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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2015 Was The Worst Year For The Stock Market Since 2008

New Year's Eve - Public DomainIt’s official – 2015 was a horrible year for stocks.  On the last day of the year, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down another 178 points, and overall it was the worst year for the Dow since 2008.  But of course the Dow was far from alone.  The S&P 500, the Russell 2000 and Dow Transports also all had their worst years since 2008.  Isn’t it funny how these things seem to happen every seven years?  But compared to other investments, stocks had a relatively “good” year.  In 2015, junk bonds, oil and industrial commodities all crashed hard – just like they all did just prior to the great stock market crash of 2008.  According to CNN, almost 70 percent of all investors lost money in 2015, and things are unfolding in textbook fashion for much more financial chaos in 2016.

Globally, over the past 12 months we have seen financial shaking unlike anything that we have experienced since the last great financial crisis.  During the month of August markets all over the world started to go haywire, and at one point approximately 11 trillion dollars of financial wealth had been wiped out globally according to author Jonathan Cahn.

Since that time, U.S. stocks rebounded quite a bit, but they still ended red for the year.  Other global markets were not nearly as fortunate.  Some major indexes finished 2015 down 20 percent or more, and European stocks just had their second worst December ever.

I honestly don’t understand the “nothing is happening” crowd.  The numbers clearly tell us that a global financial crisis began in 2015, and it threatens to accelerate greatly as we head into 2016.

Actually, there are a whole lot of people out there that would be truly thankful if “nothing” had happened over the past 12 months.  For example, there are five very unfortunate corporate CEOs that collectively lost 20 billion dollars in 2015…

Five CEOs of companies in the Russell 1000 index, including Nicholas Woodman of camera maker GoPro (GPRO), Sheldon Adelson of casino operator Las Vegas Sands (LVS) and even the famed investor Warren Buffett of Berkshire Hathaway (BRKA), lost more money on their companies’ shares than any other CEOs this year, according to a USA TODAY analysis of data from S&P Capital IQ.

These five CEOs were handed a whopping collective $20 billion loss on their company stock in 2015. Each and every one of these CEOs lost $1 billion or more – based on the average number of shares they’ve owned this year.

The biggest loser of the group was Warren Buffett.

He lost an astounding 7.8 billion dollars in 2015.

Do you think that he believes that “nothing happened” this past year?

And if “nothing happened”, then why are hedge funds “dropping like flies” right now?  The following comes from Zero Hedge

Two days, ago we noted that hedge funds are now dropping like flies in a year in which generating alpha has become virtually impossible for the majority of the vastly overpaid 2 and 20 “smart money” out there (and where levered beta is no longer the “sure thing” it used to be when the Fed was pumping trillions into stocks) when we reported that Seneca Capital, the $500 million multi-strat hedge fund belonging to Doug Hirsh (of Sohn Investment Conference fame), is shutting down.

And just within the last 24 hours, another very prominent hedge fund has collapsed.  SAB Capital, which once managed more than a billion dollars, is shutting down after huge losses this year.  Here is more from Zero Hedge

It turns out that despite our intention, the question was not rhetorical because just a few hours later Bloomberg answered when it reported that the latest hedge fund shutdown casualty was another iconic, long-term investor: Scott Bommer’s SAB Capital, which as of a year ago managed $1.1 billion, and which after 17 years of managing money and after dropping roughly 11% in the first eight month of 2015, has decided to return all outside client money, and converting the hedge fund into a family office (after all one has to preserve one’s offshore tax benefits).

Overall, 674 hedge funds shut down during the first nine months of this year, and the final number for 2015 will actually be far higher because the rate of closings has accelerated as we have approached the end of this calendar year.  When the final numbers come in, I would not be surprised to hear that 1,000 hedge funds had closed up shop in 2015.

Meanwhile, underlying economic conditions continue to deteriorate.

Corporate profits are steadily falling, the bond distress ratio just hit the highest level that we have seen since September 2009, and corporate debt defaults have risen to the highest level that we have seen since the last recession.

And this week we got a couple of new numbers that indicate that the U.S. economy is slowing down much faster than anticipated.

The first big surprise was the Dallas Fed’s general business activity index

The Dallas Fed’s general business activity index plunged to -20.1 in December from -4.9 in November. This was much worse than the -7.0 expected by economists.

Any reading below 0 signals contraction, and this index has been below 0 all year.

The next big surprise was the Chicago purchasing manager index

The Chicago purchasing manager index unexpectedly plunged to 42.9 in December, its lowest reading since July 2009.

Any reading below 50 signals a contraction in business activity.

This was down from 48.7 in November and much worse than the 50.0 expected by economists.

When the final numbers for the fourth quarter are in a few months from now, I believe that they will show that the U.S. economy officially entered recession territory at this time.

And the truth is that deep recessions have already started for some of the other biggest economies on the planet.  For example, I recently wrote about the deep troubles that Canada is now experiencing, and things have already gotten so bad in Brazil that Goldman Sachs is referring to that crisis as “an outright depression“.

Many people seem to assume that since I have a website called “The Economic Collapse Blog” that I must want everything to fall apart.  But that is not true at all.  I love my country, I enjoy my life, and I would be perfectly content to spend 2016 peacefully passing the time here in the mountains with my wonderful wife.  The longer things can stay somewhat “normal”, the better it is for all of us.

Unfortunately, for decades we have been making incredibly foolish decisions as a society, and the consequences of those decisions are now catching up with us in a major way.

Jonathan Cahn likes to say that “a great shaking is coming”, and I very much agree with him.

In fact, I think that it is going to be here a lot sooner than most people think.

So buckle up, because I believe that 2016 is going to be quite a wild ride.

BLACK MONDAY: The First Time EVER The Dow Has Dropped By More Than 500 Points On Two Consecutive Days

New York City Empire State Building - Public DomainOn Monday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average plummeted 588 points. It was the 8th worst single day stock market crash in U.S. history, and it was the first time that the Dow has ever fallen by more than 500 points on two consecutive days. But the amazing thing is that the Dow actually performed better than almost every other major global stock market on Monday.  In the U.S., the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq both did worse than the Dow. In Europe, almost every major index performed significantly worse than the Dow.  Over in Asia, Japanese stocks were down 895 points, and Chinese stocks experienced the biggest decline of all (a whopping 8.46 percent). On June 25th, I was not kidding around when I issued a “red alert” for the last six months of 2015. I had never issued a formal alert for any other period of time, and I specifically stated that “a major financial collapse is imminent“. But you know what? As the weeks and months roll along, things will eventually be even worse than what any of the experts (including myself) have been projecting. The global financial system is now unraveling, and you better pack a lunch because this is going to be one very long horror show.

Our world has not seen a day quite like Monday in a very, very long time. Let’s start our discussion where the carnage began…

Asian Markets

For weeks, the Chinese government has been taking unprecedented steps to try to stop Chinese stocks from crashing, but nothing has worked. As most Americans slept on Sunday night, the markets in China absolutely imploded

As Europe and North America slept on Sunday night, Chinese markets went through the floor — the Shanghai Composite index of stocks fell by 8.49%, the biggest single-day collapse since 2007.

It wasn’t alone. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng fell 5.17%, and Japan’s Nikkei fell 4.61%. Stocks in Taiwan, the Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand also tumbled.

Things would have been even worse in China if trading had not been stopped in most stocks. Trading was suspended for an astounding 2,200 stocks once they hit their 10 percent decline limits.

Overall, the Shanghai Composite Index is now down close to 40 percent from the peak of the market, and the truth is that Chinese stocks are still massively overvalued when compared to the rest of the world.

That means that they could very easily fall a lot farther.

European Markets

The selling momentum in Asia carried over into Europe once the European markets opened. On a percentage basis, all of the major indexes on the continent declined even more than the Dow did

In Europe, the bloodbath from Friday continued unabated. The German Dax plunged 4.7%, the French CAC 40 5.4%, UK’s FTSE 100 dropped 4.7%. Euro Stoxx 600, which covers the largest European companies, was down 5.3%.

But wait… Europe is where the omnipotent ECB and other central banks have imposed negative deposit rates. The ECB is engaged in a massive ‘whatever it takes” QE program to inflate stock markets. But it’s not working. Omnipotence stops functioning once people stop believing in it.

U.S. Markets

Even before U.S. markets opened on Monday morning, the New York Stock Exchange was already warning that trading would be halted if things got too far out hand, and it almost happened

The thousands of companies listed by the New York Stock Exchange and Nasdaq Stock Market will pause for 15 minutes if the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index plunges 7 percent before 3:25 p.m. New York time. The benchmark got close earlier, falling as much as 5.3 percent.

There were other circuit breakers in place for later in the day if too much panic selling ensued, but fortunately none of those were triggered either. Here is more from Bloomberg

Another circuit breaker kicks in if the S&P 500 extends its losses to 13 percent before 3:25 p.m. If the plunge reaches 20 percent at any point during today’s session, the entire stock market will shut for the rest of the day.

When the U.S. markets did open, the Dow plunged 1,089 points during the opening minutes of trading. If the Dow would have stayed at that level, it would have been the worst single day stock market crash in U.S. history by a wide margin.

Instead, by the end of the day it only turned out to be the 8th worst day ever.

And in case you are wondering, yes, investors are losing a staggering amount of money. According to MarketWatch, the total amount of money lost is now starting to approach 2 trillion dollars

As of March 31, households and nonprofits held $24.1 trillion in stocks. That’s both directly, and through mutual funds, pension funds and the like. That also includes the holdings of U.S.-based hedge funds, though you’d have to think that most hedge funds are held by households.

Using the Dow Jones Total Stock Market index DWCF, -4.21% through midmorning trade, that number had dropped to $22.32 trillion.

In other words, a cool $1.8 trillion has been lost between now and the first quarter — and overwhelmingly, those losses occurred in the last few days.

Unfortunately, U.S. stock prices are still nowhere near where they should be. If they were to actually reflect economic reality, they would have to fall a lot, lot lower.

For example, there is usually a very strong correlation between commodity prices and the S&P 500, but in recent times we have seen a very large divergence take place. Just check out the chart in this article. At this point the S&P 500 would have to fall another 30 to 40 percent or commodities would have to rise 30 or 40 percent in order to close the gap. I think that the following bit of commentary sums up where we are quite nicely

“Markets are afraid of further economic weakness in China, further pain in global commodity markets and uncertain about Fed and PBoC policy — what they will do and what the impact will be,” Societe Generale’s Kit Juckes wrote on Monday. “The divergence between global commodity prices and equities is not a new theme but the danger now is that they begin to re-correlate – as they did when the dotcom bubble burst in 2000 and what had previously been an emerging market crisis became a US recession.”

And commodities were absolutely hammered once again on Monday.

For instance, the price of U.S. oil actually fell below 38 dollars a barrel at one point.

What we are watching unfold is incredible.

Of course the mainstream media is bringing on lots of clueless experts that are talking about what a wonderful “buying opportunity” this is. Even though those of us that saw this coming have been giving a detailed play by play account of the unfolding crisis for months, the talking heads on television still seem as oblivious as ever.

What is happening right now just doesn’t seem to make any sense to the “experts” that most people listen to. I love this headline from an article that Business Insider posted on Monday: “None of the theories for the Black Monday market crash add up“. Yes, if you are willingly blind to the long-term economic and financial trends which are destroying us, I guess these market crashes wouldn’t make sense.

And if stocks go up tomorrow (which they probably should), all of those same “experts” will be proclaiming that the “correction” is over and that everything is now fine.

But don’t be fooled by that. Just because stocks go up on any particular day does not mean that everything is fine. We are in the midst of a financial meltdown that is truly global in scope. This is going to take time to fully play out, and there will be good days and there will be bad days.  The three largest single day increases for the Dow were right in the middle of the financial crisis of 2008. So one very good day for stocks is not going to change the long-term analysis one bit.

It isn’t complicated. Those that follow my writing regularly know that I have repeatedly explained how things were setting up in textbook fashion for another global financial crisis, and now one is unfolding right in front of our eyes.

At this point, everyone should be able to very clearly see what is happening, and yet most are still blind.

Why is that?

The Stock Market In 2015 Is Starting To Look Remarkably Similar To The Stock Market In 2008

Bubble Mirror - Public DomainAre we watching a replay of the last financial crisis?  Over the past six months, the price of oil has collapsed, the U.S. dollar has soared, and a whole bunch of other patterns that we witnessed just before the stock market crash of 2008 are repeating once again.  But what we have not seen yet is the actual stock market crash.  So will there be one this year?  In this article, I am going to compare the performance of the Dow Jones Industrial Average during the first three months of 2008 to the performance of the Dow Jones Industrial Average during the first three months of 2015.  As you will see, there are some striking similarities.  And without a doubt, we are overdue for a major market downturn.  The S&P 500 has risen for six years in a row, but it has never had seven up years consecutively.  In addition, there has not even been a 10 percent stock market “correction” is almost three and a half years.  So will stocks be able to continue to defy both gravity and the forces of economic reality?  Only time will tell.

Below is a chart that shows how the Dow Jones Industrial Average performed during the first three months of 2008.  It was a time of increased volatility, but the market pretty much went nowhere.  This is typical of what we see in the months leading up to a market crash.  The markets start getting really choppy with large ups and large downs…

Dow First 3 Months Of 2008

This next chart shows how the Dow Jones Industrial Average has performed during the first three months of 2015.  Once again, we are witnessing a time of increased volatility, but the market is not really going anywhere.  In fact, after falling about 200 points on Tuesday (not shown on this chart) it is just barely below where it started the year…

Dow First 3 Months Of 2015

When the market becomes quite restless but it doesn’t really move anywhere, that is a sign that we have reached a turning point.  The following is what a recent CNN article had to say about the rising volatility that we have been witnessing…

The Dow fell nearly 3.7% in January, surged 5.6% in February and is down about 2% this month. The S&P 500 and Nasdaq have gone through similar sentiment swings. The Dow ended the quarter slightly in the red while the S&P 500 and Nasdaq were up a little bit.

Charles Schwab chief investment officer Liz Ann Sonders summed up this volatility the best — with a nod to U2. “Running to Stand Still: Wild Swings Taking Market Nowhere” is the title of her most recent market commentary.

What can investors expect for the rest of 2015? Probably a lot more of the same.

Now let’s look at a chart for the entire year of 2008.  After peaking for the year in early May, the Dow started to slide.  Things started to get really crazy in September, and by the end of the year the U.S. economy was plunged into the greatest crisis since the Great Depression…

Dow Full Year Of 2008

Will the rest of 2015 follow a similar pattern?

A lot of investors are actually betting that this will be the case.

Right now, hundreds of millions of dollars are flowing into VXX – an ETF that makes money when the Chicago Board Options Exchange Volatility Index goes up.  In other words, these investors are betting that we are going to see a lot more stock market volatility in the weeks and months to come.

And as I have said so many times before, stocks tend to rise in calm markets and they tend to fall when the markets become volatile.

So essentially these investors are betting that we are headed for a stock market crash.

The following is more on the massive inflow of money into VXX that we have been seeing from the Crux

Ways to speculate on how noisy the stock market will be have exploded in the last decade with the advent of products tied to the Chicago Board Options Exchange Volatility Index. Strategies include relatively simple hedges against equity losses, such as owning a security that aims to mimic the VIX.

VXX, one of the most popular ways to bet on bigger market swings, has absorbed $715 million in seven consecutive weeks of inflows, its longest streak of inflows since one ending in July 2012. The infusion of fresh cash has continued this week, swelling its market value to $1.5 billion, the highest since September 2013.

At the same time, short-sellers in VXX — people effectively betting the bull market will persist — have dropped out. Short interest has slid 35 percent since October, falling to the lowest in more than seven months last week, data compiled by Markit Ltd. show.

And many of the exact same people that warned us about the financial crisis of 2008 in advance are warning that another crisis is rapidly approaching.  For example, check out the following quote from Ann Pettifor that recently appeared in an article in the Guardian

As Janet Yellen’s Federal Reserve prepares to raise interest rates, boosting the value of the dollar, while the plunging price of crude puts intense pressure on the finances of oil-exporting countries, there are growing fears of a new debt crisis in the making.

Ann Pettifor of Prime Economics, who foreshadowed the credit crunch in her 2003 book The Coming First World Debt Crisis, says: “We’re going to have another financial crisis. Brazil’s already in great trouble with the strength of the dollar; I dread to think what’s happening in South Africa; then there’s Malaysia. We’re back to where we were, and that for me is really frightening.”

Pettifor is right on two counts – another major financial crisis is approaching, and it is going to be global in scope.

Before I end this article, there are two more items that I would like to share with you.

Firstly, it is being reported that the IPO market has really cooled off in 2015.  When the number of companies going public starts to decline, that is a clear sign that a stock market bubble is on borrowed time.  The following comes from Business Insider

The number of US companies going public has really dropped off lately.

“After a record year in 2014, the IPO market slowed dramatically in the first quarter of 2015,” Renaissance Capital analysts said.

The first quarter of 2015, which ended Tuesday, was the slowest quarter for IPOs since the first quarter of 2013. While stock prices have been near all-time highs, market volatility has been escalating, turning companies off from trying to unload shares onto the public markets.

Secondly, the San Francisco housing market has been a pretty reliable indicator of previous economic booms and busts.  The San Francisco housing market started to cool off before the dotcom bubble burst, it started to cool off before the stock market crash of 2008, and now it is cooling off once again.  The following chart comes from Zero Hedge

San Francisco - Zero Hedge

The warning signs are there.

But as with so many other things in life, most people are going to end up believing precisely what they want to believe.

So what do you believe about what the rest of the year will bring?  Please feel free to share your thoughts by posting a comment below…

If Everything Is Just Fine, Why Are So Many Really Smart People Forecasting Economic Disaster?

Apocalyptic Disaster - Public DomainThe parallels between the false prosperity of 2007 and the false prosperity of 2014 are rather striking.  If we go back and look at the numbers in the fall of 2007, we find that the Dow set an all-time high in October, margin debt on Wall Street had spiked to record levels, the unemployment rate was below 5 percent and Americans were getting ready to spend a record amount of money that Christmas season.  But then the very next year the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression shook the entire planet and everyone wondered why most people never saw it coming.  Well, now a similar pattern is unfolding right before our eyes.  The Dow and the S&P 500 both hit record highs on Monday, margin debt on Wall Street is hovering near record levels, the unemployment rate has ticked down a little bit and Americans are getting ready to spend more than 600 billion dollars this Christmas season.  The truth is that the economy seems pretty stable for the moment, and most people cannot even imagine that an economic collapse is coming.  So why are so many really smart people forecasting economic disaster in the near future?

For example, just consider what the Jerome Levy Forecasting Center is saying.  This is an organization with a tremendous economic forecasting record that goes all the way back to the Great Depression.  In fact, it predicted ahead of time the financial trouble and the recession that would happen in 2008.  Well, now this company is forecasting that there is a 65 percent chance that there will be a global recession by the end of next year…

In 1929, a businessman and economist by the name of Jerome Levy didn’t like what he saw in his analysis of corporate profits. He sold his stocks before the October crash.

Almost eight decades later, the consultancy company that bears his name declared “the next recession will be caused by the deflating housing bubble.” By February 2007, it predicted problems in the subprime-mortgage market would spread “to virtually all financial markets.” In October 2007, it saw imminent recession — the slump began two months later.

The Jerome Levy Forecasting Center, based in Mount Kisco, New York, and run by Jerome’s grandson David, is again more worried than its peers. Its half-dozen analysts attach a 65 percent probability of a worldwide recession forcing a contraction in the U.S. by the end of next year.

Could they be wrong?

It’s certainly possible.

But I wouldn’t bet against them.

John Hussman is another expert that is warning of financial disaster on the horizon.  He believes that we are experiencing a massive stock market bubble right now and that stocks are approximately double the value that they should be

If you look at corporate profits and especially corporate profit margins, they’re one of the most cyclical and mean-reverting series in economics. Right now, we have corporate profits that are close to about 11% of GDP, but if you look at that series you will find that corporate profits as a share of GDP have always dropped back to about 5.5% or below in every single economic cycle including recent decades, including not only the financial crisis but 2002 and every other economic cycle we have been in.

Right now stocks as a multiple of last year’s expected earnings may look only modestly over valued or modestly richly valued. Really if you look at the measures of valuation that are most correlated to the returns that stocks deliver over time say over seven years or over the next 10 years the S&P 500 in our estimation is about double the level of valuation that would give investors a normal rate of return.

Could you imagine the chaos that would ensue if stocks really did drop by 50 percent?

Well, Hussman says that this is precisely what must happen in order for stock prices to return to historical norms…

Right now, like I say, we are looking at stocks that have been pressed to long-term expected returns that are really dismal. But more important than that, in every market cycle that we’ve seen with the mild exception of 2002, we’ve seen stocks price revert back to normal rates of return. In order to get to that point from here, we would have to have equities drop by about half.

If that does happen, it will make the crisis of 2008 look like a Sunday picnic.

Meanwhile, other very prominent thinkers are also warning that an economic nightmare is rapidly approaching.

Economic cycle theorist Martin Armstrong foresees major economic problems in 2015 which will ultimately lead to “civil unrest”  in 2016

It looks more and more like a serious political uprising will erupt by 2016 once the economy turns down. That is the magic ingredient. Turn the economy down and you get civil unrest and revolution.

And of course there are a whole lot of other economic cycle theorists that are forecasting that we are about to experience a massive economic downturn as well.  For much more on this, please see this article and this article.

What is truly frightening is that we have never even come close to recovering from the last economic crisis.  One poll that was taken just prior to the recent election found that only 28 percent of Americans said that their families were doing better financially.  In addition, here are some more survey numbers about how Americans are feeling about the economy

According to voter exit polls conducted by CNN, 78% said they are worried about the economy, with 69% saying that, in their view, economic conditions are not good. 65% responded that the country is on the wrong track vs. only 31% who believed that it is headed in the right direction.

Even though we are repeating so many of the same patterns that we experienced back in 2007, we are doing so with a fundamentally weaker economy.  The last crisis did a tremendous amount of permanent damage to us.  For an extensive look at this, please see my previous article entitled “12 Charts That Show The Permanent Damage That Has Been Done To The U.S. Economy“.

And there are lots of signs that much of the planet is already entering another major economic slowdown.  In a recent article, Brandon Smith summarized some of these.  He says that we are currently witnessing “the last gasp of the global economy“…

Global exports, and thus consumer demand, are plunging. Germany, the only pillar left to prop up the failing European Union, has experienced a severe decline in exports not seen since 2009.

China, the largest exporter and importer in the world, and Chinese companies, have been caught in a number of instances using fraudulent invoices to artificially inflate their own export numbers, in some cases reporting 50% more exported goods than had actually existed.

China’s manufacturing has also declined for the past five months, exposing the nature of its inflated export stats and indicating a global slowdown.

The Baltic Dry Index, a measure of global shipping rates for raw goods, and thus a measure of demand for shipping, continues to drag along near historic lows.

The U.S. consumer (the only economic asset the U.S. has besides the dollar’s world reserve status), has seen declines in spending as well as wages.

In the meantime, long term jobless Americans continue to fall off welfare rolls by the millions, making unemployment numbers look good, but the overall future picture look terrible as participation rates dissolve into the ether of government statistics.

How is such poverty being hidden? Foodstamps. Plain and simple. Nearly 50 million Americans now subsist on food stamp programs today, and this number shows no signs of dropping. In states like Illinois, two people sign up for food assistance for every citizen that happens to find a job.

From time to time, I get accused of “spreading fear” and of being obsessed with “doom and gloom”.

But that is not the case at all.

I actually want our economy to stay stable for as long as possible.  Many Americans don’t realize this, but even the poorest of us live in luxury compared to much of the rest of the world.  It would be wonderful if we could all live out our lives in peace and quiet and safety.

Unfortunately, it is simply not going to happen.

And it does not take an expert to see what is coming.

Anyone with half a brain should be able to see the economic disaster that is approaching.

There is hope in understanding what is happening and there is hope in getting prepared.  Millions of Americans that are willingly blind to our problems are going to have their lives absolutely destroyed when they get blindsided by the coming crisis.  So please use this brief period of relative stability to get prepared and to warn others.

Once this false bubble of hope runs out, all of our lives are going to dramatically change.

Most People Cannot Even Imagine That An Economic Collapse Is Coming

Thinking - Public DomainThe idea that the United States is on the brink of a horrifying economic crash is absolutely inconceivable to most Americans.  After all, the economy has been relatively stable for quite a few years and the stock market continues to surge to new heights.  On Friday, the Dow and the S&P 500 both closed at brand new all-time record highs.  For the year, the S&P 500 is now up 9 percent and the Nasdaq is now up close to 11 percent.  And American consumers are getting ready to spend more than 600 billion dollars this Christmas season.  That is an amount of money that is larger than the entire economy of Sweden.  So how in the world can anyone be talking about economic collapse?  Yes, many will concede, we had a few bumps in the road back in 2008 but things have pretty much gotten back to normal since then.  Why be concerned about economic collapse when there is so much stability all around us?

Unfortunately, this brief period of stability that we have been enjoying is just an illusion.

The fundamental problems that caused the financial crisis of 2008 have not been fixed.  In fact, most of our long-term economic problems have gotten even worse.

But most Americans have such short attention spans these days.  In a world where we are accustomed to getting everything instantly, news cycles only last for 48 hours and 2008 might as well be an eternity ago.

In the United States today, our entire economic system is based on debt.

Without debt, very little economic activity happens.  We need mortgages to buy our homes, we need auto loans to buy our vehicles and we need our credit cards to do our shopping during the holiday season.

So where does all of that debt come from?

It comes from the banks.

In particular, the “too big to fail banks” are the heart of this debt-based system.

Do you have a mortgage, an auto loan or a credit card from one of these “too big to fail” institutions?  A very large percentage of the people that will read this article do.

And a lot of people might not like to hear this, but without those banks we essentially do not have an economy.

When Lehman Brothers collapsed in 2008, it almost resulted in the meltdown of our entire system.  The stock market collapsed and we experienced an absolutely wicked credit crunch.

Unfortunately, that was just a small preview of what is coming.

Even though a few prominent “experts” such as New York Times columnist Paul Krugman have declared that the “too big to fail” problem is “over”, the truth is that it is now a bigger crisis than ever before.

Compared to five years ago, the four largest banks in the country are now almost 40 percent larger.  The following numbers come from a recent article in the Los Angeles Times

Just before the financial crisis hit, Wells Fargo & Co. had $609 billion in assets. Now it has $1.4 trillion. Bank of America Corp. had $1.7 trillion in assets. That’s up to $2.1 trillion.

And the assets of JPMorgan Chase & Co., the nation’s biggest bank, have ballooned to $2.4 trillion from $1.8 trillion.

At the same time that those banks have been getting bigger, 1,400 smaller banks have completely disappeared from the banking industry.

That means that we are now more dependent on these gigantic banks than ever.

At this point, the five largest banks account for 42 percent of all loans in the United States, and the six largest banks account for 67 percent of all assets in our financial system.

If someone came along and zapped those banks out of existence, our economy would totally collapse overnight.

So the health of this handful of immensely powerful banking institutions is absolutely critical to our economy.

Unfortunately, these banks have become deeply addicted to gambling.

Have you ever known people that allowed their lives to be destroyed by addictions that they could never shake?

Well, that is what is happening to these banks.  They have transformed Wall Street into the largest casino in the history of the world.  Most of the time, their bets pay off and they make lots of money.

But as we saw back in 2008, when they miscalculate things can fall apart very rapidly.

The bets that I am most concerned about are known as “derivatives“.  In essence, they are bets about what will or will not happen in the future.  The big banks use very sophisticated algorithms that are supposed to help them be on the winning side of these bets the vast majority of the time, but these algorithms are not perfect.  The reason these algorithms are not perfect is because they are based on assumptions, and those assumptions come from people.  They might be really smart people, but they are still just people.

If things stay fairly stable like they have the past few years, the algorithms tend to work very well.

But if there is a “black swan event” such as a major stock market crash, a collapse of European or Asian banks, a historic shift in interest rates, an Ebola pandemic, a horrific natural disaster or a massive EMP blast is unleashed by the sun, everything can be suddenly thrown out of balance.

Acrobat Nik Wallenda has been making headlines all over the world for crossing vast distances on a high-wire without a safety net.  Well, that is essentially what our “too big to fail” banks are doing every single day.  With each passing year, these banks have become even more reckless, and so far there have not been any serious consequences.

But without a doubt, someday there will be.

What would you say about a bookie that took $200,000 in bets but that only had $10,000 to cover those bets?

You would certainly call that bookie a fool.

But that is what our big banks are doing.

Right now, JPMorgan Chase has more than 67 trillion dollars in exposure to derivatives but it only has 2.5 trillion dollars in assets.

Right now, Citibank has nearly 60 trillion dollars in exposure to derivatives but it only has 1.9 trillion dollars in assets.

Right now, Goldman Sachs has more than 54 trillion dollars in exposure to derivatives but it has less than a trillion dollars in assets.

Right now, Bank of America has more than 54 trillion dollars in exposure to derivatives but it only has 2.2 trillion dollars in assets.

Right now, Morgan Stanley has more than 44 trillion dollars in exposure to derivatives but it has less than a trillion dollars in assets.

Most people have absolutely no idea how incredibly vulnerable our financial system really is.

The truth is that these “too big to fail” banks could collapse at any time.

And when they fail, our economy will fail too.

So let us hope and pray that this brief period of false stability lasts for as long as possible.

Because when it ends, all hell is going to break loose.

From This Day Forward, We Will Watch How The Stock Market Performs Without The Fed’s Monetary Heroin

Money - Public DomainMark this day on your calendars.  The Dow is at 16974, the S&P 500 is at 1982 and the NASDAQ is at 4549.  From this day forward, we will be looking to see how the stock market performs without the monetary heroin that the Federal Reserve has been providing to it.  Since November 2008, the Fed has created about 3.5 trillion dollars and pumped it into the financial system.  An excellent chart illustrating this in graphic format can be found right here.  Pretty much everyone agrees that this has been a tremendous boon for the financial markets.  As you will see below, even former Fed chairman Alan Greenspan says that quantitative easing was “a terrific success” as far as boosting stock prices.  But he also says that QE has not been very helpful to the real economy at all.  In essence, the entire quantitative easing program was a massive 3.5 trillion dollar gift to Wall Street.  If that sounds unfair to you, that is because it is unfair.

So why is the Federal Reserve finally ending quantitative easing?

Well, officially the Fed says that it is because there has been so much improvement in the labor market

The Fed’s language, however, did suggest that they were getting more comfortable with the economy’s improvement. It cited “solid job gains,” citing a “substantial improvement in the outlook for the labor market,” as well as pointing out that “underutilization” of labor resources is “gradually diminishing.”

But that is not true at all.

The percentage of Americans that are working right now is about the same as it was during the depths of the last recession.  Just check out this chart…

Employment Population Ratio 2014

So there has been no “employment recovery” to speak of at all.

And as I wrote about yesterday, the percentage of Americans that are homeowners has been steadily falling throughout the quantitative easing era…

Homeownership Rate 2014

So let’s put the lie that quantitative easing helped the “real economy” to rest.  It did no such thing.

Instead, what QE did do was massively inflate stock prices.

The following is an excerpt from a Wall Street Journal report about a speech that former Fed chairman Alan Greenspan made to the Council on Foreign Relations on Wednesday

Mr. Greenspan’s comments to the Council on Foreign Relations came as Fed officials were meeting in Washington, D.C., and expected to announce within hours an end to the bond purchases.

He said the bond-buying program was ultimately a mixed bag. He said that the purchases of Treasury and mortgage-backed securities did help lift asset prices and lower borrowing costs. But it didn’t do much for the real economy.

Effective demand is dead in the water” and the effort to boost it via bond buying “has not worked,” said Mr. Greenspan. Boosting asset prices, however, has been “a terrific success.”

Moving forward, what did Greenspan tell the members of the Council on Foreign Relations that they should do with their money?

This might surprise you…

Mr. Greenspan said gold is a good place to put money these days given its value as a currency outside of the policies conducted by governments.

Wow.

It almost sounds like Greenspan has been reading the Economic Collapse Blog.

Since November 2008, every time there has been an interruption in the Fed’s quantitative easing program, the stock market has gone down substantially.

Will that happen again this time?

Well, the market is certainly primed for it.  We are repeating so many of the very same patterns that we saw just prior to the last two financial crashes.

For example, there have been three dramatic peaks in margin debt in the last twenty years.

One of those peaks came early in the year 2000 just before the dotcom bubble burst.

The second of those peaks came in the middle of 2007 just before the subprime mortgage meltdown happened.

And the third of those peaks happened earlier this year.

You can view  a chart that shows these peaks very clearly right here.

The Federal Reserve appears to be confident that the stock market will be okay without the monetary heroin that it has been supplying.

We shall see.

But it should be deeply troubling to all Americans that this unelected, unaccountable body of central bankers has far more power over our economy than anyone else does.  During election season, our politicians get up and give speeches about what they will “do for the economy”, but the truth is that they are essentially powerless compared to the immense power that the Federal Reserve wields.  Just a few choice words from Janet Yellen can cause the financial markets to rise or fall dramatically.  The same cannot be said of any U.S. Senator.

We are told that monetary policy is “too important” to be exposed to politics.

We are told that the independence of the Federal Reserve is “sacred” and must never be interfered with.

I say that is a bunch of nonsense.

No organization should have the power to print up trillions of dollars out of thin air and give it to their friends.

The Federal Reserve is completely and totally out of control, and Congress needs to start exerting power over it.

The first step is to get in there and do a comprehensive audit of the Fed’s books.  This is something that U.S. Senator Ted Cruz called for in a recent editorial for USA Today

Americans are seeing near-zero interest rates on their savings accounts while median incomes are falling, and millions of people are facing higher gas prices, food prices, electricity prices, health insurance prices. Enough is enough, the Federal Reserve needs to open its books — Americans deserve a sound and stable dollar.

Whether you agree with Ted Cruz on other issues or not, this is one issue that all Americans should be able to agree on.

If you study any of our major economic problems, usually you will find that the Federal Reserve is at the heart of that problem.

So if we ever hope to solve the issues that are plaguing our economy, the Fed is going to need to be dealt with.

Hopefully the American people will start to send more representatives to Washington D.C. that understand this.

If A Few Ebola Cases Can Make The Stock Market Crash This Much, What Would A Full-Blown Pandemic Mean?

Stock Market Crash Ebola - Public DomainIs Ebola going to cause another of the massive October stock market crashes that Wall Street is famous for?  At one point on Wednesday, the Dow was down a staggering 460 points.  It ultimately closed down just 173 points, but this was the fifth day in a row that the Dow has declined.  And of course Ebola is one of the primary things that is being blamed for this stunning stock market drop.  Since September 19th, we have seen the S&P 500 fall about 7 percent and the Nasdaq fall nearly 10 percent.  The VIX (the most important measure of volatility on Wall Street) shot up an astounding 22 percent on Wednesday.  So many of the ominous signs for the markets that I wrote about on Tuesday are now even worse.  If a handful of Ebola cases in the United States can cause this much panic in the financial world, what would a full-blown pandemic look like?

Of course Ebola is not the only reason why stocks are declining.  Just look at what is happening over in Europe.  The European Stoxx 600 index is already down a whopping 11.4 percent from the high that it hit just 18 days ago.  That is officially considered to be “correction” territory.

And Greece experienced a full-blown stock market collapse on Wednesday

As if the world didn’t have enough to be worried about (ISIS, Ebola, slowing China, Ukraine, slowing Germany, Fed tightening, etc.) now look what’s back: Greece. And in a big way.

The stock market is down over 9% on Wednesday, which is about as big as crashes come.

And the banks are getting absolutely smashed.

In general, markets tend to fall faster than they rise.

When there is a sudden downturn, the price action can be violent.  And just like we saw back in 2008, financial stocks are leading the way.  Just check out what happened to some of the biggest banks in America before the final bell sounded…

Volume leader Bank of America, down 5%, Citigroup, off 5.5%, and JP Morgan, down 4.6%, were particularly hard hit.

And thanks to Ebola fears, airline stocks plummeted as well

Airline stocks were roiled by the prospects of curtailed travel due to the spreading Ebola virus. United Continental fell 4% and American Airlines was off 4.3%. Among tech stocks, Intel lost 3.3%. Apple fell 1.7% and Microsoft slipped 2.3%.

An increasing number of voices are concerned that we could be on the verge of a repeat of what happened back in 2008.

For example, Professor Steve Keen, the head of Economics, History & Politics at Kingston University in London, wrote the following in a piece for CNN entitled “Brace yourself for another financial crash“…

My acceleration indicator has been flagging that the stock market was due for a fall since mid-2013.

It’s a tribute to the power of the Fed’s Quantitative Easing that the market continued to defy the gravity of decelerating debt for so long. QE was really a program to inflate asset prices since, as my colleague Michael Hudson puts it, “the Fed’s helicopter money fell on Wall Street, not Main Street”.

But with QE being unwound, the stock market is now back under the control of the not so tender mercies of excessive private debt.

So welcome to the New Crisis — same as the Old Crisis. The roller coaster ride is likely to continue.

Others are even more pessimistic.  For example, just check out what Daniel Ameduri of Future Money Trends recently told his readers

“If it drops below 15,000 points I would suggest people start buying food and ammo, because this depression is about to turn nasty.”

However, keep in mind that not that much has really changed from a month or two ago.

Yes, we now have had three confirmed cases of Ebola in the United States, but this could be just the beginning.

At first, the fear of Ebola will be worse than the disease.

But if a worst-case scenario does develop in the United States where hundreds of thousands of people are getting the virus, the fear such a pandemic will create will be off the charts.

In the midst of a full-blown Ebola pandemic, we wouldn’t just be talking about a 10 percent, 20 percent or 30 percent stock market decline.

Rather, we would be talking about the greatest stock market collapse in the history of stock market collapses.  In essence, there would not be much of a market at all at that point.

And if Ebola does start spreading wildly in this country, we would have a credit crunch that would make 2008 look like a Sunday picnic.

During times of extraordinary fear, financial institutions do not want to lend money to each other or to consumers.  But our economy is entirely based on debt.  If credit were to stop flowing, we would essentially not have an economy.

That is why we need to pray that this Ebola crisis stops here.  But thanks to the incompetence of Barack Obama and the CDC, there has been a series of very grave errors in trying to contain this disease.  This display of incompetence would be absolutely hilarious if we weren’t talking about a disease that could potentially kill millions of us.

Let us hope for the best, but let us also prepare for the worst.  That means stocking up on the food and supplies that you will need to stay isolated for an extended period of time.  As we have seen so many times in the past, basic essentials fly off of store shelves during any type of an emergency.  During an extended Ebola pandemic, those essentials would be in very short supply and prices on the basics would absolutely skyrocket.  Those that have taken the time to get prepared now will be way ahead of the game.

And if there were dozens or hundreds of people in your community that were contagious, you would definitely not want to go to a grocery store or anywhere else where large numbers of people circulate.

The key during any major pandemic is to keep yourself and your family isolated from the virus.  This is basic common sense, but it is something that Barack Obama does not seem to understand.  As I write this, he still has not done anything to restrict air travel between the United States and West Africa.  Hopefully this very foolish decision will not result in scores of dead Americans.

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