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22 Signs That The Global Economic Turmoil We Have Seen So Far In 2016 Is Just The Beginning

Skyline Globe Clock Gears - Public DomainAs bad as the month of January was for the global economy, the truth is that the rest of 2016 promises to be much worse.  Layoffs are increasing at a pace that we haven’t seen since the last recession, major retailers are shutting down hundreds of locations, corporate profit margins are plunging, global trade is slowing down dramatically, and several major European banks are in the process of completely imploding.  I am about to share some numbers with you that are truly eye-popping.  Each one by itself would be reason for concern, but when you put all of the pieces together it creates a picture that is hard to deny.  The global economy is in crisis, and this is going to have very serious implications for the financial markets moving forward.  U.S. stocks just had their worst January in seven years, and if I am right much worse is still yet to come this year.  The following are 22 signs that the global economic turmoil that we have seen so far in 2016 is just the beginning…

1. The number of job cuts in the United States skyrocketed 218 percent during the month of January according to Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

2. The Baltic Dry Index just hit yet another brand new all-time record low.  As I write this article, it is sitting at 303.

3. U.S. factory orders have now dropped for 14 months in a row.

4. In the U.S., the Restaurant Performance Index just fell to the lowest level that we have seen since 2008.

5. In January, orders for class 8 trucks (the big trucks that you see shipping stuff around the country on our highways) declined a whopping 48 percent from a year ago.

6. Rail traffic is also slowing down substantially.  In Colorado, there are hundreds of train engines that are just sitting on the tracks with nothing to do.

7. Corporate profit margins peaked during the third quarter of 2014 and have been declining steadily since then.  This usually happens when we are heading into a recession.

8. A series of extremely disappointing corporate quarterly reports is sending stock after stock plummeting.  Here is a summary from Zero Hedge of a few examples that we have just witnessed…

  • SHARES OF LIONS GATE ENTERTAINMENT FALL 5 PCT IN EXTENDED TRADE AFTER QUARTERLY RESULTS – RTRS
  • TABLEAU SOFTWARE SHARES TUMBLE 40 PCT IN AFTER HOURS TRADING – RTRS
  • YRC WORLDWIDE SHARES DOWN 16.4 PCT AFTER THE BALL FOLLOWING RESULTS – RTRS
  • SPLUNK INC SHARES DOWN 7.6 PCT IN AFTER HOURS TRADING – RTRS
  • LINKEDIN SHARES EXTEND DECLINE, DOWN 24 PCT AFTER RESULTS, GUIDANCE – RTRS
  • HANESBRANDS SHARES FURTHER ADD TO LOSSES IN EXTENDED TRADE, LAST DOWN 14.9 PCT – RTRS
  • OUTERWALL SHARES FALL 11 PCT IN EXTENDED TRADING AFTER QUARTERLY RESULTS – RTRS
  • GENWORTH SHARES DOWN 16.5 PCT AFTER THE BELL FOLLOWING RESULTS, RESTRUCTURING PLAN

9. Junk bonds continue to crash on Wall Street.  On Monday, JNK was down to 32.60 and HYG was down to 77.99.

10. On Thursday, a major British news source publicly named five large European banks that are considered to be in very serious danger…

Deutsche Bank, Credit Suisse, Santander, Barclays and RBS are among the stocks that are falling sharply sending shockwaves through the financial world, according to former hedge fund manager and ex Goldman Sachs employee Raoul Pal.

11. Deutsche Bank is the biggest bank in Germany and it has more exposure to derivatives than any other bank in the world.  Unfortunately, Deutsche Bank credit default swaps are now telling us that there is deep turmoil at the bank and that a complete implosion may be imminent.

12. Last week, we learned that Deutsche Bank had lost a staggering 6.8 billion euros in 2015.  If you will recall, I warned about massive problems at Deutsche Bank all the way back in September.  The most important bank in Germany is exceedingly troubled, and it could end up being for the EU what Lehman Brothers was for the United States.

13. Credit Suisse just announced that it will be eliminating 4,000 jobs.

14. Royal Dutch Shell has announced that it is going to be eliminating 10,000 jobs.

15. Caterpillar has announced that it will be closing 5 plants and getting rid of 670 workers.

16. Yahoo has announced that it is going to be getting rid of 15 percent of its total workforce.

17. Johnson & Johnson has announced that it is slashing its workforce by 3,000 jobs.

18. Sprint just laid off 8 percent of its workforce and GoPro is letting go 7 percent of its workers.

19. All over America, retail stores are shutting down at a staggering pace.  The following list comes from one of my previous articles

-Wal-Mart is closing 269 stores, including 154 inside the United States.

-K-Mart is closing down more than two dozen stores over the next several months.

-J.C. Penney will be permanently shutting down 47 more stores after closing a total of 40 stores in 2015.

-Macy’s has decided that it needs to shutter 36 stores and lay off approximately 2,500 employees.

-The Gap is in the process of closing 175 stores in North America.

-Aeropostale is in the process of closing 84 stores all across America.

-Finish Line has announced that 150 stores will be shutting down over the next few years.

-Sears has shut down about 600 stores over the past year or so, but sales at the stores that remain open continue to fall precipitously.

20. According to the New York Times, the Chinese economy is facing a mountain of bad loans that “could exceed $5 trillion“.

21. Japan has implemented a negative interest rate program in a desperate attempt to try to get banks to make more loans.

22. The global economy desperately needs the price of oil to go back up, but Morgan Stanley says that we will not see $80 oil again until 2018.

It is not difficult to see where the numbers are trending.

Last week, I told my wife that I thought that Marco Rubio was going to do better than expected in Iowa.

How did I come to that conclusion?

It was simply based on how his poll numbers were trending.

And when you look at where global economic numbers are trending, they tell us that 2016 is going to be a year that is going to get progressively worse as it goes along.

So many of the exact same things that we saw happen in 2008 are happening again right now, and you would have to be blind not to see it.

Hopefully I am wrong about what is coming in our immediate future, because millions upon millions of Americans are not prepared for what is ahead, and most of them are going to get absolutely blindsided by the coming crisis.

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.

2016 Market Meltdown: We Have Never Seen A Year Start Quite Like This…

Time Abstract - Public DomainWe are about three weeks into 2016, and we are witnessing things that we have never seen before.  There were two emergency market shutdowns in China within the first four trading days of this year, the Dow Jones Industrial Average has never lost this many points within the first three weeks, and just yesterday we learned that global stocks had officially entered bear market territory.  Overall, more than 15 trillion dollars of global stock market wealth has been wiped out since last June.  And of course the markets are simply playing catch up with global economic reality.  The Baltic Dry Index just hit another new all-time record low today, Wal-Mart has announced that they are shutting down 269 stores, and initial jobless claims in the U.S. just surged to their highest level in six months.  So if things are this bad already, what will the rest of 2016 bring?

The Dow was up just a little bit on Thursday thankfully, but even with that gain we are still in unprecedented territory.  According to CNBC, we have never seen a tougher start to the year for the Dow than we have in 2016…

The Dow Jones industrial average, which was created in 1896, has never begun a year with 12 worse trading days. Through Wednesday’s close, the Dow has fallen 9.5 percent. Even including the 1.3 percent gains as of noon Thursday, the Dow is still down nearly 8 percent in 2016.

But even with the carnage that we have seen so far, stocks are still wildly overpriced compared to historical averages.  In order for stocks to no longer be in a “bubble”, they will still need to decline by about another one-third.  The following comes from MarketWatch

Data from the U.S. Federal Reserve, meanwhile, say U.S. nonfinancial corporate stocks are now valued at about 90% of the replacement cost of company assets, a metric known as “Tobin’s Q.” But the historic average, going back a century, is in the region of 60% of replacement costs. By this measure, stocks could fall by another third, taking the Dow all the way down toward 10,000. (On Wednesday it closed at 15,767.) Similar calculations could be reached by comparing share prices to average per-share earnings, a measure known as the cyclically adjusted price-to-earnings ratio, commonly known as CAPE, after Yale finance professor Robert Shiller, who made it famous.

Of course the mainstream media doesn’t seem to understand any of this.  They seem to be under the impression that the bubble should have lasted forever, and this latest meltdown has taken them totally by surprise.

Ultimately, what is happening should not be a surprise to any of us.  The financial markets always catch up with economic reality eventually, and right now evidence continues to mount that economic activity is significantly slowing down.  Here is some analysis from Brandon Smith

Trucking freight in the U.S. is in steep decline, with freight companies pointing to a “glut in inventories” and a fall in demand as the culprit.

Morgan Stanley’s freight transportation update indicates a collapse in freight demand worse than that seen during 2009.

The Baltic Dry Index, a measure of global freight rates and thus a measure of global demand for shipping of raw materials, has collapsed to even more dismal historic lows. Hucksters in the mainstream continue to push the lie that the fall in the BDI is due to an “overabundance of new ships.” However, the CEO of A.P. Moeller-Maersk, the world’s largest shipping line, put that nonsense to rest when he admitted in November that “global growth is slowing down” and “[t]rade is currently significantly weaker than it normally would be under the growth forecasts we see.”

In addition, another very troubling sign is the fact that initial jobless claims are starting to surge once again

The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits in mid-January reached seven-month highs, perhaps a sign that the rate of layoffs in the U.S. has risen slightly from record lows.

Initial jobless claims climbed a seasonally adjusted 10,000 to 293,000 in the seven days stretching from Jan. 10 to Jan 16, the government said Thursday. That’s the highest level since last July.

Since the last recession, the primary engine for the creation of good jobs in this country has been the energy industry.

Unfortunately, the “oil boomtowns” are now going bust, and workers are being laid off in droves.  As I mentioned the other day42 North American oil companies have filed for bankruptcy and 130,000 good paying energy jobs have been lost in this country since the start of 2015.  And as long as the price of oil stays in this neighborhood, the worse things are going to get.

A lot of people out there still seem to think that this is just going to be a temporary downturn.  Many are convinced that we will just go through another tough recession and then we will come out okay on the other side.  What they don’t realize is that a number of long-term trends are now reaching a crescendo.

For decades, we have been living wildly beyond our means.  The federal government, state and local governments, corporations and consumers have all been going into debt far faster than our economy has been growing.  Of course this was never going to be sustainable in the long run, but we had been doing it for so long that many of us had come to believe that our exceedingly reckless debt-fueled prosperity was somehow “normal”.

Unfortunately, the truth is that you can’t consume far more than you produce forever.  Eventually reality catches up with you.  This is a point that Simon Black made extremely well in one of his recent articles…

Economics isn’t complicated. The Universal Law of Prosperity is very simple: produce more than you consume.

Governments, corporations, and individuals all have to abide by it. Those who do will thrive. Those who don’t will fail, sooner or later.

When the entire financial system ignores this fundamental rule, it puts us all at risk.

And if you can understand that, you can take simple, sensible steps to prevent the consequences.

Sadly, the time for avoiding the consequences of our actions is now past.

We are now starting to pay the price for decades of incredibly bone-headed decisions, and anyone that is looking to Barack Obama, the Federal Reserve or anyone else in Washington D.C. to be our savior is going to be bitterly disappointed.

And as bad as things have been so far, just wait until you see what happens next.

2016 is the year when everything changes.

Global Stocks Enter Bear Market: One-Fifth Of All Worldwide Stock Market Wealth Is Already Gone

Stock Market Bear Bull - Public DomainIt’s official – global stocks have entered a bear market.  On Wednesday, we learned that the MSCI All-Country World Index has fallen a total of more than 20 percent from the peak of the market.  So that means that roughly one-fifth of all the stock market wealth in the entire world has already been wiped out.  How much more is it going to take before everyone will finally admit that we have a major financial crisis on our hands?  30 percent?  40 percent?  This new round of chaos began last night in Asia.  Japanese stocks were down more than 600 points and Hong Kong was down more than 700 points.  The nightmare continued to roll on when Europe opened, and European stocks ended up down about 3.2 percent when the markets over there finally closed.  In the U.S., it looked like it was going to be a truly historic day for a while there.  At one point the Dow had fallen 566 points, but a curious rebound resulted in a loss of only 249 points for the day.

As bad as things are in the U.S. right now, the truth is that we still have a long way to go to catch up with the rest of the planet.  Around the world, many major stock indexes are already down more than 30 or 40 percent.  Overall, the MSCI All-Country World Index is now down 20 percent, which officially puts us in bear market territory

The MSCI All-Country World Index, which measures major developed and emerging markets, fell into a bear market Wednesday, with its decline from early last year now totaling more than 20 percent.

A plunge in U.S. stocks, which caused the Dow Jones industrial average to decline by more than 400 points at one point, pushed the global index into bear territory at midmorning during New York trading.

Japan fell into a bear market as well as the Nikkei 225 index dropped 3.7 percent Wednesday, bringing its total pullback to 22 percent from its high in June.

Much of this chaos is being driven by the price of oil.  On Wednesday the price of U.S. oil dropped below 28 dollars a barrel for a while, and as I write this article Brent crude is still below 28 dollars a barrel.

As energy prices continue to plummet, this is putting a tremendous amount of pressure on junk bonds.  On Wednesday JNK actually dipped beneath 32.00 for a time before rebounding at the end of the day.  I expect to see junk bonds continue to crash during the days ahead as investors feverishly race for the exits.

And of course global economic fundamentals continue to deteriorate as well.  Global trade is absolutely imploding and shipping rates have fallen to unprecedented levels.  If you can believe it, Bloomberg is reporting that it is now actually cheaper to rent a 1,100 foot merchant vessel than it is to rent a Ferrari…

Rates for Capesize-class ships plummeted 92 percent since August to $1,563 a day amid slowing growth in China. That’s less than a third of the daily rate of 3,950 pounds ($5,597) to rent a Ferrari F40, the price of which has also fallen slightly in the past few years, according to Nick Hardwick, founder of supercarexperiences.com. The Baltic Exchange’s rates reflect the cost of hiring the vessel but not fuel costs. Ships burn about 35 metric tons a day, implying a cost of about $4,000 at present prices, data compiled by Bloomberg show.

I could hardly believe that when I first read it.

But this is the kind of thing that we would expect to see happen when the greatest financial bubble in world history bursts.

The 200 trillion dollar global debt pyramid is now collapsing all around us, and the former chief economist of the Bank for International Settlements is warning that we could soon be facing “an avalanche of bankruptcies”

The global financial system has become dangerously unstable and faces an avalanche of bankruptcies that will test social and political stability, a leading monetary theorist has warned.

The situation is worse than it was in 2007. Our macroeconomic ammunition to fight downturns is essentially all used up,” said William White, the Swiss-based chairman of the OECD’s review committee and former chief economist of the Bank for International Settlements (BIS).

Of course it is a little late in the game to be warning us about this now.

At this point there is very little that can be done to stop the collapse that is already happening.

White went on to tell the Telegraph that things are going to become “uncomfortable for a lot of people who think they own assets that are worth something”…

It will become obvious in the next recession that many of these debts will never be serviced or repaid, and this will be uncomfortable for a lot of people who think they own assets that are worth something,” he told The Telegraph on the eve of the World Economic Forum in Davos.

For years, I have been warning that the global financial system is an incredibly shaky house of cards, and now we have finally reached the endgame.

But the mainstream media in the United States is telling everyone not to panic.  Instead of a time to sell, the mainstream media is urging people to jump in and take advantage of all of the “great deals” in the stock market right now.  I really like what Mike Adams of Natural News had to say about what we are seeing…

The pathetically stupid and dishonest financial media is desperately running stories right now to maintain false faith in the markets, even while their own people are behind the scenes selling like mad. As long as they can keep the public believing in the “faith” of never-ending cheap money, they can bail out their own positions to suckers and fools who think a tiny dip in a massively overvalued, fraudulent market is a “buying opportunity.”

Watch for desperate headlines from propaganda financial outlets (such as MarketWatch.com) like, “10 reasons you shouldn’t sell” or “The upside potential of the market is HUGE!” These are psychological operations to try to persuade people that the collapse they’re seeing in global markets isn’t actually happening.

The financial chaos that has erupted in recent weeks has really caught a lot of people by surprise, but my readers knew that it was coming well in advance.

For months, I have been warning about this exact kind of scenario.

The deflationary financial meltdown that started during the last six months of 2015 is now making headlines all over the planet, and what we have experienced so far is just the tip of the iceberg.

The bears have gotten out of their cages, and global investors are running for cover.  Nobody is exactly sure what is going to happen tomorrow, but without a doubt the entire world will be watching.

The Financial Apocalypse Accelerates As Middle East Stocks Crash To Begin The Week

Apocalyptic - Public DomainIt looks like it is going to be another chaotic week for global financial markets.  On Sunday, news that Iran plans to dramatically ramp up oil production sent stocks plunging all across the Middle East.  Stocks in Kuwait were down 3.1 percent, stocks in Saudi Arabia plummeted 5.4 percent, and stocks in Qatar experienced a mammoth 7 percent decline.  And of course all of this comes in the context of a much larger long-term decline for Middle Eastern stocks.  At this point, Saudi Arabian stocks are down more than 50 percent from their 2014 highs.  Needless to say, a lot of very wealthy people in Saudi Arabia are getting very nervous.  Could you imagine waking up someday and realizing that more than half of your fortune had been wiped out?  Things aren’t that bad in the U.S. quite yet, but it looks like another rough week could be ahead.  The Dow, the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq are all down at least 12 percent from their 52-week highs, and the Russell 2000 is already in bear market territory.  Hopefully this week will not be as bad as last week, but events are starting to move very rapidly now.

Much of the chaos around the globe is being driven by the price of oil.  At the end of last week the price of oil dipped below 30 dollars a barrel, and now Iran has announced plans “to add 1 million barrels to its daily crude production”

Iran could get more than five times as much cash from oil sales by year-end as the lifting of economic sanctions frees the OPEC member to boost crude exports and attract foreign investment needed to rebuild its energy industry.

The Persian Gulf nation will be able to access all of its revenue from crude sales after the U.S. and five other global powers removed sanctions on Saturday in return for Iran’s curbing its nuclear program. The fifth-biggest producer in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries had been receiving only $700 million of each month’s oil earnings under an interim agreement, with the rest blocked in foreign bank accounts. Iran is striving to add 1 million barrels to its daily crude production and exports this year amid a global supply glut that has pushed prices 22 percent lower this month.

It doesn’t take a genius to figure out what this is going to do to the price of oil.

The price of oil has already fallen more than 20 percent so far in 2016, and overall it has declined by more than 70 percent since late 2014.

When the price of oil first started to fall, a lot of people out there were proclaiming that it would be really good for the U.S. economy.  But I said just the opposite.  And of course since that time we have seen an endless parade of debt downgrades, bankruptcies and job losses.  130,000 good paying energy jobs were lost in the United States in 2015 alone because of this collapse, and things just continue to get even worse.  At this point, some are even calling for the federal government to intervene.  For example, the following is an excerpt from a CNN article that was just posted entitled “Is it time to bail out the U.S. oil industry?“…

America’s once-booming oil industry is suddenly in deep financial trouble.

The epic crash in oil prices has wiped out tens of thousands of jobs, caused dozens of bankruptcies and spooked global financial markets.

The fallout is already being felt in oil-rich states like Texas, Oklahoma and North Dakota, where home foreclosure rates are spiking and economic growth is slowing.

Now there are calls in at least some corners for the federal government to come to the rescue.

Is it just me, or is all of this really starting to sound a lot like 2008?

And of course it isn’t just the U.S. that is facing troubles.  The global financial crisis that began during the second half of 2015 is rapidly accelerating, and chaos is erupting all over the planet.  The following summary of what we have been seeing in recent days comes from Doug Noland

The world has changed significantly – perhaps profoundly – over recent weeks. The Shanghai Composite has dropped 17.4% over the past month (Shenzhen down 21%). Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index was down 8.2% over the past month, with Hang Seng Financials sinking 11.9%. WTI crude is down 26% since December 15th. Over this period, the GSCI Commodities Index sank 12.2%. The Mexican peso has declined almost 7% in a month, the Russian ruble 10% and the South African rand 12%. A Friday headline from the Financial Times: “Emerging market stocks retreat to lowest since 09.”

Trouble at the “Periphery” has definitely taken a troubling turn for the worse. Hope that things were on an uptrend has confronted the reality that things are rapidly getting much worse. This week saw the Shanghai Composite sink 9.0%. Major equities indexes were hit 8.0% in Russia and 5.0% in Brazil (Petrobras down 9%). Financial stocks and levered corporations have been under pressure round the globe. The Russian ruble sank 4.0% this week, increasing y-t-d losses versus the dollar to 7.1%. The Mexican peso declined another 1.8% this week. The Polish zloty slid 2.8% on an S&P downgrade (“Tumbles Most Since 2011”). The South African rand declined 3.0% (down 7.9% y-t-d). The yen added 0.2% this week, increasing 2016 gains to 3.0%. With the yen up almost 4% versus the dollar over the past month, so-called yen “carry trades” are turning increasingly problematic.

Closer to home, the crisis in Puerto Rico continues to spiral out of control.  The following is an excerpt from a letter that Treasury Secretary Jack Lew sent to Congress on Friday

Although there are many ways this crisis could escalate further, it is clear that Puerto Rico is already in the midst of an economic collapse

Puerto Rico is already in default. It is shifting funds from one creditor to pay another and has stopped payment altogether on several of its debts. As predicted, creditors are filing lawsuits. The Government Development Bank, which provides critical banking and fiscal services to the central government, only avoided depleting its liquidity by halting lending activity and sweeping in additional deposits from other Puerto Rico governmental entities. A large debt payment of $400 million is due on May 1, and a broader set of payments are due at the end of June.

It isn’t Michael Snyder from The Economic Collapse Blog that is saying that Puerto Rico is “in the midst of an economic collapse”.

That is the Secretary of the U.S. Treasury that is saying it.

Those that have been eagerly anticipating a financial apocalypse are going to get what they have been waiting for.

Right now we are about halfway through January, and this is the worst start to a year for stocks ever.  The Dow is down a total of 1,437 points since the beginning of 2016, and more than 15 trillion dollars of stock market wealth has been wiped out globally since last June.

Unfortunately, there are still a lot of people out there that are in denial.

There are a lot of people that still believe that this is just a temporary bump in the road and that things will return to “normal” very soon.

They don’t understand that this is just the beginning.  What we have seen so far is just the warm up act, and much, much worse is yet to come.

Welcome To The New Normal: The Dow Crashes Another 390 Points And Wal-Mart Closes 269 Stores

Welcome to the new normalDid you know that 15 trillion dollars of global stock market wealth has been wiped out since last June?  The worldwide financial crisis that began in the middle of last year is starting to spin wildly out of control.  On Friday, the Dow plunged another 390 points, and it is now down a total of 1,437 points since the beginning of this calendar year.  Never before in U.S. history have stocks ever started a year this badly.  The same thing can be said in Europe, where stocks have now officially entered bear market territory.  As I discussed yesterday, the economic slowdown and financial unraveling that we are witnessing are truly global in scope.  Banks are failing all over the continent, and I expect major European banks to start making some huge headlines not too long from now.  And of course let us not forget about China.  On Friday the Shanghai Composite declined another 3.6 percent, and overall it is now down more than 20 percent from its December high.  Much of this chaos has been driven by the continuing crash of the price of oil.  As I write this article, it has dipped below 30 dollars a barrel, and many of the big banks are projecting that it still has much farther to fall.

The other night, Barack Obama got up in front of the American people and proclaimed that anyone that was saying that the economy was not recovering was peddling fiction.  Well, if the U.S. economy is doing so great, then why in the world has Wal-Mart decided to shut down 269 stores?…

Walmart (WMT) will close 269 stores around the world in a strategic move to focus more on its supercenters and e-commerce business, the company said Friday.

The closures include 154 U.S. locations, encompassing Walmart’s entire fleet of 102 ‘Express’ format stores, its smallest stores that have been in pilot testing since 2011. Some supercenters, Sam’s Club locations and Neighborhood Markets will also close, plus 115 stores in Latin American markets. The closures were decided based on financial performance and how well the locations fit with Walmart’s broader strategy, says Greg Hitt, a company spokesman.

We have grown accustomed to other major retailers shutting down stores, but this is Wal-Mart.

Wal-Mart doesn’t retreat.  For decades, Wal-Mart has been on a relentless march forward.  They have been an unstoppable juggernaut that has expanded extremely aggressively and that has ruthlessly crushed the competition.

I was absolutely stunned when I saw that they were going to close down 269 stores.  If you want to know if your local store is in danger, you can view the full list right here.

Overall, 10,000 Wal-Mart employees will be affected.  I could understand closing down a few underperforming stores, but if the U.S. economy truly is in great shape then it wouldn’t make any sense at all to shut down hundreds of stores.

What in the name of Sam Walton is going on out there?

The truth, of course, is that the U.S. economy is in great danger.  We have now entered the next great crisis, but most communities around the country never even recovered from the last one.  In fact, the Wall Street Journal is reporting that a whopping 93 percent of all counties in the United States “have failed to fully recover” from the last recession…

More than six years after the economic expansion began, 93% of counties in the U.S. have failed to fully recover from the blow they suffered during the recession.

Nationwide, 214 counties, or 7% of 3,069, had recovered last year to prerecession levels on four indicators: total employment, the unemployment rate, size of the economy and home values, a study from the National Association of Counties released Tuesday found.

The next few weeks are going to be very interesting to watch.  The economic fundamentals continue to deteriorate, and the financial markets are finally starting to catch up with economic reality.

As the collapse on Wall Street accelerates, we are going to increasingly see panic selling and forced liquidations.  In the past, it was mostly humans that had their hands on the controls during market crashes, but today the machines are making more of the decisions than ever before.  The following comes from CNBC

The new market age is decidedly different: Rather than that seething cacophony, aggressive corrections like the current ones are directed by a faceless metronome of computer-generated orders, triggering irresistible momentum and trillions in losses.

Amid it all, market veterans are left to ponder when the script will flip and market direction will turn not by newfound optimism among traders in the pits, but rather by algorithms that generate “buy” rather than “sell” signals.

It feels like sell program after sell program,” said Michael Cohn, chief market strategist at Atlantis Asset Management, a boutique firm in New York. “It seems to happen first thing in the morning, and then however the market transpires during the day is how they close it. If it looks like it’s coming back, they’ll take it at the end. If if looks like it’s heading lower, they’ll slam it at the end of the day.”

Earlier today, an article authored by Michael Pento entitled “A recession worse than 2008 is coming” was posted on CNBC.  Here is a short excerpt…

But a recession has occurred in the U.S. about every five years, on average, since the end of WWII; and it has been seven years since the last one — we are overdue.

Most importantly, the average market drop during the peak to trough of the last 6 recessions has been 37 percent. That would take the S&P 500 down to 1,300; if this next recession were to be just of the average variety.

But this one will be worse.

If stocks do drop a total of 37 percent, that would just bring them back to levels that would be considered “normal” or “average” by historical standards.  There is certainly the possibility that they could fall much farther than that.

And of course the markets are so incredibly fragile at this point that any sort of a “trigger event” could cause a collapse of epic proportions.

All it is going to take is a major disaster or emergency of some sort.

Do you have a feeling that something really bad is about to happen?  This is something that I have been hearing from people that I respect, and I would like to know if it is a phenomenon that is more widespread.  If you have been feeling something like this, please feel free to share it with us by posting a comment below…

Lowest Ever: The Baltic Dry Index Plunges To 394 As Global Trade Grinds To A Standstill

Container Ship - Public DomainFor the first time ever, the Baltic Dry Index has fallen under 400.  As I write this article, it is sitting at 394.  To be honest, I never even imagined that it could go this low.  Back in early August, the Baltic Dry Index was sitting at 1,222, and since then it has been on a steady decline.  Of course the Baltic Dry Index crashed hard just before the great stock market crash of 2008 too, but at this point it is already lower than it was during that entire crisis.  This is just more evidence that global trade is grinding to a halt and that 2016 is going to be a “cataclysmic year” for the global economy.

If you are not familiar with the Baltic Dry Index, here is a helpful definition from Wikipedia

The Baltic Dry Index (BDI) is an economic indicator issued daily by the London-based Baltic Exchange. Not restricted to Baltic Sea countries, the index provides “an assessment of the price of moving the major raw materials by sea. Taking in 23 shipping routes measured on a timecharter basis, the index covers Handysize, Supramax, Panamax, and Capesize dry bulk carriers carrying a range of commodities including coal, iron ore and grain.”

The BDI is one of the key indicators that experts look at when they are trying to determine where the global economy is heading.  And right now, it is telling us that we are heading into a major worldwide economic downturn.

Some people try to dismiss the recent drop in the Baltic Dry Index by claiming that shipping rates are down because there is simply too much capacity out there these days.  And I don’t dispute that.  Without a doubt, too many vessels were built during the “boom years”, and now shipbuilders are paying the price.  For example, Chinese shipyards reported a 59 percent decline in orders during the first 11 months of 2015…

Total orders at Chinese shipyards tumbled 59 percent in the first 11 months of 2015, according to data released Dec. 15 by the China Association of the National Shipbuilding Industry. Builders have sought government support as excess vessel capacity drives down shipping rates and prompts customers to cancel contracts. Zhoushan Wuzhou Ship Repairing & Building Co. last month became the first state-owned shipbuilder to go bankrupt in a decade.

But that doesn’t explain everything.  The truth is that exports are way down all over the world.  China, the United States, South Korea and many other major exporting nations have all been reporting extremely dismal export numbers.  Global trade is contracting quite rapidly, and I don’t see how anyone could possibly dispute that.

The global economy is a mess, but many people are not paying any attention to the economic fundamentals because they are too busy looking at the stock market.

The stock market does not tell us how the economy is doing.  If the stock market is up today that does not mean that the economy is doing well, and if the stock market is down tomorrow that does not mean that it is doing poorly.

Yes, the health of the financial markets can greatly affect the overall economy.  We saw this back in 2008.  When there is a tremendous amount of panic, that can cause a credit crunch and make it very difficult for money to flow through our system.  The end result is a rapid slowdown of economic activity, and it is something that we will be experiencing again very soon.

But don’t let the day to day fluctuations of the stock market fool you.  Just because the Dow was up 227 points today does not mean that the crisis is over.  It is important to remember that stocks are not going to go down every single day.  On Thursday, the Dow didn’t even regain two-thirds of what it lost on Wednesday.  Even in bear markets there are up days, and some of the biggest up days in stock market history were right in the middle of the crash of 2008.

It is critical that we take a long-term view of things and not let our vision be clouded by every tick up and down in the financial markets.  Initial jobless claims just hit their highest level in about six months, and companies like Macy’s and GoPro are laying off thousands of workers.  Things are already bad, and they are rapidly getting worse.

And let us not forget the great amount of financial carnage that has already happened so far this year.  According to CNBC, approximately 3.2 trillion dollars of stock market wealth was wiped out globally during the first 13 days of 2016…

Almost $3.2 trillion has been wiped off the value of stocks around the world since the start of 2016, according to calculations by a top market analyst.

It has also been the worst-ever start to a year for U.S. equities, said Howard Silverblatt, senior index analyst at S&P Dow Jones Indices, as both the S&P 500 and the blue-chip Dow Jones industrial average have posted their steepest losses for the first eight days trading of a year.

Over the past six months, there have now been two 10 percent “corrections” for U.S. stocks.  The only other times we have seen multiple corrections like this were in 1929, 2000 and 2008.  If those years seem familiar to you, that is because they should.  In all three years, we witnessed historic stock market crashes.

The stunning collapse of the Baltic Dry Index is just more evidence that we have entered a global deflationary crisis.  Goods aren’t moving, unemployment is rising all over the planet, and commodity prices have fallen to levels that we have not seen in over a decade.

Around the globe, there have been dramatic stock market crashes to begin the year, and we should expect to see much more market turmoil during the weeks and months to come.

If the markets have calmed down a bit for the moment, we should be very thankful for that, because we could all use some additional time to prepare for what is coming.

The debt-fueled standard of living that so many of us are enjoying today is just an illusion.  And many of us won’t even understand what we have been taking for granted until it is taken away from us.

A great shaking is coming to the global economy, and the pain is going to be unimaginable.  So let us enjoy every single day of relative “normalcy” while we still can, because there aren’t too many of them left.

The Financial Crisis Of 2016 Rolls On – China, Oil, Copper And Junk Bonds All Continue To Crash

Buy Sell - Public DomainNever before have we seen a year start like this.  On Monday, Chinese stocks crashed once again.  The Shanghai Composite Index plummeted another 5.29 percent, and this comes on the heels of two historic single day crashes last week.  All of this chaos over in China is one of the factors that continues to push commodity prices even lower.  Today the price of copper fell another 2.40 percent to $1.97, and the price of oil continued to implode.  At one point the price of U.S. oil plunged all the way down to $30.99 a barrel before rebounding just a little bit.  As I write this article, oil is down a total of 6.12 percent for the day and is currently sitting at $31.13.  U.S. stocks were mixed on Monday, but it is important to note that the Russell 2000 did officially enter bear market territory.  This is yet another confirmation of what I was talking about yesterday.  And junk bonds continue to plummet.  As I write this, JNK is down to 33.42.  All of these numbers are huge red flags that are screaming that big trouble is ahead.  Unfortunately, the mainstream media continues to insist that there is absolutely nothing to be concerned about.

A little over a year ago, I wrote an article that explained that anyone that believed that low oil prices were good for the economy was “crazy“.  At the time, many people really didn’t understand what I was trying to communicate, but now it is becoming exceedingly clear.  On Monday, one veteran oil and gas analyst told CNBC that “half of U.S. shale oil producers could go bankrupt” over the next couple of years…

Half of U.S. shale oil producers could go bankrupt before the crude market reaches equilibrium, Fadel Gheit, said Monday.

The senior oil and gas analyst at Oppenheimer & Co. said the “new normal oil price” could be 50 to 100 percent above current levels. He ultimately sees crude prices stabilizing near $60, but it could be more than two years before that happens.

By then it will be too late for many marginal U.S. drillers, who must drill into and break up shale rock to release oil and gas through a process called hydraulic fracturing. Fracking is significantly more expensive than extracting oil from conventional wells.

Since the last recession, the energy industry has been the number one producer of good paying jobs in this country.

Now that those firms are starting to drop like flies, what is that going to mean for employment in America?

Just today, a huge coal company filed for bankruptcy, and so did a U.S. unit of commodity trading giant Glencore.  The following comes from Zero Hedge

While the biggest bankruptcy story of the day is this morning’s chapter 11 filing by Arch Coal, one which would trim $4.5 billion in debt from its balance sheet while handing over the bulk of the post-reorg company to its first-lien holders as part of the proposed debt-for-equity exchange, the reality is that the Arch default was widely anticipated by the market.

However, another far less noted and perhaps far more significant bankruptcy filing was that of Sherwin Alumina Co., a U.S. unit of commodity trading giant Glencore PLC, whose troubles have been extensively detailed on these pages. The stated reason for this far more troubling chapter 11 was “challenging market conditions” which is one way to describe an industry in which just one remaining U.S. smelter will be left in operation after Alcoa shut down its Warrick Country smelting ops last week.

A spokesman for Glencore, which owns the entire business, said the commodities producer and trader is “supportive of the restructuring process undertaken by Sherwin and is hopeful of an outcome that will allow for the continued operation of the Sherwin facility.”

We desperately need prices for oil and other commodities to rebound significantly.  Unfortunately, that does appear to be likely to happen any time soon.  In fact, according to CNN we could soon see the price of oil fall quite a bit more…

The strengthening U.S. dollar could send oil plunging to $20 per barrel.

That’s the view of analysts at Morgan Stanley. In a report published Monday, they say a 5% increase in the value of the dollar against a basket of currencies could push oil down by between 10% and 25% — which would mean prices falling by as much as $8 per barrel.

If prices for oil and other commodities keep falling, what is going to happen?

Well, Gina Martin Adams of Wells Fargo Securities says that what is happening right now reminds her of the correction of 1998

Recent market volatility has dredged up memories of previous times of turmoil, most notably the 2008 crisis. But Gina Martin Adams of Wells Fargo Securities has been reminded of another, less dramatic correction year — 1998.

Adams posits that the current economic environment is suffering from themes that also played out in 1998, including falling oil prices, a rising U.S. dollar and troubles in emerging markets. Consequently, stocks may see a similar move to the 1998 correction, which saw a 20 percent drop for stocks over six weeks.

To me, it is much more serious than that.  Just before U.S. stocks crashed horribly in 2008, we saw Chinese stocks crash, the price of oil crashed, commodity prices crashed, and junk bonds crashed really hard.

All of those things are happening again, and yet most of the “experts” continue to refuse to see the warning signs.

In fact, the mainstream media is full of articles that are telling people not to panic while the financial markets crumble all around them…

There’s no need to make big moves in response to the recent volatility. “Regular folks should take on a long-term view and avoid trying to anticipate short-term market movements,” says Stephen Horan, the managing director of credentialing at CFA Institute. “There is almost no evidence to suggest that professionals can do it effectively and a plethora of evidence suggesting individuals do it poorly.”

They want “regular folks” to keep holding on to their investments as the “smart money” dumps their stocks at a staggering pace.

A little more than six months ago, I predicted that “our problems will only be just beginning as we enter 2016″, and that is turning out to be dead on correct.

The financial crisis that began during the second half of last year is greatly accelerating, and yet most of the population continues to be in denial even though the average stock price has already fallen by more than 20 percent.

Hopefully it will not take another 20 percent decline before people begin to wake up.

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