just above the all-time record low that was set during the last financial crisis.  Overall, the stock price is now down a staggering 36 percent since 2016 began, and Deutsche Bank credit default swaps are going parabolic.  Of course my readers were alerted to major problems at Deutsche Bank all the way back in September, and now the endgame is playing out.  In addition to Deutsche Bank, the list of other “too big to fail” banks in Europe that appear to be in very serious trouble includes Commerzbank, Credit Suisse, HSBC and BNP Paribas.  Just about every major bank in Italy could fall on that list as well, and Greek bank stocks lost close to a quarter of their value on Monday alone.  Financial Armageddon has come to Europe, and the entire planet is going to feel the pain.

The collapse of the banks in Europe is dragging down stock prices all over the continent.  At this point, more than one-fifth of all stock market wealth in Europe has already been wiped out since the middle of last year.  That means that we only have four-fifths left.  The following comes from USA Today

The MSCI Europe index is now down 20.5% from its highest point over the past 12 months, says S&P Global Market Intelligence, placing it in the 20% decline that unofficially defines a bear market.

Europe’s stock implosion makes the U.S.’ sell-off look like child’s play. The U.S.-centric Standard & Poor’s 500 Monday fell another 1.4% – but it’s only down 13% from its high. Some individual European markets are getting hit even harder. The Milan MIB 30, Madrid Ibex 35 and MSCI United Kingdom indexes are off 29%, 23% and 20% from their 52-week highs, respectively as investors fear the worse could be headed for the Old World.

These declines are being primarily driven by the banks.  According to MarketWatch, European banking stocks have fallen for six weeks in a row, and this is the longest streak that we have seen since the heart of the last financial crisis…

The region’s banking gauge, the Stoxx Europe 600 Banks Index FX7, -5.59% has logged six straight weeks of declines, its longest weekly losing stretch since 2008, when banks booked 10 weeks of losses, beginning in May, according to FactSet data.

The current environment for European banks is very, very bad. Over a full business cycle, I think it’s very questionable whether banks on average are able to cover their cost of equity. And as a result that makes it an unattractive investment for long-term investors,” warned Peter Garnry, head of equity strategy at Saxo Bank.

Overall, Europe’s banking stocks are down 23 percent year to date and 39 percent since the peak of the market in the middle of last year.

The financial crisis that began during the second half of 2015 is picking up speed over in Europe, and it isn’t just Deutsche Bank that could implode at any moment.  Credit Suisse is the most important bank in Switzerland, and they announced a fourth quarter loss of 5.8 billion dollars.  The stock price has fallen 34 percent year to date, and many are now raising questions about the continued viability of the bank.

Similar scenes are being repeated all over the continent.  On Monday we learned that Russia had just shut down two more major banks, and the collapse of Greek banks has pushed Greek stock prices to a 25 year low

Greek stocks tumbled on Monday to close nearly eight percent lower, with bank shares losing almost a quarter of their market value amid concerns over the future of government reforms.

The general index on the Athens stock exchange closed down 7.9 percent at 464.23 points — a 25-year-low — while banks suffered a 24.3-percent average drop.

This is what a financial crisis looks like.

Fortunately things are not this bad here in the U.S. quite yet, but we are on the exact same path that they are.

One of the big things that is fueling the banking crisis in Europe is the fact that the too big to fail banks over there have more than 100 billion dollars of exposure to energy sector loans.  This makes European banks even more sensitive to the price of oil than U.S. banks.  The following comes from CNBC

The four U.S. banks with the highest dollar amount of exposure to energy loans have a capital position 60 percent greater than European banks Deutsche Bank, UBS, Credit Suisse and HSBC, according to CLSA research using a measure called tangible common equity to tangible assets ratio. Or, as Mayo put it, “U.S. banks have more quality capital.”

Analysts at JPMorgan saw the energy loan crisis coming for Europe, and highlighted in early January where investors might get hit.

“[Standard Chartered] and [Deutsche Bank] would be the most sensitive banks to higher default rates in oil and gas,” the analysts wrote in their January report.

There is Deutsche Bank again.

It is funny how they keep coming up.

In the U.S., the collapse of the price of oil is pushing energy company after energy company into bankruptcy.  This has happened 42 times in North America since the beginning of last year so far, and rumors that Chesapeake Energy is heading that direction caused their stock price to plummet a staggering 33 percent on Monday

Energy stocks continue to tank, with Transocean (RIG) dropping 7% and Baker Hughes (BHI) down nearly 5%. But those losses pale in comparison with Chesapeake Energy (CHK), the energy giant that plummeted as much as 51% amid bankruptcy fears. Chesapeake denied it’s currently planning to file for bankruptcy, but its stock still closed down 33% on the day.

And let’s not forget about the ongoing bursting of the tech bubble that I wrote about yesterday.

On Monday the carnage continued, and this pushed the Nasdaq down to its lowest level in almost 18 months

Technology shares with lofty valuations, including those of midcap data analytics company Tableau Software Inc and Internet giant Facebook Inc, extended their losses on Monday following a gutting selloff in the previous session.

Shares of cloud services companies such as Splunk Inc and Salesforce.com Inc had also declined sharply on Friday. They fell again on Monday, dragging down the Nasdaq Composite index 2.4 percent to its lowest in nearly 1-1/2 years.

Those that read my articles regularly know that I have been warning this would happen.

All over the world we are witnessing a financial implosion.  As I write this article, the Japanese market has only been open less than an hour and it is already down 747 points.

The next great financial crisis is already here, and right now we are only in the early chapters.

Ultimately what we are facing is going to be far worse than the financial crisis of 2008/2009, and as a result of this great shaking the entire world is going to fundamentally change.

The Federal Reserve Just Made Another Huge Mistake

The Great Seal Of The United States - A Symbol Of Your Enslavement - Photo by IpankoninAs stocks continue to crash, you can blame the Federal Reserve, because the Fed is more responsible for creating the current financial bubble that we are living in than anyone else.  When the Federal Reserve pushed interest rates all the way to the floor and injected lots of hot money into the financial markets during their quantitative easing programs, this pushed stock prices to wildly artificial levels.  The only way that it would have been possible to keep stock prices at those wildly artificial levels would have been to keep interest rates ultra-low and to keep recklessly creating lots of new money.  But now the Federal Reserve has ended quantitative easing and has embarked on a program of very slowly raising interest rates.  This is going to have very severe consequences for the markets, but Janet Yellen doesn’t seem to care.

There is a reason why the financial world hangs on every single word that is issued by the Fed.  That is because the massively inflated stock prices that we see today were a creation of the Fed and are completely dependent on the Fed for their continued existence.

Right now, stock prices are still 30 to 40 percent above what the economic fundamentals say that they should be based on historical averages.  And if we are now plunging into a very deep recession as I contend, stock prices should probably fall by a total of more than 50 percent from where they are now.

The only way that stock prices could have ever gotten this disconnected from economic reality is with the help of the Federal Reserve.  And since the U.S. dollar is the primary reserve currency of the entire planet, the actions of the Fed over the past few years have created stock market bubbles all over the globe.

But the only way to keep the party going is to keep the hot money flowing.  Unfortunately for investors, Janet Yellen and her friends at the Fed have chosen to go the other direction.  Not only has quantitative easing ended, but the Fed has also decided to slowly raise interest rates.  The Fed left rates unchanged on Wednesday, but we were told that we are probably still on schedule for another rate hike in March.

So how did the markets respond to the Fed?

Well, after attempting to go green for much of the day, the Dow started plunging very rapidly and ended up down 222 points.

The markets understand the reality of what they are now facing.  They know that stock prices are artificially high and that if the Fed keeps tightening that it is inevitable that they will fall back to earth.

In a true free market system, stock prices would be far, far lower than they are right now.  Everyone knows this – including Jim Cramer.  Just check out what he told CNBC viewers earlier today…

Jim Cramer was tempted to resurface his “they know nothing” rant after hearing the Fed speak on Wednesday. He was hoping that a few boxes on his market bottom checklist might be checked off, but it seems that the bear market has not yet run its course.

The Fed’s wishy-washy statement on interest rates today left stocks sinking back into oblivion after a nice rally yesterday,” the “Mad Money” host said.

Without artificial help from the Fed, stocks will most definitely continue to sink into oblivion.

That is because these current stock prices are not based on anything real.

And so as this new financial crisis continues to unfold, the magnitude of the crash is going to be much worse than it otherwise would have been.

It has often been said that the higher you go the farther you have to fall.  Because the Federal Reserve has pumped up stock prices to ridiculously high levels, that just means that the pain on the way down is going to be that much worse.

It is also important to remember that stocks tend to fall much more rapidly than they rise.  And when we see a giant crash in the financial markets, that creates a tremendous amount of fear and panic.  The last time there was great fear and panic for an extended period of time was during the crisis of 2008 and 2009, and this created a tremendous credit crunch.

During a credit crunch, financial institutions because very hesitant to lend to one another or to anyone else.  And since our economy is extremely dependent on the flow of credit, economic activity slows down dramatically.

As this current financial crisis escalates, you are going to notice certain things begin to happen.  If you own a business or you work at a business, you may start to notice that fewer people are coming in, and those people that do come in are going have less money to spend.

As economic activity slows, employers will be forced to lay off workers, and many businesses will shut down completely.  And since 63 percent of all Americans are living paycheck to paycheck, many will suddenly find themselves unable to meet their monthly expenses.  Foreclosures will skyrocket, and large numbers of people will go from living a comfortable middle class lifestyle to being essentially out on the street very, very rapidly.

At this point, many experts believe that the economic outlook for the coming months is quite grim.  For example, just consider what Marc Faber is saying

It won’t come as a surprise to market watchers that “Dr. Doom” Marc Faber isn’t getting any more cheerful.

But the noted bear at least found a sense of humor on Wednesday into which he could channel his bleakness.

The publisher of the “Gloom, Boom & Doom Report” told attendees at the annual “Inside ETFs” conference that the medium-term economic outlook has become “so depressing” that he may as well fill a newly installed pool with beer instead of water.

If the Federal Reserve had left interest rates at more reasonable levels and had never done any quantitative easing, we would have been forced to address our fundamental economic problems more honestly and stock prices would be far, far lower today.

But now that the Fed has created this giant artificial financial bubble, the coming crash is going to be much worse than it otherwise would have been.  And the tremendous amount of panic that this crash will cause will paralyze much of the economy and will ultimately lead to a far deeper economic downturn than we witnessed last time around.

Once the Fed started wildly injecting money into the system, they had no other choice but to keep on doing it.

By removing the artificial support that they had been giving to the financial markets, they are making a huge mistake, and they are setting the stage for an economic tragedy that will affect the lives of every man, woman and child in America.

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