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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But this one will be worse.

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

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

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

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

The Stock Market Will Start To Fall In July? The Dow Plummeted More Than 500 Points Last Week

Falling - Public DomainWas last week a preview of things to come? There are quite a few people out there that believe that the stock market would begin to decline in July, and that appears to be precisely what is happening. Last week, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell by more than 530 points. It was the biggest one week decline that we have seen so far in 2015, and some are suggesting that this could only be just the beginning. By just about any measurement that you might want to use, the stock market is overvalued. But we have been in this bubble for so long that many people have come to believe that this is “the new normal”. In fact, earlier today someone that I know dropped me a line and suggested that our financial overlords may be able to use the tools at their disposal to get this current bubble to persist indefinitely. Unfortunately, the truth is that no financial bubble ever lasts forever, and right now some very alarming things are starting to happen behind the scenes. Over the past couple of weeks, the smart money has been dumping stocks like crazy, and the lack of liquidity in the bond markets is beginning to become acute.  Could it be possible that another great financial crisis is just around the corner?

Last week took a lot of investors by surprise. The following is how Zero Hedge summarized the carnage…

-Russell 2000 -3.1% – worst week since Oct 2014 (Bullard)
-Dow -2.8% – worst week since Dec 2014
-S&P -2.1% – worst week since Jan 2015
-Trannies -2.8% – worst week since Mar 2015
-Nasdaq -2.2% – worst week since Mar 2015

The talking heads on television were not quite sure what to make of this sudden downturn. On CNBC, analysts mainly blamed the usual suspects…

“I think the market’s very much concerned about the commodity (decline),” said John Lonski, chief economist at Moody’s. “The contraction in China manufacturing activity is gaining momentum and the credit market has yet to signal that rates are not about to go higher.”

He also noted a surprising decline in new home sales and continued lack of revenue growth in earnings. Nearly all the commodities are in a bear market and gold and crude settled at lows Friday.

“You’ve got some major growth concerns and that is what’s weighing on investors minds,” said Peter Boockvar, chief market strategist at The Lindsey Group.

And without a doubt, there are some new numbers that are deeply troubling for Wall Street. For example, it is being projected that S&P 500 companies will collectively report a 2.2 percent decline in earnings for the second quarter of 2015. If this comes to pass, it will be the first drop that we have seen since the third quarter of 2012.

The biggest reason for this decline in earnings is the implosion of U.S. energy companies due to the crash in oil prices. The following comes from CNBC

Thanks to a collapse in the price of oil, the energy sector is slated to report a monster 54 percent drop in earnings and 28 percent swoon in revenue, compared to the second quarter in the year prior.

Hmm – unlike what so many others were saying initially, it turns out that the oil crash is bad for the U.S. economy after all.

But just like at this time of the year in 2008, most people fully expect that everything is going to be just fine. So many of the exact same patterns that we witnessed the last time around are playing out once again, and yet most of the “experts” refuse to see what is happening right in front of their eyes.

When things crash this time, it won’t just be stocks that collapse. As I have been writing about so frequently, we are also headed for an implosion of the bond markets as well. The following comes from Dr. David Eifrig

In the U.S. Treasury securities market, financial-services giant JPMorgan Chase estimates that five years ago, you could move about $280 million worth of Treasury securities before your trades moved the market’s price. Now, that’s down to $80 million… a decline of more than 70%.

When a panic sets in, reduced liquidity can cause big swings in market prices.

There is that word “liquidity” again. This is something that I have repeatedly been taking about. Just check out this article from a little over a month ago. A bond is only worth what someone else is willing to pay for it, and if the market runs out of buyers that can cause seismic shifts in price very rapidly. Here is more from Eifrig

In a run-of-the-mill bear market, you just have a downward trend… When enough investors are selling bonds, it drives down prices. Falling prices lead more investors to start selling. We see that all the time.

A liquidity crisis goes even further. It’s like a classic run on a bank… Without sufficient liquidity, the sellers don’t just see lower prices… they see no prices. Since no one wants to buy bonds at this particular time, the price for them effectively becomes zero.

There has been a lot of speculation about what will happen in the second half of 2015.

We only have a little over five months to go in the year, so it won’t be too long before we see who was right and who was wrong.

Our perceptions of the future are very much shaped by our worldviews. All the time, I get “Obamabots” that come to my website and leave comments on my articles telling me how Barack Obama has “turned the economy around” and has set the stage for a new era of prosperity in America.

Despite all the evidence to the contrary, they choose to believe that things are in great shape because that is what they want to believe. Just check out the results from one recent survey

While 55 percent of Democrats reported feeling positive about the economy, for example, just 25 percent of Republicans felt the same from March 25 to May 27.

When asked if they thought the economy would improve over the next 12 months, 53 percent of Democrats said yes. Only 23 percent of the Republicans in the survey agreed.

The same perception gap extends to the far future, with 41 percent of Democrats believing that the next generation will be better off than their parents, and just 24 percent of Republicans saying the same.

To me, those numbers are quite striking.

Many Democrats very much want to believe that things are getting better because Barack Obama is in the White House.

Many Republicans very much want to believe that things are totally falling apart because Barack Obama is in the White House.

So who is right and who is wrong?

Please feel free to share what you think by posting a comment below…

Ferguson Is A Perfect Example Of How Quickly The Streets Of America Can Descend Into Chaos

Ferguson RiotsRioting, looting, burning down stores and shooting police officers – is this about to become the “new normal” in America?  What we just witnessed happen in the streets of Ferguson, Missouri is a prime example of how quickly the streets of America can descend into chaos.  There is so much anger and frustration in this country, especially among our young people, that all it takes is a “trigger event” to spark a wildfire.  In this case, it was the shooting of an unarmed black teen by a police officer.  According to the police, 18-year-old Michael Brown got into a physical altercation with an officer and was subsequently shot.  Word spread quickly throughout the community, and protests were rapidly organized.  But the protests didn’t stay peaceful.  People started chanting “kill the police” and throwing rocks and bottles.  Store windows were smashed, the looting began, and people went absolutely crazy.  And it wasn’t just a few people that were doing the looting.  Huge mobs of people looted stores all over Ferguson.  At one point an ATM was even dragged out of a QuikTrip gas station and a while after that the store was set on fire.  But this is what happens when things descend into chaos.  The owners of those stores didn’t have anything to do with the shooting of Michael Brown, but the violence got directed at them anyway.  And someday when we see similar scenes erupt in major cities all over the nation, it won’t matter what your political beliefs are.  You just better not be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Ferguson is a little town just outside of St. Louis with a population of about 21,000 people.  You wouldn’t think that it would be possible to see such massive rioting in such a small community.  But that is precisely what happened.  On Monday, millions of Americans were absolutely mesmerized by the images coming out of Ferguson.  The following is how one news source described what happened…

Brian Schellman, with the St. Louis County Police Department, said close to 300 police officers from at least 15 different departments were called to Ferguson when angry mobs began smashing windows, setting fires and looting businesses in the area.

Schellman said a St. Louis County officer injured his knee while at a Foot Locker store during the rioting. He said another officer was injured when he had a brick thrown at him.

Throughout the evening, numerous cop cars sustained damage and Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson said someone in a yellow pickup truck fired shots at officers while circling a WalMart parking lot.  Chief Jackson said he got into a cop car to give chase to the truck but the truck got away.

Police said shots were also fired at a police helicopter in the area.

But words do not really accurately convey the level of craziness that was unleashed.  I would encourage you to watch some of the videos on YouTube of the rioting and looting that were going on in Ferguson.  The video posted below is just one example…

Sadly, this violence might continue for a while.

Just check out what one very angry 30-year-old man told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch

DeAndre Smith, 30, of Ferguson was happy to justify the looting when a reporter asked him about it Monday morning.

“This is exactly what is supposed to be happening when an injustice is happening in your community,” he said, adding: “You have kids getting killed for nothing.”

Smith, who moved to St. Louis from New York in December, said there could be more to come.

I don’t think it’s over honestly,” he said. “I just think they got a taste of what fighting back means.”

Of course this is not the first time that we have seen this kind of thing happen.  Earlier this year, all it took was a snow storm for people in Atlanta to start behaving like crazed lunatics.  And late last year we saw rioting and looting all over the nation when a technical glitch caused the EBT system to go down for a short while.

Even though the economy has somewhat stabilized (at least for the moment), levels of anger and frustration have continued to grow in this country.  We have been taught to hate one another and to blame one another for our problems, and so now the U.S. is more divided than at any other point in recent memory.  For much more on this, please see my previous article entitled “America The Divided: Everyone Knows We Have Problems But There Is Very Little Agreement On Solutions“.

We live at a time when things are so tense that even a small spark can light an absolutely huge fire.  America has become a tinderbox.  Next time it might not be a racially-charged shooting.  Next time it might be an Ebola outbreak that sparks looting and panic.  Or it might be some sort of financial collapse.  We just don’t know.

But what we do know is that there are lots and lots of people that are willing to riot and loot and commit unspeakable crimes given the right circumstances.

Decades of social decay have gotten us to the point where the thin veneer of civilization that we all take for granted every single day is wearing dangerously thin.

The truth is that it is not going to take much to push this nation over the edge.

If this kind of rioting can take place in a community with just over 20,000 people, what would a full-blown riot look like in a city with millions of people?

That is a very sobering thing to think about.

Once upon a time in America, you could leave your doors unlocked at night and you could let your kids play in the streets without ever having to worry.

But now we are a sick, decaying nation that has millions of people ready to riot and loot at the drop of a hat.

Is there any hope for us?

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