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Painful To Watch: This Is The Weakest U.S. Economic ‘Recovery’ Since 1949

Dollar Bending - Public DomainMost of us have never witnessed an economic “recovery” this bad.  As you will see below, the average rate of economic growth since the last recession has been the lowest for any “recovery” in at least 67 years.  And unfortunately, the economy appears to be slowing down even more here in 2016.  On Friday, I talked about how the U.S. economy grew at a painfully slow rate of just 1.2 percent in the second quarter after only growing 0.8 percent during the first quarter.  And last week we also learned that the homeownership rate in the United States has dropped to the lowest level ever.  This is not what a recovery looks like.  Instead, it very much appears that a new economic downturn has already begun.

But don’t just take my word for how painful this economic “recovery” has been.  The following comes from a Wall Street Journal article that was just posted entitled “Seven Years Later, Recovery Remains the Weakest of the Post-World War II Era“…

Even seven years after the recession ended, the current stretch of economic gains has yielded less growth than much shorter business cycles.

In terms of average annual growth, the pace of this expansion has been by far the weakest of any since 1949. (And for which we have quarterly data.) The economy has grown at a 2.1% annual rate since the U.S. recovery began in mid-2009, according to gross-domestic-product data the Commerce Department released Friday.

The prior expansion, from 2001 through 2007, was the only other business cycle of the past 11 when the economy didn’t grow at least 3% a year, on average.

This entire seven year stretch has come while Barack Obama has been in the White House.  After more than seven and a half years, he is solidly on track to be the only president in U.S. history to never have a single year when the U.S. economy grew by at least three percent.

And unlike many presidents, he has had two terms in which to try to accomplish that feat.

One of the industries that had been doing fairly well during this recovery was the auto industry, but now in early 2016 they have found themselves struggling too

Now, the auto sector, which has propped up GDP growth for years, is slowing down. For the first six months, total car and light truck sales, at a seasonally adjusted annual rate (SAAR) of 17.5 million vehicles, are lagging behind last year by 100,000 units. Over the first half, fleet sales to rent-a-car companies and big fleet buyers were up industry wide. But retail sales fell 2%.

All over the corporate world, earnings are down.

In some cases, they are way down.

It is being projected that this will be the fifth quarter in a row when corporate earnings have declined, and even mainstream analysts are now admitting that it is “evident” that we have entered “a global slowdown”

“Earnings season in the U.S. confirms the overall macro picture that we have. We have a global slowdown. It’s evident in all of the major economies,” said Peter Garnry, head of equity strategy at Saxo Bank, on a Bloomberg podcast.

Of course I have been saying this exact thing for the past 12 months, but a lot of people have tuned me out because the stock market in the United States has been doing so well.

But the stock market is not an accurate barometer for the real economy.  It never has been, and it never will be.

If stocks accurately reflected the health of the U.S. economy, they would have already crashed really hard a long time ago.  At this moment, stock prices are completely disconnected from economic reality, and this has many of the most respected names on Wall Street scratching their heads.  One of them is Jeffrey Gundlach, the chief executive of DoubleLine Capital.  Just check out what he told Reuters on Friday

Noting the recent run-up in the benchmark Standard & Poor’s 500 index while economic growth remains weak and corporate earnings are stagnant, Gundlach said stock investors have entered a “world of uber complacency.”

The S&P 500 on Friday touched an all-time high of 2,177.09, while the government reported that U.S. gross domestic product in the second quarter grew at a meager 1.2 percent rate.

“The artist Christopher Wool has a word painting, ‘Sell the house, sell the car, sell the kids.’ That’s exactly how I feel – sell everything. Nothing here looks good,” Gundlach said in a telephone interview. “The stock markets should be down massively but investors seem to have been hypnotized that nothing can go wrong.”

If you follow Gundlach, you probably already know that he has been dead on accurate with regard to the financial markets over the past couple of years.

So when he says that the stock market “should be down massively” and that it is time to “sell everything”, we should all take him very, very seriously.

All throughout history, a huge decline in corporate earnings has almost always resulted in a huge decline in stock prices.  As Jesse Felder has noted, “we have never seen a decline in earnings of this magnitude without at least a 20% fall in stock prices” during the last 50 years.

To any rational observer, it is quite obvious that stock prices should have already started collapsing quite some time ago.

And to a large extent this has already happened around the planet, but here in the United States stocks continue to defy the laws of economics.

But at this point it isn’t going to do much good to warn people about this.  Those that could see the danger coming have already pulled their money out of stocks, and most of those that want to stick their heads in the sand and pretend that things are somehow going to be different this time are not likely to be persuaded this late in the game.

In the end, we should all be grateful that this absurd financial bubble has lasted for as long as it has, because stability is much more pleasant than instability.  The U.S. economy and the U.S. financial system have enjoyed a prolonged period of stability that has defied all the odds, and let us hope that it lasts for at least a little while longer…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Economic Collapse Is Erupting All Over The Planet As Global Leaders Begin To Panic

Earth Ready To Explode - Public DomainMainstream news outlets are already starting to use the phrase “economic collapse” to describe what is going on in some areas of our world right now.  For many Americans this may seem a bit strange, but the truth is that the worldwide economic slowdown that began during the second half of last year is starting to get a lot worse.  In this article, we are going to examine evidence of this from South America, Europe, Asia and North America.  Once we are done, it should be obvious that there is absolutely no reason to be optimistic about the direction of the global economy right now.  The warnings of so many prominent experts are now becoming a reality, and what we have witnessed so far are just the early chapters of a crushing economic crisis that will affect every man, woman and child in the entire world.

Let’s start with Brazil.  It has the 7th largest economy on the entire planet, and it is already enduring its worst recession in 25 years.  In fact, at the end of last year Goldman Sachs said that what was going on down there was actually a “depression“.

But now the crisis in Brazil has escalated significantly.

I want to share with you an excerpt from a recent article entitled “Brazil: Economic collapse worse than feared“.  I know, that title sounds like it comes directly from The Economic Collapse Blog, but I didn’t write it.

It actually comes from CNN

Amid political chaos, Brazil’s economic collapse is worse than its government once believed.

In the midst of rising calls to impeach President Dilma Rousseff, Brazil’s central bank announced Thursday that it now expects the country’s economy to shrink 3.5% this year.

That’s worse than the central bank’s previous estimate for a 1.9% contraction. The darker forecast matches what the International Monetary Fund projected for Brazil — Latin America’s largest country — and what many independent economists have suspected.

It is one thing for Michael Snyder to tell you that Brazil is in the midst of “economic collapse”, but it is another thing entirely for CNN to say it.

And of course I have been warning about the crisis down in Brazil for quite some time now.  For much more on this, please see my previous article entitled “The Economic Collapse Of South America Is Well Underway“.

Meanwhile, things are actually much worse in Venezuela than they are in Brazil.  Food and basic supplies are in short supply, the inflation rate has hit 720 percent, and crime is completely out of control.

The following is from an article in the Independent entitled “Venezuela is on the brink of complete economic collapse“…

The only question now is whether Venezuela’s government or economy will completely collapse first.

The key word there is “completely.” Both are well into their death throes. Indeed, Venezuela’s ruling party just lost congressional elections that gave the opposition a veto-proof majority, and it’s hard to see that getting any better for them any time soon — or ever.

Incumbents, after all, don’t tend to do too well when, according to the International Monetary Fund, their economy shrinks 10 percent one year, an additional 6 percent the next, and inflation explodes to 720 percent. It’s no wonder, then, that markets expect Venezuela to default on its debt in the very near future. The country is basically bankrupt.

Once again we see a very respected mainstream publication using the phrase “economic collapse” to describe what is happening in South America.

You can find some stunning video of the “economic Armageddon” that is taking place in Venezuela right here.  I would encourage you to watch that video, because what is happening down there will eventually be happening here.

Meanwhile, over in Europe the collapse of the Italian banking system has entered a disturbing new chapter.  Italy’s finance minister has called a meeting in Rome for Monday that will be focusing on a “last resort” bailout plan for the troubled banks…

Finance minister Pier Carlo Padoan has called a meeting in Rome on Monday with executives from Italy’s largest financial institutions to agree final details of a “last resort” bailout plan.

Yet on the eve of that gathering, concerns remain as to whether the plan will be sufficient to ringfence the weakest of Italy’s large banks, Monte dei Paschi di Siena, from contagion, according to people involved in the talks.

Italian bank shares have lost almost half their value so far this year amid investor worries over a €360bn pile of non-performing loans — equivalent to about a fifth of GDP. Lenders’ profitability has been hit by a crippling three-year recession.

As Italy descends into financial chaos, the rest of the continent better be paying attention.

Do you remember how hard it was for the rest of Europe to rescue Greece?

Well, Greece has the 44th largest economy on the planet.

Italy has the 8th.

It would be hard to overstate the seriousness of what is going on over in Europe, and it is not just Italy we are talking about.  All over the continent major banks are in deep trouble, and the chairman of France’s second largest  retail bank recently told reporters that “I am much more worried than I was in 2009“.

And there is very good reason for concern.  On Sunday, we learned that a major “bail-in” had just been announced for one of Austria’s most prominent banks.  The following comes from Zero Hedge

And then today, following a decision by the Austrian Banking Regulator, the Finanzmarktaufsicht or Financial Market Authority, Austria officially became the first European country to use a new law under the framework imposed by Bank the European Recovery and Resolution Directive to share losses of a failed bank with senior creditors as it slashed the value of debt owed by Heta Asset Resolution AG.

The highlights from the announcement:

Today, the Austrian Financial Market Authority (FMA) in its function as the resolution authority pursuant to the Bank Recovery and Resolution Act (BaSAG – Bundesgesetz über die Sanierung und Abwicklung von Banken) has issued the key features for the further steps for the resolution of HETA ASSET RESOLUTION AG. The most significant measures are:

  • a 100% bail-in for all subordinated liabilities,
  • a 53.98% bail-in, resulting in a 46.02% quota, for all eligible preferential liabilities,
  • the cancellation of all interest payments from 01.03.2015, when HETA was placed into resolution pursuant to BaSAG,
  • as well as a harmonisation of the maturities of all eligible liabilities to 31.12.2023.

According to the current resolution plan for HETA, the wind-down process should be concluded by 2020, although the repayment of all claims as well as the legally binding conclusion of all currently outstanding legal disputes will realistically only be concluded by the end of 2023. Only at that point will it be possible to finally distribute the assets and to liquidate the company.

The dominoes are starting to fall in Europe, and I would expect even bigger announcements in the weeks and months to come.

Over in Asia, economic chaos is beginning to prevail as well.

In China, the stock market is already down more than 40 percent from the peak, Chinese exports were down 25.4 percent on a year over year basis in February, and Chinese economic numbers overall have not been this poor since the depths of the last global recession.

At the same time, the Japanese economy is really struggling right now.  As I wrote about the other day, Japanese GDP has shrunk for two out of the last three quarters, we just saw Japanese industrial production experience the biggest one month decline that we have witnessed since the tsunami of 2011, and business sentiment has fallen to a three year low.  The Nikkei has dropped by about 5,000 points from where it was last summer, and some analysts believe that Japanese markets “are being destroyed” due to massive intervention by the Bank of Japan.

Here in the United States, we haven’t been hit quite as hard as the rest of the world just yet, but there are lots of very disturbing warning signs all around us.

At the end of last week, we learned that it is being projected that U.S. GDP will have grown by just 0.1 or 0.2 percent during the first quarter of 2016.  And on Monday corporate earnings reporting season begins, and it is expected to be a very, very bad one.  The following comes from Business Insider

We are about to get confirmation that earnings growth for America’s biggest companies was negative in the first quarter, compared to the same period a year ago.

When aluminum giant Alcoa releases its results on Monday, it will mark the unofficial start of the heaviest reporting season for S&P 500 companies.

The final scoreboard is expected to show a 9.1% earnings drop for the quarter, according to FactSet senior earnings analyst John Butters.

If these projections turn out to be accurate, it will be the fourth quarter in a row of earnings declines.  This is something that we never see outside of a recession.

And for a whole bunch more numbers which indicate that the U.S. economy is in very serious trouble, please see my previous article entitled “19 Facts That Prove Things In America Are Worse Than They Were Six Months Ago“.

Of course I am just another voice in the crowd when it comes to predicting that the U.S. economy is headed for rough times.  For example, just check out what Societe Generale economist Albert Edwards is saying

A tidal wave is coming to the US economy, according to Albert Edwards, and when it crashes it’s going to throw the economy into recession.

…the profit recession facing American corporations is going to lead to a collapse in corporate credit.

“Despite risk assets enjoying a few weeks in the sun our fail-safe recession indicator has stopped flashing amber and turned to red”

He continued:

Whole economy profits never normally fall this deeply without a recession unfolding. And with the US corporate sector up to its eyes in debt, the one asset class to be avoided — even more so than the ridiculously overvalued equity market — is US corporate debt. The economy will surely be swept away by a tidal wave of corporate default.

As you can see, it isn’t just one nation or one region of the world that we need to be concerned about.

Economic chaos is erupting literally all over the planet, and global leaders are starting to panic.

Unfortunately, they have had seven years to try to fix things since the last global recession, and they didn’t get the job done.  Anyone that believes that by some miracle they will be able to pull us out of the fire this time and that everything will somehow be okay is simply engaged in wishful thinking.

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

19 Facts That Prove Things In America Are Worse Than They Were Six Months Ago

American Flag Map - Public DomainHas the U.S. economy gotten better over the past six months or has it gotten worse?  In this article, you will find solid proof that the U.S. economy has continued to get worse over the past six months.  Unfortunately, most people seem to think that since the stock market has rebounded significantly in recent weeks that everything must be okay, but of course that is not true at all.  If you look at a chart of the Dow, a very ominous head and shoulders pattern is forming, and all of the economic fundamentals are screaming that big trouble is ahead.  When Donald Trump told the Washington Post that we are heading for a “very massive recession“, he wasn’t just making stuff up.  We are already seeing lots of things happen that never take place outside of a recession, and the U.S. economy has already been sliding downhill fairly rapidly over the past several months.  With all that being said, the following are 19 facts that prove things in America are worse than they were six months ago…

#1 U.S. factory orders have now declined on a year over year basis for 16 months in a row.  As Zero Hedge has noted, in the post-World War II era this has never happened outside of a recession…

In 60 years, the US economy has not suffered a 16-month continuous YoY drop in Factory orders without being in recession. Moments ago the Department of Commerce confirmed that this is precisely what the US economy did, when factory orders not only dropped for the 16th consecutive month Y/Y, after declining 1.7% from last month

#2 Factory orders have now reached the lowest level that we have seen since the summer of 2011.

#3 It is being projected that corporate earnings will be down 8.5 percent for the first quarter of 2016 compared to one year ago.  This will be the fourth quarter in a row that we have seen year over year declines, and the last time that happened was during the last recession.

#4 Total business sales have fallen 5 percent since the peak in mid-2014.

#5 S&P 500 earnings have now fallen a total of 18.5 percent from their peak in late 2014.

#6 Corporate debt defaults have soared to the highest level that we have seen since 2009.

#7 The average rating on U.S. corporate debt has fallen to “BB”, which is lower than it has been at any point since the last financial crisis.

#8 The U.S. oil rig count just hit a 41 year low.

#9 51 oil and gas drillers in North America have filed for bankruptcy since the beginning of last year, and according to CNN we could be on the verge of seeing the biggest one yet…

Shale oil driller SandRidge Energy (SD) warned there was “substantial doubt” it would survive the oil downturn. The Oklahoma City company said this week it is exploring a potential Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing.

Based on its $3.6 billion of debt, SandRidge would be the biggest North American oil-focused company to go bust during the current downturn, according to a CNNMoney analysis of stats compiled by law firm Haynes and Boone.

#10 According to Challenger, Gray & Christmas, job cut announcements by major firms in the United States were up 32 percent during the first quarter of 2016 compared to the first quarter of 2015.

#11 Consumers in the United States accumulated more new credit card debt during the 4th quarter of 2015 than they did during the entire years of 2009, 2010 and 2011 combined.

#12 Existing home sales in the U.S. were down 7.1 percent during the month of February, and this was the biggest decline that we have witnessed in six years.

#13 Subprime auto loan delinquencies have hit their highest level since the last recession.

#14 The Restaurant Performance Index in the U.S. recently dropped to the lowest level that we have seen since 2008.

#15 Major retailers all over the country are shutting down hundreds of stores as the “retail apocalypse” accelerates.

#16 If you take the number of working age Americans that are officially unemployed (8.1 million) and add that number to the number of working age Americans that are considered to be “not in the labor force” (93.9 million), that gives us a grand total of 102 million working age Americans that do not have a job right now

#17 Since peaking during the 3rd quarter of 2014, U.S. exports of goods and services have been steadily declining.  This is something that we never see outside of a recession…

Exports Of Goods And Services - Public Domain

#18 The cost of everything related to medical care just continues to skyrocket even though our wages are stagnating.  According to the Social Security Administration, 51 percent of all American workers make less than $30,000 a year, and yet the cost of medical care just hit a brand new all-time high…

Medical Care Services

#19 Our government debt continues to spiral out of control.  At this point it is sitting at a staggering total of $19,218,516,838,306.52, but when Barack Obama first entered the White House it was only 10.6 trillion dollars.  That means that our government has been stealing an average of more than 100 million dollars an hour from future generations of Americans every single hour of every single day since Barack Obama was inaugurated…

Federal Debt

How in the world can anyone look at those numbers and suggest that everything is okay?

I simply do not understand how that could be possible.

Part of the problem is that Americans have been trained to be irrationally optimistic.  It is fine to have an optimistic outlook on life, but when it causes you to throw logic and reason out the window that is not good.

For example, you can be “optimistic” about your ability to fly all you want, but if you step off a 10 story building you are going to take a very hard fall to the ground.

Similarly, you can ignore all of the facts and pretend that our economic prosperity is sustainable all you want, but it won’t change the fundamental laws of economics.

On a personal note, I would like to thank everyone that has helped make my new book the #1 new release in Christian eschatology on Amazon.com.  I understand that a lot of my secular readers are not going to understand my fascination with Bible prophecy, and that is okay.  I felt that I needed to write this book to address some very serious errors that are being taught in churches all over America today, and I also wanted to inspire believers to face the great hardships and persecution that are coming.

Just because very difficult times are approaching does not mean that it will be time to run and hide.  My wife and I always live our lives with no fear, and when things get crazy we believe that it will be an opportunity to do even more good.  We believe that the greatest chapters of our lives are still ahead of us, and we want people to understand why they can look forward to the future even though great darkness is rising all around us.

So yes, I definitely carry a message of warning.

But I also bring a message of hope.

As we look toward the future, there is much to be concerned about, but there are also things happening that are worth getting extremely excited about.

It is when times are the darkest that the light is needed the most, and very soon light will be greatly, greatly needed in the United States of America.

We Are Being Killed On Trade – Rapidly Declining Exports Signal A Death Blow For The U.S. Economy

Abandoned Packard Automobile Factory - Photo by Albert DuceExports fell precipitously during the last two recessions, and now it is happening again.  So how in the world can anyone make the claim that the U.S. economy is in good shape?  On my website I have been repeatedly pointing out the parallels between the last two major economic downturns and the current crisis, and I am going to discuss another one today.  Since peaking in late 2014, U.S. exports have been steadily declining, and this is something that we never see outside of a major recession.  On the chart that I have shared below, the shaded gray bars represent the last two recessions, and you can see that exports of goods and services plunged dramatically in both instances…

Exports Of Goods And Services - Public Domain

And this chart does not even show the latest numbers that we have.  During the month of January, U.S. exports fell to a five and a half year low

The U.S. trade deficit widened more than expected in January as a strong dollar and weak global demand helped to push exports to a more than 5-1/2-year low, suggesting trade will continue to weigh on economic growth in the first quarter.

The Commerce Department said on Friday the trade gap increased 2.2 percent to $45.7 billion. December’s trade deficit was revised up to $44.7 billion from the previously reported $43.4 billion. Exports have declined for four straight months.

Because our exports are falling faster than our imports, our trade deficit is blowing out once again.  Every year we buy hundreds of billions of dollars more from the rest of the world than they buy from us, and this is systematically wrecking our economy.  Over the past several decades, we have lost tens of thousands of manufacturing facilities, millions of good paying manufacturing jobs, and major exporting nations such as China have become exceedingly wealthy at our expense.

We are being absolutely killed on trade, and yet very few of our politicians ever want to talk about this.

A brand new study that was recently discussed in the New York Times is bringing some renewed attention to these problems.  It turns out that the promised “benefits” of merging the U.S. economy into the global economic system simply have not materialized…

In a recent study, three economists — David Autor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, David Dorn at the University of Zurich and Gordon Hanson at the University of California, San Diego — raised a profound challenge to all of us brought up to believe that economies quickly recover from trade shocks. In theory, a developed industrial country like the United States adjusts to import competition by moving workers into more advanced industries that can successfully compete in global markets.

They examined the experience of American workers after China erupted onto world markets some two decades ago. The presumed adjustment, they concluded, never happened. Or at least hasn’t happened yet. Wages remain low and unemployment high in the most affected local job markets. Nationally, there is no sign of offsetting job gains elsewhere in the economy. What’s more, they found that sagging wages in local labor markets exposed to Chinese competition reduced earnings by $213 per adult per year.

Another study conducted by some of the same researchers discovered that 2.4 million American jobs were lost between 1999 and 2011 due to rising Chinese imports.

When are we going to finally wake up?

The middle class in America is being absolutely shredded, and yet only a few of us seem to care.

Meanwhile, global trade as a whole continues to slow down at a very frightening pace.  We just learned that the China Containerized Freight Index has now dropped to the lowest level ever recorded.  The following comes from Wolf Richter

The China Containerized Freight Index (CCFI), published weekly, tracks contractual and spot-market rates for shipping containers from major ports in China to 14 regions around the world. Unlike most Chinese government data, this index reflects the unvarnished reality of the shipping industry in a languishing global economy. For the latest reporting week, the index dropped 4.1% to 705.6, its lowest level ever.

How many numbers like this do we have to get before we will all finally admit that we are in the midst of a major global economic meltdown?

Here in the United States, the recent rally in the stock market has most people feeling pretty good about things these days.  But the truth is that there are ups and downs during any financial crisis, and this recent rally is putting the finishing touches on a very dangerous leaning “W” pattern that could signal a big dive ahead.

Harry Dent, the author of “The Demographic Cliff: How to Survive and Prosper During the Great Deflation Ahead“, has shown that this leaning “W” pattern is part of a huge “rounded top” for the S&P 500.  The following is a brief excerpt from one of his recent articles

The bull market from early 2009 into May 2015 looks just like every bubble in history, and I’m getting one sign after the next that we did indeed peak last May. The dominant pattern in the stock market is the “rounded top” pattern:

S&P 500 Rounded Top

After trading in a steep, bubble-like channel from late 2011 into late 2014, with only 10% maximum volatility top to bottom, the market finally lost its momentum… just as the Fed finished tapering its QE. That’s because the Fed was the primary driver in this stock bubble in the first place!

Now is not the time to relax at all.

In fact, now is the time to sound the alarm louder than ever.

That is one reason why my wife and I have started up a new television program.  It will be airing on Christian television, but it will also be available on YouTube as well…

As I have said before, 2016 is the year when everything changes.

So don’t be fooled just because the stock market had a couple of good weeks.  The truth is that global economic activity is slowing down significantly, geopolitical instability continues to get even worse, and this political season has caused very deep, simmering tensions in the United States to rise to the surface.

Let us hope that we have a few more weeks of relative stability like we are currently experiencing so that we can have more time to get prepared, but I certainly wouldn’t count on it.

Economic Recovery? 13 Of The Biggest Retailers In America Are Closing Down Stores

Closed Sign - Photo by JamesAlan1986Barack Obama recently stated that anyone that is claiming that America’s economy is in decline is “peddling fiction“.  Well, if the economy is in such great shape, why are major retailers shutting down hundreds of stores all over the country?  Last month, I wrote about the “retail apocalypse” that is sweeping the nation, but since then it has gotten even worse.  Closing stores has become the “hot new trend” in the retail world, and “space available” signs are going up in mall windows all over the United States.  Barack Obama can continue huffing and puffing about how well the middle class is doing all he wants, but the truth is that the cold, hard numbers that retailers are reporting tell an entirely different story.

Earlier today, Sears Chairman Eddie Lampert released a letter to shareholders that was filled with all kinds of bad news.  In this letter, he blamed the horrible results that Sears has been experiencing lately on “tectonic shifts” in consumer spending

In a letter to shareholders on Thursday, Lampert said the impact of “tectonic shifts” in consumer spending has spread more broadly in the last year to retailers “that had previously proven to be relatively immune to such shifts.”

“Walmart, Nordstrom, Macy’s, Staples, Whole Foods and many others have felt the impact of disruptive changes from online competition and new business models,” Lampert wrote.

And it is very true – Sears is doing horribly, but they are far from alone.  The following are 13 major retailers that are closing down stores…

#1 Sears lost 580 million dollars in the fourth quarter of 2015 alone, and they are scheduled to close at least 50 more “unprofitable stores” by the end of this year.

#2 It is being reported that Sports Authority will file for bankruptcy in March.  Some news reports have indicated that around 200 stores may close, but at this point it is not known how many of their 450 stores will be able to stay open.

#3 For decades, Kohl’s has been growing aggressively, but now it plans to shutter 18 stores in 2016.

#4 Target has just finished closing 13 stores in the United States.

#5 Best Buy closed 30 stores last year, and it says that more store closings are likely in the months to come.

#6 Office Depot plans to close a total of 400 stores by the end of 2016.

The next seven examples come from one of my previous articles

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

These store closings can be particularly cruel for small towns.  Just consider the impact that Wal-Mart has had on the little town of Oriental, North Carolina

The Town’n Country grocery in Oriental, North Carolina, a local fixture for 44 years, closed its doors in October after a Wal-Mart store opened for business. Now, three months later — and less than two years after Wal-Mart arrived — the retail giant is pulling up stakes, leaving the community with no grocery store and no pharmacy.

Though mom-and-pop stores have steadily disappeared across the American landscape over the past three decades as the mega chain methodically expanded, there was at least always a Wal-Mart left behind to replace them. Now the Wal-Marts are disappearing, too.

Of course there are many factors involved in this ongoing retail apocalypse.  Competition from online retailers is becoming more intense, and consumer spending patterns are rapidly changing.

But in the end, the truth is that you can’t get blood out of a rock.  The middle class in America is shrinking, and there just isn’t as much discretionary spending going on as there used to be.

And now that we have entered a new economic downturn, many retailers are finding that there are some local communities that can no longer support their stores.  The following comes from CNBC

Though the shift to online shopping is no doubt playing a role in lighter foot traffic at malls, there’s more to their changing economics than the rise of Amazon. Changing demographics in a town are another reason a shopping center could struggle or fail — for example, if massive layoffs in a particular industry cause people to move away to find employment.

“A lot of people want to try and tie it to the Internet or ‘that’s not cool,’ or teens don’t like it,” Jesse Tron, a spokesman for industry trade group International Council of Shopping Centers, told CNBC last year. “It’s hard to support large-format retail in those suburban areas when people are trying to just pay their mortgage.”

In order to have a thriving middle class, we need good paying middle class jobs.  Unfortunately, our economy has been bleeding those kinds of jobs quite rapidly.  For example, Halliburton just announced that it is eliminating 5,000 more jobs after getting rid of 4,000 workers at the end of last year.

During the Obama years, good paying middle class jobs have been getting replaced by low paying service jobs.  At this point, 51 percent of all American workers make less than $30,000 a year.

And there is no way that you can support a middle class family with children on $30,000 a year.

We have an economy that is in the process of failing.  We can see it in the explosion of subprime auto loans that are going bad, we can see it in the hundreds of retail stores that are shutting down, and we can see it in the tens of thousands of good paying energy jobs that are being lost.

During the Obama years, interest rates have been pushed to the floor, the Federal Reserve has created trillions of dollars out of thin air, and the size of our national debt is getting close to doubling.  Despite all of those desperate measures, our economy continues to crumble.

We stole from the future to try to paper over our failures and it didn’t work.  Now an economic downturn that will ultimately turn out to be even worse than the “Great Recession” of 2008 and 2009 has begun, and our leaders have absolutely no idea how to fix things.

I wish I had better news to report, but I don’t.  Get prepared now, because very rough times are ahead.

Donald Trump Is Right – Here Are 100 Reasons Why We Need To Audit The Federal Reserve

Donald Trump - Photo by Marc NozellWhen one of our major politicians gets something exactly right, we should applaud them for it.  In this case, Donald Trump’s call to audit the Federal Reserve is dead on correct.  Most Americans don’t realize this, but the Federal Reserve has far more power over the economy than anyone else does – including Barack Obama.  Financial markets all over the planet gyrate wildly at the smallest comment from Fed officials, and virtually every boom and bust cycle over the past 100 years can be traced directly back to specific decisions made by the Federal Reserve.  We get all excited about what various presidential candidates say that they “will do for the economy”, but in the end it is the Fed that is holding all of the cards.  The funny thing is that the Federal Reserve is not even part of the federal government.  It is an independent private central bank that was designed by very powerful Wall Street interests a little over 100 years ago.  It is at the heart of the debt-based financial system which is eating away at America like cancer, and it has no direct accountability to the American people whatsoever.

The Fed has been around for so long that most people assume that we need it.

But the truth is that we don’t actually need the Federal Reserve.  In fact, the greatest period of economic growth in United States history happened during the decades before the Federal Reserve was created.

A little over 100 years ago, very powerful forces on Wall Street successfully pushed for the creation of an immensely powerful central bank, and since that time the value of the U.S. dollar has fallen by about 98 percent and our national debt has gotten more than 5000 times larger.

The Federal Reserve does whatever it feels like doing, and Fed officials insist that the institution must remain “independent” and “above politics” because monetary policy is too important to entrust to the American people.

To me, this is absolutely ridiculous.  Everything else, including our national defense, is subject to the normal political process, and yet the decisions made by the Fed are so “important” that the American people can’t have a voice?

It is high time that the American people begin to learn what the Federal Reserve is really all about, and that can start with a full, comprehensive audit of all of the Federal Reserve’s activities.  Yesterday, Donald Trump came out in favor of such an audit…

Previously, Trump has made quite a few comments that were very critical of the Fed.  For example, last year he told Bloomberg News that he believed that the Federal Reserve was “creating a bubble”…

“In terms of real estate, if I want to develop … from that standpoint I like low interest rates. From the country’s standpoint, I’m just not sure it’s a very good thing, because I really do believe we’re creating a bubble.”

And of course Trump was exactly right about that too.  By pushing interest rates to artificially low levels and creating billions upon billions of dollars out of thin air during the quantitative easing era, stock prices were driven to ridiculously high levels.  Now that the artificial support has been withdrawn, stocks are beginning to crash, and the financial collapse which is starting to happen is going to be far worse than it otherwise would have been because of the Fed’s actions.  The following comes from one of my previous articles

As 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.

I don’t understand why so many Americans continue to support the Federal Reserve.

We don’t need a bunch of central planners setting interest rates and determining monetary policy.  We are supposed to have a free market system, and the free market should be setting interest rates – not the Federal Reserve.

Unfortunately, just about every nation on the entire planet now has a central bank.  Even though the nations of the world can’t agree on much, somehow central banking has been adopted virtually everywhere.  At this point, more than 99.9% of the population of the world lives in a country that has a central bank.

There are still some minor island countries such as the Federated States of Micronesia that do not have a central bank, but the only major nation not to have one right now is North Korea.  And nobody in their right mind would ever want to live there.

So how in the world did this happen?

Did the people of the world willingly choose this debt-based system or was it imposed upon them?

To my knowledge, there has never been a single vote where the population of a nation has willingly chosen to establish a central bank.  I could be wrong about this, but I have never heard of one.

It is the elite that have always wanted central banking, and now they pretty much have the entire planet in their grasp.

That is why we should applaud Donald Trump when he stands up to the elite.  And it isn’t just regarding the Fed that he has done this.  The following comes from an excellent article that was just written by Dan Lyman

Ultimately, Trump knows it is the global elite who have pried our borders wide open. He knows it is THEY who are responsible for the tens of millions of Third Worlders pouring into our nations. He knows that THEY are the monsters who need the world to be constantly at war. He knows THEY are radically altering our food supply with GMOs and poisonous chemicals. He knows THEY are responsible for poisoning our drinking water, filling our skies and air supplies with toxic waste, genociding our unborn children, collecting data on all citizens to implement the Orwellian police state, forcing poison into our babies’ veins – and soon the rest of us, redistributing what remains of our wealth under the guises of ‘saving the planet’ or ‘refugee aid,’ allowing and funding the ISIS Islamofascists to decimate places like Syria and Iraq in Satanic fashion, promoting the psychotic LGBT Nazis to goose-step all over our religious liberties and gender-privacy in school bathrooms. If there is a societal cancer metastasizing somewhere, it can usually be traced back to the same sources.

Yes, there are many things that we can criticize Trump and the other Republican candidates for.  But when they nail something, we should be willing to admit that they got something right.

In this case, Donald Trump is absolutely correct to call for an audit of the Fed.  As I promised in the title of this article, I want to share 100 reasons why the Fed should be audited.  The following list has been adapted from one of my previous articles

#1 We like to think that we have a government “of the people, by the people, for the people”, but the truth is that an unelected, unaccountable group of central planners has far more power over our economy than anyone else in our society does.

#2 The Federal Reserve is actually “independent” of the government. In fact, the Federal Reserve has argued vehemently in federal court that it is “not an agency” of the federal government and therefore not subject to the Freedom of Information Act.

#3 The Federal Reserve openly admits that the 12 regional Federal Reserve banks are organized “much like private corporations“.

#4 The regional Federal Reserve banks issue shares of stock to the “member banks” that own them.

#5 100% of the shareholders of the Federal Reserve are private banks. The U.S. government owns zero shares.

#6 The Federal Reserve is not an agency of the federal government, but it has been given power to regulate our banks and financial institutions. This should not be happening.

#7 According to Article I, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution, the U.S. Congress is the one that is supposed to have the authority to “coin Money, regulate the Value thereof, and of foreign Coin, and fix the Standard of Weights and Measures”. So why is the Federal Reserve doing it?

#8 If you look at a “U.S. dollar”, it actually says “Federal Reserve note” at the top. In the financial world, a “note” is an instrument of debt.

#9 In 1963, President John F. Kennedy issued Executive Order 11110 which authorized the U.S. Treasury to issue “United States notes” which were created by the U.S. government directly and not by the Federal Reserve. He was assassinated shortly thereafter.

#10 Many of the debt-free United States notes issued under President Kennedy are still in circulation today.

#11 The Federal Reserve determines what levels some of the most important interest rates in our system are going to be set at. In a free market system, the free market would determine those interest rates.

#12 The Federal Reserve has become so powerful that it is now known as “the fourth branch of government“.

#13 The greatest period of economic growth in U.S. history was when there was no central bank.

#14 The Federal Reserve was designed to be a perpetual debt machine. The bankers that designed it intended to trap the U.S. government in a perpetual debt spiral from which it could never possibly escape. Since the Federal Reserve was established 100 years ago, the U.S. national debt has gotten more than 5000 times larger.

#15 A permanent federal income tax was established the exact same year that the Federal Reserve was created. This was not a coincidence. In order to pay for all of the government debt that the Federal Reserve would create, a federal income tax was necessary. The whole idea was to transfer wealth from our pockets to the federal government and from the federal government to the bankers.

#16 The period prior to 1913 (when there was no income tax) was the greatest period of economic growth in U.S. history.

#17 Today, the U.S. tax code is about 13 miles long.

#18 From the time that the Federal Reserve was created until now, the U.S. dollar has lost 98 percent of its value.

#19 From the time that President Nixon took us off the gold standard until now, the U.S. dollar has lost 83 percent of its value.

#20 During the 100 years before the Federal Reserve was created, the U.S. economy rarely had any problems with inflation. But since the Federal Reserve was established, the U.S. economy has experienced constant and never ending inflation.

#21 In the century before the Federal Reserve was created, the average annual rate of inflation was about half a percent. In the century since the Federal Reserve was created, the average annual rate of inflation has been about 3.5 percent.

#22 The Federal Reserve has stripped the middle class of trillions of dollars of wealth through the hidden tax of inflation.

#23 The size of M1 has nearly doubled since 2008 thanks to the reckless money printing that the Federal Reserve has been doing.

#24 The Federal Reserve has been starting to behave like the Weimar Republic, and we all remember how that ended.

#25 The Federal Reserve has been consistently lying to us about the level of inflation in our economy. If the inflation rate was still calculated the same way that it was back when Jimmy Carter was president, the official rate of inflation would be somewhere between 8 and 10 percent today.

#26 Since the Federal Reserve was created, there have been 18 distinct recessions or depressions: 1918, 1920, 1923, 1926, 1929, 1937, 1945, 1949, 1953, 1958, 1960, 1969, 1973, 1980, 1981, 1990, 2001, 2008.

#27 Within 20 years of the creation of the Federal Reserve, the U.S. economy was plunged into the Great Depression.

#28 The Federal Reserve created the conditions that caused the stock market crash of 1929, and even Ben Bernanke admits that the response by the Fed to that crisis made the Great Depression even worse than it should have been.

#29 The “easy money” policies of former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan set the stage for the great financial crisis of 2008.

#30 Without the Federal Reserve, the “subprime mortgage meltdown” would probably never have happened.

#31 If you can believe it, there have been 10 different economic recessions since 1950. The Federal Reserve created the “dotcom bubble”, the Federal Reserve created the “housing bubble” and now it has created the largest bond bubble in the history of the planet.

#32 According to an official government report, the Federal Reserve made 16.1 trillion dollars in secret loans to the big banks during the last financial crisis. The following is a list of loan recipients that was taken directly from page 131 of the report…

Citigroup – $2.513 trillion
Morgan Stanley – $2.041 trillion
Merrill Lynch – $1.949 trillion
Bank of America – $1.344 trillion
Barclays PLC – $868 billion
Bear Sterns – $853 billion
Goldman Sachs – $814 billion
Royal Bank of Scotland – $541 billion
JP Morgan Chase – $391 billion
Deutsche Bank – $354 billion
UBS – $287 billion
Credit Suisse – $262 billion
Lehman Brothers – $183 billion
Bank of Scotland – $181 billion
BNP Paribas – $175 billion
Wells Fargo – $159 billion
Dexia – $159 billion
Wachovia – $142 billion
Dresdner Bank – $135 billion
Societe Generale – $124 billion
“All Other Borrowers” – $2.639 trillion

#33 The Federal Reserve also paid those big banks $659.4 million in “fees” to help “administer” those secret loans.

#34 During the last financial crisis, big European banks were allowed to borrow an “unlimited” amount of money from the Federal Reserve at ultra-low interest rates.

#35 The “easy money” policies of Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke have created the largest financial bubble this nation has ever seen, and this has set the stage for the great financial crisis that we are rapidly approaching.

#36 Since late 2008, the size of the Federal Reserve balance sheet has grown from less than a trillion dollars to more than 4 trillion dollars. This is complete and utter insanity.

#37 During the quantitative easing era, the value of the financial securities that the Fed has accumulated is greater than the total amount of publicly held debt that the U.S. government accumulated from the presidency of George Washington through the end of the presidency of Bill Clinton.

#38 Overall, the Federal Reserve now holds more than 32 percent of all 10 year equivalents.

#39 Quantitative easing creates financial bubbles, and when quantitative easing ends those bubbles tend to deflate rapidly.

#40 Most of the new money created by quantitative easing has ended up in the hands of the very wealthy.

#41 According to a prominent Federal Reserve insider, quantitative easing has been one giant “subsidy” for Wall Street banks.

#42 As one CNBC article stated, we have seen absolutely rampant inflation in “stocks and bonds and art and Ferraris“.

#43 Donald Trump once made the following statement about quantitative easing: “People like me will benefit from this.

#44 Most people have never heard about this, but a very interesting study conducted for the Bank of England shows that quantitative easing actually increases the gap between the wealthy and the poor.

#45 The gap between the top one percent and the rest of the country is now the greatest that it has been since the 1920s.

#46 The mainstream media has sold quantitative easing to the American public as an “economic stimulus program”, but the truth is that the percentage of Americans that have a job has actually gone down since quantitative easing first began.

#47 The Federal Reserve is supposed to be able to guide the nation toward “full employment”, but the reality of the matter is that an all-time record 102 million working age Americans do not have a job right now. That number has risen by about 27 million since the year 2000.

#48 For years, the projections of economic growth by the Federal Reserve have consistently overstated the strength of the U.S. economy. But every single time, the mainstream media continues to report that these numbers are “reliable” even though all they actually represent is wishful thinking.

#49 The Federal Reserve system fuels the growth of government, and the growth of government fuels the growth of the Federal Reserve system. Since 1970, federal spending has grown nearly 12 times as rapidly as median household income has.

#50 The Federal Reserve is supposed to look out for the health of all U.S. banks, but the truth is that they only seem to be concerned about the big ones. In 1985, there were more than 18,000 banks in the United States. Today, there are only 6,891 left.

#51 The six largest banks in the United States (JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Citigroup, Wells Fargo, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley) have collectively gotten 37 percent larger over the past five years.

#52 The U.S. banking system has 14.4 trillion dollars in total assets. The six largest banks now account for 67 percent of those assets and all of the other banks account for only 33 percent of those assets.

#53 The five largest banks now account for 42 percent of all loans in the United States.

#54 We were told that the purpose of quantitative easing was to help “stimulate the economy”, but today the Federal Reserve is actually paying the big banks not to lend out 1.8 trillion dollars in “excess reserves” that they have parked at the Fed.

#55 The Federal Reserve has allowed an absolutely gigantic derivatives bubble to inflate which could destroy our financial system at any moment. Right now, four of the “too big to fail” banks each have total exposure to derivatives that is well in excess of 40 trillion dollars.

#56 The total exposure that Goldman Sachs has to derivatives contracts is more than 381 times greater than their total assets.

#57 Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke has a track record of failure that would make the Chicago Cubs look good.

#58 The secret November 1910 gathering at Jekyll Island, Georgia during which the plan for the Federal Reserve was hatched was attended by U.S. Senator Nelson W. Aldrich, Assistant Secretary of the Treasury Department A.P. Andrews and a whole host of representatives from the upper crust of the Wall Street banking establishment.

#59 The Federal Reserve was created by the big Wall Street banks and for the benefit of the big Wall Street banks.

#60 In 1913, Congress was promised that if the Federal Reserve Act was passed that it would eliminate the business cycle.

#61 There has never been a true comprehensive audit of the Federal Reserve since it was created back in 1913.

#62 The Federal Reserve system has been described as “the biggest Ponzi scheme in the history of the world“.

#63 The following comes directly from the Fed’s official mission statement: “To provide the nation with a safer, more flexible, and more stable monetary and financial system.” Without a doubt, the Federal Reserve has failed in those tasks dramatically.

#64 The Fed decides what the target rate of inflation should be, what the target rate of unemployment should be and what the size of the money supply is going to be. This is quite similar to the “central planning” that goes on in communist nations, but very few people in our government seem upset by this.

#65 A couple of years ago, Federal Reserve officials walked into one bank in Oklahoma and demanded that they take down all the Bible verses and all the Christmas buttons that the bank had been displaying.

#66 The Federal Reserve has taken some other very frightening steps in recent years. For example, back in 2011 the Federal Reserve announced plans to identify “key bloggers” and to monitor “billions of conversations” about the Fed on Facebook, Twitter, forums and blogs. Someone at the Fed will almost certainly end up reading this article.

#67 Thanks to this endless debt spiral that we are trapped in, a massive amount of money is transferred out of our pockets and into the pockets of the ultra-wealthy each year. Incredibly, the U.S. government spent more than 415 billion dollars just on interest on the national debt in 2013.

#68 In January 2000, the average rate of interest on the government’s marketable debt was 6.620 percent. If we got back to that level today, we would be paying more than a trillion dollars a year just in interest on the national debt and it would collapse our entire financial system.

#69 The American people are being killed by compound interest but most of them don’t even understand what it is. Albert Einstein once made the following statement about compound interest…

Compound interest is the eighth wonder of the world. He who understands it, earns it … he who doesn’t … pays it.”

#70 Most Americans have absolutely no idea where money comes from. The truth is that the Federal Reserve just creates it out of thin air. The following is how I have previously described how money is normally created by the Fed in our system…

When the U.S. government decides that it wants to spend another billion dollars that it does not have, it does not print up a billion dollars.

Rather, the U.S. government creates a bunch of U.S. Treasury bonds (debt) and takes them over to the Federal Reserve.

The Federal Reserve creates a billion dollars out of thin air and exchanges them for the U.S. Treasury bonds.

#71 What does the Federal Reserve do with those U.S. Treasury bonds? They end up getting auctioned off to the highest bidder. But this entire process actually creates more debt than it does money…

The U.S. Treasury bonds that the Federal Reserve receives in exchange for the money it has created out of nothing are auctioned off through the Federal Reserve system.

But wait.

There is a problem.

Because the U.S. government must pay interest on the Treasury bonds, the amount of debt that has been created by this transaction is greater than the amount of money that has been created.

So where will the U.S. government get the money to pay that debt?

Well, the theory is that we can get money to circulate through the economy really, really fast and tax it at a high enough rate that the government will be able to collect enough taxes to pay the debt.

But that never actually happens, does it?

And the creators of the Federal Reserve understood this as well. They understood that the U.S. government would not have enough money to both run the government and service the national debt. They knew that the U.S. government would have to keep borrowing even more money in an attempt to keep up with the game.

#72 Of course the U.S. government could actually create money and spend it directly into the economy without the Federal Reserve being involved at all. But then we wouldn’t be 17 trillion dollars in debt and that wouldn’t serve the interests of the bankers at all.

#73 The following is what Thomas Edison once had to say about our absolutely insane debt-based financial system…

That is to say, under the old way any time we wish to add to the national wealth we are compelled to add to the national debt.

Now, that is what Henry Ford wants to prevent. He thinks it is stupid, and so do I, that for the loan of $30,000,000 of their own money the people of the United States should be compelled to pay $66,000,000 — that is what it amounts to, with interest. People who will not turn a shovelful of dirt nor contribute a pound of material will collect more money from the United States than will the people who supply the material and do the work. That is the terrible thing about interest. In all our great bond issues the interest is always greater than the principal. All of the great public works cost more than twice the actual cost, on that account. Under the present system of doing business we simply add 120 to 150 per cent, to the stated cost.

But here is the point: If our nation can issue a dollar bond, it can issue a dollar bill. The element that makes the bond good makes the bill good.

#74 The United States now has the largest national debt in the history of the world, and we are stealing roughly 100 million dollars from our children and our grandchildren every single hour of every single day in a desperate attempt to keep the debt spiral going.

#75 Thomas Jefferson once stated that if he could add just one more amendment to the U.S. Constitution it would be a ban on all government borrowing

I wish it were possible to obtain a single amendment to our Constitution. I would be willing to depend on that alone for the reduction of the administration of our government to the genuine principles of its Constitution; I mean an additional article, taking from the federal government the power of borrowing.

#76 At this moment, the U.S. national debt is sitting at $18,141,409,083,212.36. If we had followed the advice of Thomas Jefferson, it would be sitting at zero.

#77 When the Federal Reserve was first established, the U.S. national debt was sitting at about 2.9 billion dollars. On average, we have been adding more than that to the national debt every single day since Obama has been in the White House.

#78 We are on pace to accumulate more new debt during the 8 years of the Obama administration than we did under all of the other presidents in all of U.S. history combined.

#79 If all of the new debt that has been accumulated since John Boehner became Speaker of the House had been given directly to the American people instead, every household in America would have been able to buy a new truck.

#80 Between 2008 and 2012, U.S. government debt grew by 60.7 percent, but U.S. GDP only grew by a total of about 8.5 percent during that entire time period.

#81 Since 2007, the U.S. debt to GDP ratio has increased from 66.6 percent to 102.98 percent.

#82 According to the U.S. Treasury, foreigners hold approximately 5.6 trillion dollars of our debt.

#83 The amount of U.S. government debt held by foreigners is about 5 times larger than it was just a decade ago.

#84 As I have written about previously, if the U.S. national debt was reduced to a stack of one dollar bills it would circle the earth at the equator 45 times.

#85 If Bill Gates gave every single penny of his entire fortune to the U.S. government, it would only cover the U.S. budget deficit for 15 days.

#86 Sometimes we forget just how much money a trillion dollars is. If you were alive when Jesus Christ was born and you spent one million dollars every single day since that point, you still would not have spent one trillion dollars by now.

#87 If right this moment you went out and started spending one dollar every single second, it would take you more than 31,000 years to spend one trillion dollars.

#88 In addition to all of our debt, the U.S. government has also accumulated more than 200 trillion dollars in unfunded liabilities. So where in the world will all of that money come from?

#89 The greatest damage that quantitative easing has been causing to our economy is the fact that it is destroying worldwide faith in the U.S. dollar and in U.S. debt. If the rest of the world stops using our dollars and stops buying our debt, we are going to be in a massive amount of trouble.

#90 Over the past several years, the Federal Reserve has been monetizing a staggering amount of U.S. government debt even though Ben Bernanke once promised that he would never do this.

#91 China recently announced that they are going to quit stockpiling more U.S. dollars. If the Federal Reserve was not recklessly printing money, this would probably not have happened.

#92 Most Americans have no idea that one of our most famous presidents was absolutely obsessed with getting rid of central banking in the United States. The following is a February 1834 quote by President Andrew Jackson about the evils of central banking…

I too have been a close observer of the doings of the Bank of the United States. I have had men watching you for a long time, and am convinced that you have used the funds of the bank to speculate in the breadstuffs of the country. When you won, you divided the profits amongst you, and when you lost, you charged it to the Bank. You tell me that if I take the deposits from the Bank and annul its charter I shall ruin ten thousand families. That may be true, gentlemen, but that is your sin! Should I let you go on, you will ruin fifty thousand families, and that would be my sin! You are a den of vipers and thieves. I have determined to rout you out and, by the Eternal, (bringing his fist down on the table) I will rout you out.

#93 There are plenty of possible alternative financial systems, but at this point all 187 nations that belong to the IMF have a central bank. Are we supposed to believe that this is just some sort of a bizarre coincidence?

#94 The capstone of the global central banking system is an organization known as the Bank for International Settlements. The following is how I described this organization in a previous article

An immensely powerful international organization that most people have never even heard of secretly controls the money supply of the entire globe. It is called the Bank for International Settlements, and it is the central bank of central banks. It is located in Basel, Switzerland, but it also has branches in Hong Kong and Mexico City. It is essentially an unelected, unaccountable central bank of the world that has complete immunity from taxation and from national laws. Even Wikipedia admits that “it is not accountable to any single national government.” The Bank for International Settlements was used to launder money for the Nazis during World War II, but these days the main purpose of the BIS is to guide and direct the centrally-planned global financial system. Today, 58 global central banks belong to the BIS, and it has far more power over how the U.S. economy (or any other economy for that matter) will perform over the course of the next year than any politician does. Every two months, the central bankers of the world gather in Basel for another “Global Economy Meeting”. During those meetings, decisions are made which affect every man, woman and child on the planet, and yet none of us have any say in what goes on. The Bank for International Settlements is an organization that was founded by the global elite and it operates for the benefit of the global elite, and it is intended to be one of the key cornerstones of the emerging one world economic system.

#95 The borrower is the servant of the lender, and the Federal Reserve has turned all of us into debt slaves.

#96 Debt is a form of social control, and the global elite use all of this debt to dominate all the rest of us. 40 years ago, the total amount of debt in our system (all government debt, all business debt, all consumer debt, etc.) was sitting at about 3 trillion dollars. Today, the grand total is approaching 60 trillion dollars.

#97 Unless something dramatic is done, our children and our grandchildren will be debt slaves for their entire lives as they service our debts and pay for our mistakes.

#98 Now that you know this information, you are responsible for doing something about it.

#99 Congress has the power to shut down the Federal Reserve any time that it would like. But right now most of our politicians fully endorse the current system, and nothing is ever going to happen until the American people start demanding change.

#100 The design of the Federal Reserve system was flawed from the very beginning. If something is not done very rapidly, it is inevitable that our entire financial system is going to suffer an absolutely nightmarish collapse.

 

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?

Wrong.

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.

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