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If The Economy Is Fine, Why Are So Many Hedge Funds, Energy Companies And Large Retailers Imploding?

Demolition - Public DomainIf the U.S. economy really is in “great shape”, then why do all of the numbers keep telling us that we are in a recession?  The manufacturing numbers say that we are in a recession, the trade numbers say that we are in a recession, and as you will see below the retail numbers say that we are in a recession.  But just like in 2008, the Federal Reserve and our top politicians will continue to deny that a major economic downturn is happening for as long as they possibly can.  In this article, I want to look at more signs that a dramatic shift is happening in our economy right now.

First of all, let’s consider what is happening to hedge funds.  For many years, hedge funds had been doing extremely well, but now they are closing up shop at a pace that we haven’t seen since the last financial crisis.  The following is an excerpt from a Business Insider article entitled “Hedge funds keep on imploding” that was posted on Wednesday…

BlackRock is winding down its Global Ascent Fund, a global macro hedge fund that once contained $4.6 billion in assets, according to Bloomberg’s Sabrina Willmer.

“We believe that redeeming the Global Ascent Fund was the right thing to do for our clients, given the headwinds that macro funds have faced,” a BlackRock spokeswoman told Business Insider.

The winding down of the Ascent fund is the second high-profile hedge fund closing in 24 hours. The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday that Achievement Asset Management, a Chicago-based hedge fund, was closing.

And those are just two examples.  Quite a few other prominent hedge funds have shut down recently, and many are wondering if this is just the beginning of a major “bloodbath” on Wall Street.

Another troubling sign is the implosion of so many energy companies.  Just like in 2008, a major crash in the price of oil is hitting the energy sector really hard.  Just check out these stock price declines…

-Cabot Oil & Gas down 37.27 percent over the past 12 months

-Southwestern Energy down 68.11 percent over the past 12 months

-Chesapeake Energy down 73.98 percent over the past 12 months

A number of smaller energy companies have already gone out of business, and several of the big players are teetering on the brink.  If the price of oil does not rebound significantly very soon, it is just a matter of time before the dominoes begin to fall.

We are also seeing tremendous turmoil in the retail industry.  The following comes from Investment Research Dynamics

The retail sales report for October was much worse than expected.  Not only that, but the Government’s original estimates for retail sales in August and September were revised lower.  A colleague of mine said he was chatting with his brother, who is a tax advisor, this past weekend who said he doesn’t understand how the Government can say the economy is growing (Hillary Clinton recently gave the economy an “A”) because his clients are lowering their estimated tax payments.  Businesses lower their estimated tax payments when their business activity slows down.

The holiday season is always the best time of the year for retailers, but in 2015 there is a lot of talk of gloom and doom.  Most large retailers will not start announcing mass store closings until January or February, but without a doubt many analysts are anticipating that once we get past the Christmas shopping season we will see stores shut down at a pace that we haven’t seen since at least 2009.  Here is more from the article that I just quoted above

Retail sales this holiday season are setting up to be a disaster.  Already most retailers are advertising “pre-Black Friday” sales events.  Remember when holiday shopping didn’t begin, period, until the day after Thanksgiving?  Now retailers are going to cannibalize each other with massive discounting before Thanksgiving.  Anybody notice over the weekend that BMW is now offering $6500 price rebates?   The collapsing economy is affecting everyone, across all income demographics.

Last week we saw the stocks of Macy’s, Nordstrom and Advance Auto Parts do cliff-dives after they announced their earnings.  I mentioned to a colleague that the Nordstrom’s report should be the most troubling for analysts.  Nordstrom in their investor conference call said that they began seeing an “unexplainable slowdown in sales in August in transactions across all formats, across all catagories and across all geographies that has yet to recover.”  

I think that a chart would be helpful to give you an idea of how bad things have already gotten.  Jim Quinn shared this in an article that he just posted, and it shows the change in retail sales once you remove the numbers for the auto industry.  As you can see, the numbers have never been this dreadful outside of a recession…

Retail Sales Ex-Autos

But stocks went up 247 points on Wednesday so everything must be great, right?


The stock market has never been a good barometer for the overall economy, and this is especially true these days.

In 2008, stocks didn’t crash until well after the U.S. economy as a whole started crashing, and the same thing is apparently happening this time around as well.

One of the things that is keeping stocks afloat for the moment is stock buybacks.  In recent years, big corporations have spent hundreds of billions of dollars buying back their own stocks.  The following comes from Wolf Richter

IBM has blown $125 billion on buybacks since 2005, more than the $111 billion it invested in capital expenditures and R&D. It’s staggering under its debt, while revenues have been declining for 14 quarters in a row. It cut its workforce by 55,000 people since 2012. And its stock is down 38% since March 2013.

Big-pharma icon Pfizer plowed $139 billion into buybacks and dividends in the past decade, compared to $82 billion in R&D and $18 billion in capital spending. 3M spent $48 billion on buybacks and dividends, and $30 billion on R&D and capital expenditures. They’re all doing it.

Later in that same article, Richter explains that almost 60 percent of all publicly traded non-financial corporations have engaged in stock buybacks over the past five years…

Nearly 60% of the 3,297 publicly traded non-financial US companies Reuters analyzed have engaged in share buybacks since 2010. Last year, the money spent on buybacks and dividends exceeded net income for the first time in a non-recession period.

Big corporations like to do this for a couple of reasons.  Number one, it pushes the price of the stock higher, and current investors appreciate that.  Number two, corporate executives are usually in favor of conducting stock buybacks because it increases the value of their stock options and their own stock holdings.

But now corporate profits are falling and it is becoming tougher for big corporations to borrow money.  So look for stock buybacks to start to decline significantly.

Even though it is taking a bit longer than many would have anticipated, the truth is that we are right on track for a massive financial collapse.

All of the indicators that I watch are flashing red, and even though things are moving slowly, they are definitely moving in the same direction that we saw in 2008.

But just like in 2008, there will be people that mock the warnings up until the day when it becomes completely and utterly apparent that the mockers were dead wrong.


Wal-Mart’s Worst Stock Crash In 27 Years Is Another Sign That The Economy Is Rapidly Falling Apart

Wal-Mart - Photo by MikeMozartJeepersMediaNow that a major global recession has begun, you would expect major retailers like Wal-Mart to run into trouble as consumer spending dries up, and that is precisely what is happening.  On Wednesday, shares of Wal-Mart experienced their largest single day decline in 27 years after an extremely disappointing earnings projection was released.  The stock was down about 10 percent, which represented the biggest plunge since January 1988.  Over 21 billion dollars in shareholder wealth was wiped out on Wednesday, and this was just the continuation of a very bad year for Wal-Mart stockholders.  Overall, shares had already declined by 22 percent so far in 2015 before we even got to Wednesday.  Here is more on this stunning turn of events from Bloomberg

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. suffered its worst stock decline in more than 27 years after predicting a drop in annual profit, underscoring the giant retailer’s struggles to reignite growth.

Earnings will decrease 6 percent to 12 percent in fiscal 2017, which ends in January of that year, the Bentonville, Arkansas-based company said at its investor day on Wednesday. Analysts had estimated a gain of 4 percent on average, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

If it was just Wal-Mart that was having trouble, that would be bad enough.  But the truth is that signs that the U.S. economy has entered another major downturn are popping up all around us.  Just consider the following list of economic indicators that Graham Summers recently put out

The Fed has now kept interest rates at zero for 81 months.

This is the longest period in the history of the Fed’s existence, lasting longer than even the 1938-1942 period of ZIRP.

And the US economy is moving back into recession. Consider that…

1)   Industrial production fell five months straight in the first half of 2015. This has never happened outside of a recession.

2)   Merchant Wholesalers’ Sales are in recession territory.

3)   The Empire Manufacturing Survey is in recession territory.

4)   All four of the Fed’s September Purchasing Manager Index (PMI) readings (Philadelphia, New York, Richmond, and Kansas City) came in at readings of sub-zero. This usually happens when you are already 4-5 months into a recession. (H/T Bill Hester)

Another huge red flag is the fact that month after month fewer products are being shipped around the country compared to last year.

If less stuff is being shipped around by truck, rail and air, is it a sign that the economy is getting better or is it a sign that the economy is getting worse?

The answer, of course, is self-evident.  With that in mind, please read the following excerpt which comes from a recent article by Wolf Richter

It has been crummy all year: With the exception of January and February, the shipping volume has been lower year-over-year every month!

The index is broad. It tracks data from shippers, no matter what carrier they choose, whether truck, rail, or air, and includes carriers like FedEx and UPS.

Evidence keeps piling up in the most unpleasant manner that something isn’t quite right in the real economy. The world is now in an inexplicable slowdown – “inexplicable” for central bankers who’ve cut interest rates to zero or below zero years ago, and who’re still dousing some economies with QE even as governments are running up big deficits. And yet, despite seven years of this huge monetary and fiscal stimulus, the global economy is deteriorating.

Okay, so is there anyone out there that still believes that the U.S. economy is in good shape?

The Obama administration will probably not admit it for a very long time, but the truth is that the numbers very clearly tell us that we are in a recession.

Anybody out there, whether an “expert” or just someone you happen to know, that tells you that everything is just fine is either completely ignorant or they are purposely lying to you.

And just like in 2008, state and local governments are starting to get into tremendous financial trouble as the real economy sputters.  For example, the governor of Illinois has told reporters that “we are out of money now” and that pension fund payments will be delayed as a result…

Illinois will delay payments to its pension fund as a prolonged budget impasse causes a cash shortage, Comptroller Leslie Geissler Munger said.

The spending standoff between Republican Governor Bruce Rauner and Democratic legislative leaders has extended into its fourth month with no signs of ending. Munger said her office will postpone a $560 million retirement-fund payment next month, and may make the December contribution late.

“This decision is choosing the least of a number of bad options,” Munger told reporters in Chicago on Wednesday. “For all intents and purposes, we are out of money now.”

When these sorts of things started happening in 2008, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke and the Bush administration went into full-blown denial mode.  They kept telling all of us not to worry and that everything would be okay, and that just made things worse in the end.

The same thing is happening now.  The Obama administration and the mainstream media keep talking about an “economic recovery” even in the face of numbers such as I have discussed in this article.

Perhaps things are going well for you personally at the moment, and that is great.  But now is not the time to buy lots of new toys.   Nor is it the time to accumulate more debt.

Instead, now is a time to position yourself for a period of difficulty that could stretch on for years.

The next recession is here, and it is going to grow progressively worse.

The wise will take heed and make preparations, but the foolish will just keep on doing what they have been doing until it is far too late.

Right Now There Are 102.6 Million Working Age Americans That Do Not Have A Job

Unemployed Man - Public DomainThe federal government uses very carefully manipulated numbers to cover up the crushing economic depression that is going on in this nation.  For the month of September, the federal government told us that 142,000 jobs were added to the economy.  If that was actually true, that would barely be enough to keep up with population growth.  Sadly, the truth is that the real numbers were actually far worse than that.  The unadjusted numbers show that the U.S. economy actually lost 248,000 jobs in September and the government added more than a million Americans to the “not in the labor force” category.  When I first saw that number I truly believed that it was inaccurate.  But you can find the raw figures right here.  According to the Obama administration, there are currently 7.9 million Americans that are “officially unemployed” and another 94.7 million working age Americans that are “not in the labor force”.  That gives us a grand total of 102.6 million working age Americans that do not have a job right now.

That is not an economic recovery – that is an economic depression of an almost unbelievable magnitude.

This is something that my friend Mac Slavo pointed out the other day.  I encourage you to read his analysis right here.  If we measured unemployment the way that we did decades ago, we would all be talking about how similar Obama’s economy is to the Great Depression of the 1930s.

But instead we let the feds get away with feeding us this completely fraudulent “5.1 percent” unemployment number and most of us believe the mainstream media when they tell us that everything is just fine.

Well no, everything is not just fine.  At this point, the labor force participation rate is the lowest that it has been since 1977.  And the labor force participation rate for men is at the lowest level ever recorded.  The only way that the federal government has been able to get the official unemployment rate to go down so much is by pretending that hundreds of thousands of Americans that have been unemployed for a very long time “leave the labor force” each month.

The chart posted below shows how our labor force participation rate has deteriorated since the year 2000.  And in particular, the decline since Obama first entered the White House has been very striking.  Does this look like a “healthy economy” to you?…

Labor Force Participation Rate October 2015

To me, the civilian employment-population ratio is a far more accurate measurement of the employment picture in America than the official unemployment rate is.  Just prior to the last recession, approximately 63 percent of all working age Americans had a job.  During that recession, that figure slipped below 59 percent and it stayed there for several years.  Just recently it slipped back above 59 percent, but as you can see we are now falling once again…

Employment Population Ratio October 2015

The reason this number is falling is because lots of Americans have been losing jobs lately.

In fact, we are seeing layoffs at major firms at a level that we have not witnessed since 2009

The jobs report today has been described as “ugly,” though it certainly didn’t, or shouldn’t have, come out of the blue: Layoffs in the energy, Big Tech, retail, and other sectors have recently mucked up our rosy scenario.

“The third quarter ended with a surge in job cuts,” is how Challenger Gray, which tracks these things, started out its report yesterday. In September, large US-based companies had announced 58,877 layoffs. In the third quarter, they announced 205,759 layoffs, the worst quarter since the 240,233 in the third quarter of 2009!

Year-to-date, we’re at nearly half a million job cut announcements (493,431 to be precise), up 36% from the same period last year.

Some of the companies that have recently announced layoffs include Wal-Mart, RadioShack, Delta, Sprint, ConAgra, Caterpillar, Bank of America, Halliburton, Qualcomm, Microsoft and Hewlett-Packard.

If you need to find a job or you plan to switch jobs in the near future, time is of the essence.  Jobs are going to become much, much harder to find in the months ahead, and so every single day of job searching is absolutely critical at this point.

Right now, there are more than 100 million Americans that get some sort of assistance from the federal government every month.  Government dependence is at a level that we have never seen before in U.S. history, and it is going to get a lot worse.

If we get to a point where the government is either unwilling or unable to take care of all of these people, we are going to have a massive societal problem on our hands.  More than a third of the people living in our nation cannot independently take care of themselves, and more Americans are falling out of the middle class every single day.  When the welfare state starts breaking down, the chaos that will ensue will be far worse than most people would dare to imagine.

So what do you think?

Are job losses and layoffs starting to happen in your area?

Please feel free to add to the discussion by posting a comment below…

Obama’s Climate Fascism Is Another Nail In The Coffin For The U.S. Economy

American Flag Painting - Public DomainIs Barack Obama trying to kill the economy on purpose?  On Sunday, we learned that Obama is imposing a nationwide 32 percent carbon dioxide emission reduction from 2005 levels by the year 2030.  When it was first proposed last year, Obama’s plan called for a 30 percent reduction, but the final version is even more dramatic.  The Obama administration admits that this is going to cost the U.S. economy billions of dollars a year and that electricity rates for many Americans are going to rise substantially.  And what Obama is not telling us is that this plan is going to kill what is left of our coal industry and will destroy countless numbers of American jobs.  The Republicans in Congress hate this plan, state governments across the country hate this plan, and thousands of business owners hate this plan.  But since Barack Obama has decided that this is a good idea, he is imposing it on all of us anyway.

So how can Obama get away with doing this without congressional approval?

Well, he is using the “regulatory power” of the Environmental Protection Agency.  Congress is increasingly becoming irrelevant as federal agencies issue thousands of new rules and regulations each and every year.  The IRS, for example, issues countless numbers of new rules and regulations each year without every consulting Congress.  Government bureaucracy has spun wildly out of control, and most Americans don’t even realize what is happening.

In the last 15 days of 2014 alone, 1,200 new government regulations were published.  We are literally being strangled with red tape, and it has gotten worse year after year no matter which political party has been in power.

These new greenhouse gas regulations are terrible.  The following is a summary of what Obama is now imposing on the entire country

Last year, the Obama administration proposed the first greenhouse gas limits on existing power plants in U.S. history, triggering a yearlong review and 4 million public comments to the Environmental Protection Agency. In a video posted to Facebook, Obama said he would announce the final rule at a White House event on Monday, calling it the biggest step the U.S. has ever taken on climate change.

The final version imposes stricter carbon dioxide limits on states than was previously expected: a 32 percent cut by 2030, compared to 2005 levels, senior administration officials said. Obama’s proposed version last year called only for a 30 percent cut.

In America today, the burning of coal produces approximately 40 percent of the electrical power used by Americans each year.

So what is this going to do to our electricity bills?

You guessed it – at this point even the Obama administration is admitting that they are going to go up.  The following comes from Fox News

The Obama administration previously predicted emissions limits will cost up to $8.8 billion annually by 2030, though it says those costs will be far outweighed by health savings from fewer asthma attacks and other benefits. The actual price is unknown until states decide how they’ll reach their targets, but the administration has projected the rule would raise electricity prices about 4.9 percent by 2020 and prompt coal-fired power plants to close.

In the works for years, the power plant rule forms the cornerstone of Obama’s plan to curb U.S. emissions and keep global temperatures from climbing, and its success is pivotal to the legacy Obama hopes to leave on climate change. Never before has the U.S. sought to restrict carbon dioxide from existing power plants.

And we must keep in mind that government projections are always way too optimistic.  The real numbers would almost surely turn out to be far, far worse than this.

In addition, these new regulations are going to complete Barack Obama’s goal of destroying our coal industry.  In a previous article, I included an excerpt from a recent news article about how some of the largest coal producers in America have just announced that they are declaring bankruptcy

On Thursday, Bloomberg reported that the biggest American producer of coking coal, Alpha Natural Resources, could file for bankruptcy as soon as Monday.

Competitor Walter Energy filed for bankruptcy earlier this month, and several others have done the same this year.

Barack Obama has actually done something that he promised to do.

He promised to kill the coal industry, and he is well on the way to accomplishing that goal.

Of course Hillary Clinton thinks that this is a splendid idea.  She called Obama’s plan “the floor, not the ceiling”, and she is pledging to do even more to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  The following comes from the Washington Post

Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Rodham Clinton pledged Sunday that if elected she will build on a new White House clean-energy program and defend it against those she called “Republican doubters and defeatists.”

Clinton was the first 2016 candidate to respond to the ambitious plan that President Obama will debut on Monday. Details of the program, which aims to cut greenhouse-gas pollution, were released over the weekend. The new regulation will require every state to reduce emissions from coal-burning power plants.

And you know what?

The climate control freaks will never be satisfied.  Since just about all human activity affects the climate in some way, they will eventually demand control over virtually everything that we do in the name of “saving the planet”.  That is why I call it “climate fascism” – in the end it is all about control.

During the month of September, the Pope is going to travel to the United Nations to give a major speech to kick off the conference at which the UN’s new sustainable development agenda will be launched.  As I have documented previously, this new agenda does not just cover greenhouse gas emissions and the environment.  It also addresses areas such as economics, agriculture, education and gender equality.  It has been called “Agenda 21 on steroids”, and it is basically a blueprint for governing the entire planet.

Unfortunately, that is ultimately what the elite want.

They want to micromanage the lives of every, man, woman and child on the globe.

They will tell us that unless people everywhere are forced to reduce their “carbon footprints” that climate catastrophe is absolutely certain, but their “solutions” always mean more power and more control in their hands.

Barack Obama promised to fundamentally transform America, and he is doing it in hundreds of different ways.  These new greenhouse gas regulations are just one example.  Our nation is being gutted like a fish, and most Americans don’t seem to care.

What in the world will it take for this country to finally wake up?

12 Ways The Economy Is Already In Worse Shape Than It Was During The Depths Of The Last Recession

Twelve - Public DomainDid you know that the percentage of children in the United States that are living in poverty is actually significantly higher than it was back in 2008?  When I write about an “economic collapse”, most people think of a collapse of the financial markets.  And without a doubt, one is coming very shortly, but let us not neglect the long-term economic collapse that is already happening all around us.  In this article, I am going to share with you a bunch of charts and statistics that show that economic conditions are already substantially worse than they were during the last financial crisis in a whole bunch of different ways.  Unfortunately, in our 48 hour news cycle world, a slow and steady decline does not produce many “sexy headlines”.  Those of us that are news junkies (myself included) are always looking for things that will shock us.  But if you stand back and take a broader view of things, what has been happening to the U.S. economy truly is quite shocking.  The following are 12 ways that the U.S. economy is already in worse shape than it was during the depths of the last recession…

#1 Back in 2008, 18 percent of all Americans kids were living in poverty.  This week, we learned that number has now risen to 22 percent

There are nearly three million more children living in poverty today than during the recession, shocking new figures have revealed.

Nearly a quarter of youngsters in the US (22 percent) or around 16.1 million individuals, were classed as living below the poverty line in 2013.

This has soared from just 18 percent in 2008 – during the height of the economic crisis, the Casey Foundation’s 2015 Kids Count Data Book reported.

#2 In early 2008, the homeownership rate in the U.S. was hovering around 68 percent.  Today, it has plunged below 64 percent.  Incredibly, it has not been this low in more than 20 years.  Just look at this chart – the homeownership rate has continued to plummet throughout Obama’s “economic recovery”…

Homeownership Rate 2015

#3 While Barack Obama has been in the White House, government dependence has skyrocketed to levels that we have never seen before.  In 2008, the federal government was spending about 37 billion dollars a year on the federal food stamp program.  Today, that number is above 74 billion dollars.  If the economy truly is “recovering”, why is government dependence so much higher than it was during the last recession?

#4 On the chart below, you can see that the U.S. national debt was sitting at about 9 trillion dollars when we entered the last recession.  Since that time, the debt of the federal government has doubled.  We are on the exact same path that Greece has gone down, and what you are looking at below is a recipe for national economic suicide…

Presentation National Debt

#5 During Obama’s “recovery”, real median household income has actually gone down quite a bit.  Just prior to the last recession, it was above $54,000 per year, but now it has dropped to about $52,000 per year…

Median Household Income

#6 Even though our incomes are stagnating, the cost of living just continues to rise steadily.  This is especially true of basic things that we all purchase such as food.  As I wrote about earlier this year, the price of ground beef in the United States has doubled since the last recession.

#7 In a healthy economy, lots of new businesses are opening and not that many are being forced to shut down.  But for each of the past six years, more businesses have closed in the United States than have opened.  Prior to 2008, this had never happened before in all of U.S. history.

#8 Barack Obama is constantly telling us about how unemployment is “going down”, but the truth is that the  percentage of working age Americans that are either working or considered to be looking for work has steadily declined since the end of the last recession…

Presentation Labor Force Participation Rate

#9 Some have suggested that the decline in the labor force participation rate is due to large numbers of older people retiring.  But the reality of the matter is that we have seen a spike in the inactivity rate for Americans in their prime working years.  As you can see below, the percentage of males between the ages of 25 and 54 that aren’t working and that aren’t looking for work has surged to record highs since the end of the last recession…

Presentation Inactivity Rate

#10 A big reason why we don’t have enough jobs for everyone is the fact that millions upon millions of good paying jobs have been shipped overseas.  At the end of Barack Obama’s first year in office, our yearly trade deficit with China was 226 billion dollars.  Last year, it was more than 343 billion dollars.

#11 Thanks to all of these factors, the middle class in America is dying.  In 2008, 53 percent of all Americans considered themselves to be “middle class”.  But by 2014, only 44 percent of all Americans still considered themselves to be “middle class”.

When you take a look at our young people, the numbers become even more pronounced.  In 2008, 25 percent of all Americans in the 18 to 29-year-old age bracket considered themselves to be “lower class”.  But in 2014, an astounding 49 percent of all Americans in that age range considered themselves to be “lower class”.

#12 This is something that I have covered before, but it bears repeating.  The velocity of money is a very important indicator of the health of an economy.  When an economy is functioning smoothly, people generally feel quite good about things and money flows freely through the system.  I buy something from you, then you take that money and buy something from someone else, etc.  But when an economy is in trouble, the velocity of money tends to go down.  As you can see on the chart below, a drop in the velocity of money has been associated with every single recession since 1960.  So why has the velocity of money continued to plummet since the end of the last recession?…

Velocity Of Money M2

If you are waiting for an “economic collapse” to happen, you can stop waiting.

One is unfolding right now before our very eyes.

But what most people really mean when they ask about these things is that they are wondering when the next great financial crisis will happen.  And as I discussed yesterday, things are lining up in textbook fashion for one to happen in our very near future.

Once the next great financial crisis does strike, all of the numbers that I just discussed above are going to get a whole lot worse.

So as bad as things are now, the truth is that this is just the beginning of the pain.

The German Siege Of Greece Begins (No, This Is Not A Repeat From 1941)

Siege - Public DomainDid you notice that Greece’s creditors are not rushing to offer the Greeks a new deal in the wake of the stunning referendum result on Sunday?  In fact, it is being reported that the initial reaction to the “no” vote from top European politicians was “a thunderous silence“.  Needless to say, the European elite were not pleased by how the Greek people voted, but they still have all of the leverage.  In particular, it is the Germans that are holding all of the cards.  If the Germans want to cave in and give the Greeks the kind of deal that they desire, everyone else would follow suit.  And if the Germans want to maintain a hard line with Greece, they can block any deal from happening all by themselves.  So in the final analysis, this is really an economic test of wills between Germany and Greece, and time is on Germany’s side.  Germany doesn’t have to offer anything new.  The Germans can just sit back and wait for the Greek government to default on their debts, for Greek banks to totally run out of cash and for civil unrest to erupt in Greek cities as the economy grinds to a standstill.

In ancient times, if a conquering army came up against a walled city that was quite formidable, often a decision would be made to conduct a siege.  Instead of attacking a heavily defended city directly and taking heavy casualties, it was often much more cost effective to simply surround the city from a safe distance and starve the inhabitants into submission.

In a sense, that is exactly what the Germans appear to want to do to the Greeks.  Without more cash, the Greek government cannot pay their bills.  Without more cash, Greek banks are going to start collapsing left and right.  Without more cash, the Greek economy is going to completely and utterly collapse.

So yes, the Greeks voted for change, but the Germans still hold the purse strings.

And right now the Germans do not sound like they are in any mood to compromise.  The following comes from a Reuters report that was published on Monday…

German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s deputy said Athens had wrecked any hope of compromise with its euro zone partners by overwhelmingly rejecting further austerity.

Merkel and French President Francois Hollande conferred by telephone and will meet in Paris on Monday afternoon to seek a joint response. Responding to their call, European Council President Donald Tusk announced that euro zone leaders would meet in Brussels on Tuesday evening (1600 GMT).

German Vice-Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel, leader of Merkel’s centre-left Social Democratic junior coalition partner, said it was hard to conceive of fresh negotiations on lending more billions to Athens after Greeks voted against more austerity.

Leftist Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras had “torn down the last bridges on which Greece and Europe could have moved towards a compromise,” Gabriel told the Tagesspiegel daily.

In addition, Angela Merkel’s office released a statement on Monday that placed the onus on making a new proposal to end this crisis on the Greek government

It is up to Greece to make something of this. We are waiting to see which proposals the Greek government makes to its European partners,” the office of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Europe’s leading austerity advocate, said in a statement.

Just because the Greek people want the Germans to give them a very favorable deal does not mean that the Germans will be inclined to do so.  The Germans know that whatever they do with the Greeks will set a precedent for the rest of the financially-troubled nations all across Europe.  If Greece gets a free lunch, then Italy, Spain, Portugal, Ireland and France will expect the same kind of treatment

Angelos Chryssogelos, an expert on Greek politics at the London-based think tank Chatham House, said the strength of Sunday’s mandate handed to Tsipras means it will be almost impossible for the prime minister’s leftist Syriza party to make a deal with European creditors.

“The Europeans made it pretty clear where they stand, and they have been consistent,” Chryssogelos said, adding that the creditors also are unlikely to back down. “Right now, voters across the eurozone largely support the tough stance taken by the eurozone.”

Chryssogelos said Greek voters may have underestimated the resolve of the creditors to reach an accord on their terms. “If someone is seen getting preferential treatment, then someone else will want that treatment,” he said, referring to other eurozone debtors such as Ireland and Portugal.

And remember, there is a very important Spanish election coming up in December.

If Syriza comes out as the big winner in this crisis, it will empower similar movements in Spain and all over the rest of the continent.

So look for Greece’s creditors to tighten the screws over the coming days.  In fact, we already saw a bit of screw tightening on Monday when the ECB announced that Greek banks would not be receiving additional emergency assistance

In a move sure to increase pressure on Greece’s flailing banks, the European Central Bank on Monday decided not to expand an emergency assistance program, raising fears that Greece could soon go completely bankrupt.

The move put a swift crimp on Greek leaders’ jubilation after winning a landslide endorsement from their citizens to reject Europe’s austerity demands and seek a new bailout bargain. Now they must seek a bargain before the money runs out within days, which would likely force them off the euro.

Basically we are watching a very high stakes game of chicken play out.  And as the cash dwindles, economic activity in Greece is slowly grinding to a halt.  The following comes from the Washington Post

The dwindling cash is sucking the life out of everything from coffee shops to taxis, as anxious Greeks economize amid fears for the future. Greek leaders also banned transfers of money abroad, meaning that very little can now be imported into the country.

Printing plants are warning that they may run out of paper to print newspapers by the end of the week. Butchers say that stocks of imported meat are dwindling.

Some are even projecting that we could see civil unrest erupt in Greece in about “48 hours” once the ATM machines  run out of cash

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras probably has 48 hours to resolve a standoff with creditors before civil unrest breaks out and ATMs run out of cash, hedge fund Balyasny Asset Management said.

Yes, the Greek people exhibited great resolve in voting against the demands of the creditors on Sunday.

But how long can they endure this economic siege?

It is inevitable that a breaking point will come.  Either the Greek government will give in, or the Greeks will leave the euro and start to transition back to the drachma.

If we do see a “Grexit”, and many analysts believe that one is coming, it could set off a chain of events that could cause immense financial pain all over the planet.  There are tens of trillions of dollars of derivatives that are tied to European bond yields, European interest rates, etc.  The following is an excerpt from a piece authored by Phoenix Capital Research that explains what kind of jeopardy we could potentially be facing…

The global derivatives market is roughly $700 trillion in size. That’s over TEN TIMES the world’s GDP. And sovereign bonds… including even bonds from bankrupt countries such as Greece… are one of, if not the primary collateral underlying all of these trades.

Greece is not the real issue for Europe. The entire Greek debt market is about €345 billion in size. So we’re not talking about a massive amount of collateral… though the turmoil this country has caused in the last three years gives a sense of the importance of the issue.

Spain, by comparison has over €1.0 trillion in debt outstanding… and Italy has €2.6 trillion. These bonds are backstopping tens of trillions of Euros’ worth of derivatives trades. A haircut on them would trigger systemic failure in Europe.

If Greece gets a “haircut” on their debt, other European nations would want the same and that would cause massive chaos in the derivatives markets.

But if Greece does not get a deal and ends up leaving the eurozone, that will cause bond yields to go crazy all over Europe and that would also cause tremendous chaos in the derivatives markets.

So much depends on keeping this system of legalized gambling that we call “derivatives trading” stable.  We have allowed the global derivatives bubble to become many times larger than the GDP of the entire planet, and in the end we will pay a great price for this foolishness.

Every pyramid scheme eventually collapses, and this one will too.

But the difference with this pyramid scheme is that it is going to take the entire global financial system down with it.

A Recession Within A Recession

Recession - Public DomainOn Friday, the federal government announced that the U.S. economy contracted at a 0.7 percent annual rate during the first quarter of 2015.  This unexpected shrinking of the economy is being primarily blamed on “harsh” weather during the first three months of this year and on the strengthening of the U.S. dollar.  Most economists are confident that U.S. GDP will rebound back into positive territory when the numbers for the second quarter come out, but if that does not happen we will officially meet the government’s criteria for being in another “recession”.  To make sure that the numbers for Q2 will look “acceptable”, the Bureau of Economic Analysis is about to change the way that it calculates GDP again.  They are just going to keep “seasonally adjusting” the numbers until they get what they want.  At this point, the government numbers are so full of “assumptions” and “estimates” that they don’t really bear much resemblance to reality anyway.  In fact, John Williams of has calculated that if the government was actually using honest numbers that they would show that we have continually been in a recession since 2005.  That is why I am referring to this as a “recession within a recession”.  Most people can look around and see that economic conditions for most Americans are not good, and now they are about to get even worse.

For quite a while I have been warning that another economic downturn was coming.  Well, now we have official confirmation from the Obama administration that it is happening.  The following is an excerpt from the statement that the Bureau of Economic Analysis released on Friday

Real gross domestic product — the value of the production of goods and services in the United
States, adjusted for price changes — decreased at an annual rate of 0.7 percent in the first quarter of
2015, according to the “second” estimate released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis. In the fourth
quarter, real GDP increased 2.2 percent.

The GDP estimate released today is based on more complete source data than were available for
the “advance” estimate issued last month. In the advance estimate, real GDP increased 0.2 percent.
With the second estimate for the first quarter, imports increased more and private inventory investment
increased less than previously estimated (for more information, see “Revisions” on page 3).

The decrease in real GDP in the first quarter primarily reflected negative contributions from
exports, nonresidential fixed investment, and state and local government spending that were partly offset by positive contributions from personal consumption expenditures (PCE), private inventory investment, and residential fixed investment.

And actually, Q1 GDP would have been far worse if not for a very large inventory buildup.  Without that inventory buildup, Q1 GDP would have been in the neighborhood of negative three percent according to Zero Hedge.  Despite the happy face that most analysts are putting on these numbers, the truth is that they reveal some deeply troubling trends.

One of the things that is driving this current downturn is the fact that our trade balance continues to get even worse.  In other words, the gap between how much we buy from the rest of the world and how much we sell to the rest of the world is growing.

During the first quarter, imports surged by 5.6 percent.  That means that we are buying more from the rest of the planet than we did before.

Unfortunately, during the first quarter of this year exports dropped by a staggering 7.6 percent.  That means that the amount of stuff that we are selling to the rest of the planet is falling precipitously.

When our trade deficit expands, we lose jobs, businesses and economic infrastructure at an even faster pace.  This is why I write about trade issues so much.  Our economy is being absolutely eviscerated, and the Obama administration is pushing another giant trade deal which will greatly accelerate this process.

We are committing national economic suicide by running colossal trade deficits year after year.  But instead of addressing our problems, our “leaders” just continue to conduct business as usual.

And to make themselves look good, they just keep manipulating the numbers until they seem “reasonable”.  As I mentioned above, the negative number for Q1 is causing a lot of consternation in Washington, so now the Bureau of Economic Analysis is going to modify the way that GDP is calculated once again.  The following comes from Bloomberg

The way some parts of U.S. gross domestic product are calculated are about to change in the wake of the debate over persistently depressed first-quarter growth.

In a blog post published Friday, the Bureau of Economic Analysis listed a series of alterations it will make in seasonally adjusting data used to calculate economic growth. The changes will be implemented with the release of the initial second-quarter GDP estimate on July 30, the BEA said.

Although the agency adjusts its figures for seasonal variations, growth in any given first quarter still tends to be weaker than in the remaining three, economists have found, a sign there may be some bias in the data. It’s a phenomenon economists call “residual seasonality.”

Why can’t they just give us honest numbers?

Meanwhile, we also learned on Friday that corporate profits declined again during the first quarter of 2015.  This was the second quarter in a row that we have seen this happen.  The following comes from CNS News

The BEA report also released data on corporate profits, which showed a decrease from the previous quarter. ‘Profits from current production decreased $125.5 billion in the first quarter, compared with a decrease of $30.4 billion in the fourth,’ BEA said.

Can you guess the last time that corporate profits declined for two quarters in a row?

It was in 2008.

So many of the exact same red flags that popped up seven years ago are popping up once again.

I know that I must sound like a broken record, but right now there are more signals that another major economic downturn is approaching than there has been at any other time since I started The Economic Collapse Blog in 2009.

Hopefully this summer will be relatively quiet, but I fully expect for events to start accelerating significantly during the second half of this year.

So if you have things that you need to get done before the next crisis arrives, you better hurry up, because time is quickly running out.

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