The stock market is in far worse shape than we are being told. As you will see in this article, the average U.S. stock is already down more than 20 percent from the peak of the market. But of course the major indexes are not down nearly that much. As the week begins, the S&P 500 is down 9.8 percent from its 2015 peak, the Dow Jones Industrial Average is down 10.7 percent from its 2015 peak, and the Nasdaq is down 11.0 percent from its 2015 peak. So if you only look at those indexes, you would think that we are only about halfway to bear market territory. Unfortunately, a few high flying stocks such as Facebook, Amazon, Netflix and Google have been masking a much deeper decline for the rest of the market. When the market closed on Friday, 229 of the stocks on the S&P 500 were down at least 20 percent from their 52 week highs, and when you look at indexes that are even broader things are even worse.
For example, let’s take a look at the Standard & Poor’s 1500 index. According to the Bespoke Investment Group, the average stock on that index is down a staggering 26.9 percent from the peak of the market…
Indeed, the Standard & Poor’s 1500 index – a broad basket of large, mid and small company stocks – shows that the average stock’s distance from its 52-week high is 26.9%, according to stats compiled by Bespoke Investment Group through Friday’s close.
“That’s bear market territory!” says Paul Hickey, co-founder of Bespoke Investment Group, the firm that provided USA TODAY with the gloomy price data.
So if the average stock has fallen 26.9 percent, what kind of market are we in?
To me, that is definitely bear market territory.
The rapid decline of the markets last week got the attention of the entire world, but of course this current financial crisis did not begin last week. These stocks have been falling since the middle part of last year. And what Bespoke Investment Group discovered is that small cap stocks have been hurt the most by this current downturn…
Here’s a statistical damage assessment, provided by Bespoke Investment Group, of the pain being felt by the average U.S. stock in the S&P 1500 index:
* Large-company stocks in the S&P 500 index are down 22.6%, on average, from peaks hit in the past 12 months.
* Mid-sized stocks in the S&P 400 index are sporting an average decline of 26.5% since hitting 52-week highs.
* Small stocks in the S&P 600 index are the farthest distance away from their recent peaks. The average small-cap name is 30.7% below its high in the past year.
After looking at those numbers, is there anyone out there that still wants to try to claim that “nothing is happening”?
Over the past six months or so, the sector that has been hit the hardest has been energy. According to CNN, the average energy stock has now fallen 52 percent…
And then there’s energy. The dramatic decline in crude oil prices rocked the energy space. The average energy stock is now down a whopping 52% from its 52-week high, according to Bespoke. The only thing worse than that is small-cap energy, which is down 61%.
If you go up to an energy executive and try to tell him that “nothing is happening”, you might just get punched in the face.
And it is very important to keep in mind that stocks still have a tremendous distance to fall. They are still massively overvalued by historical standards, and this is something that I have covered repeatedly on my website in recent months.
So how far could they ultimately fall?
Well, Dr. John Hussman is convinced that we could eventually see total losses in the 40 to 55 percent range…
I remain convinced that the U.S. financial markets, particularly equities and low-grade debt, are in a late-stage top formation of the third speculative bubble in 15 years.
On the basis of the valuation measures most strongly correlated with subsequent market returns (and that havefully retained that correlation even across recent market cycles), current extremes imply 40-55% market losses over the completion of the current market cycle, with zero nominal and negative real total returns for the S&P 500 on a 10-to-12-year horizon.
These are not worst-case scenarios, but run-of-the-mill expectations.
If the market does fall about 40 percent, that will just bring us into the range of what is considered to be historically “normal”. If some sort of major disaster or emergency were to strike, that could potentially push the market down much, much farther.
And with each passing day, we get even more numbers which seem to indicate that we are entering a very, very deep global recession.
For instance, global trade numbers are absolutely collapsing. This is a point that Raoul Pal hammered home during an interview with CNBC just the other day…
Looking at International Monetary Fund data, “the year-over-year change in global exports is at the second lowest level since 1958,” Raoul Pal, Publisher of the Global Macro Investor told CNBC’s”Fast Money”this week.
Basically, it means economies around the world are shipping their goods at near historically low levels. “Something massive is going on in the global economy and people are missing it,” Pal added.
The steep decline in 2015 exports is second only to 2009, when the global recession led to a 37 percent drop in export growth.
We have never seen global exports collapse this much outside of a recession.
Clearly we are witnessing a tremendous shift, and it boggles my mind that more people cannot see it.
As for this current wave of financial turmoil, it is hard to say how long it will last. As I write this article, markets all over the Middle East are imploding, stocks in Asia are going crazy, currencies are crashing, and carry trades are being unwound at a staggering pace. But at some point we should expect the level of panic to subside a bit.
If things do temporarily calm down, don’t let that fool you. Global financial markets have not been this fragile since 2008. Any sort of a trigger event is going to cause stocks all over the world to slide even more.
And let us not minimize the damage that has already been done one bit. As you just read, the average stock on the Standard & Poor’s 1500 index is already down 26.9 percent. The financial crisis that erupted during the second half of 2015 has already resulted in trillions of dollars of wealth being wiped out.
When people ask me when the “next financial crisis” is coming, I have a very simple answer for them.
The next financial crisis is not coming.
The next financial crisis is already here.
An angry bear has been released after nearly seven years in hibernation, and the entire world is going to be absolutely shocked by what happens next.
Did you see what just happened in China? For the second time in four days, a massive stock market crash has caused an emergency shutdown of the markets in China. On both Monday and Thursday, trading was suspended for 15 minutes when the CSI 300 fell 5 percent, and on both days the total decline very rapidly escalated to 7 percent once trading was reopened. Once a 7 percent drop happens, trading is automatically suspended for the rest of the day. I guess that is one way to keep the stock market from crashing – you just don’t let anyone trade. And of course the panic in China is causing other markets to go haywire as well. As I write this, the Nikkei is down 324 points and Hong Kong is down 572 points.
The amazing thing is that trading was only open in China for about 15 total minutes tonight. Here is how CNBC described what just happened…
China’s stocks were suspended from all trade on Thursday after the CSI300 tumbled more than 7 percent in early trade, triggering the market’s circuit breaker for a second time this week.
That drop-kicked stock markets across Asia, which were already wallowing after a weaker open amid concerns over China’s economic slowdown and its depreciating currency as well as falling oil prices.
On the mainland, the Shanghai Composite tumbled 7.32 percent by at the time of the halt, while the Shenzhen Composite plummeted 8.34 percent. The CSI300, the benchmark index against which China’s new circuit breakers are set, plunged 7.21 percent. If that index rises or falls 5 percent, the market halts all trade for 15 minutes. If it moves 7 percent, trading will be suspended for the rest of the day. In total Thursday, China shares only traded around 15 minutes.
How will European and U.S. markets respond to the chaos in Asia when they open?
That is a very good question. I think that everybody will be watching.
Already, the Dow Jones Industrial Average is down about 500 points for the year. The financial crisis that began in the second half of 2015 is now accelerating as we enter 2016, and nobody is quite sure what is going to happen next.
One key to watch is what happens with the S&P 500.
2000 is kind of like a giant line in the sand on the S&P 500. On Wednesday we saw the market hover around that psychologically-important number, and there is a whole lot of resistance right there. If we break solidly through 2000 and start plunging toward 1900, that is going to break things wide open.
The primary reason for the stock market crash in China on Thursday was another stunning devaluation of the yuan. This explanation from Zero Hedge is very helpful…
Following the collapse of offshore Yuan to 5 year lows and decompression to record spreads to onshore Yuan, The PBOC has stepped in and dramatically devalued the Yuan fix by 0.5% to 6.5646. This is the biggest devaluation since the August collapse. Offshore Yuan has erased what modest bounce gains it achieved intraday and is heading significantly lower once again. Dow futures are down 100 points on the news.
PBOC fixes Yuan at its weakest since March 2011… with the biggest devaluation since August
A massive devaluation of the yuan was also one of the primary reasons for the market turmoil that we saw back in August. The Chinese are playing games with their currency, and this is causing havoc in the global marketplace.
Meanwhile, we have received some other very troubling news about the global economy over the past few days…
-The price of oil continues to collapse. As I write this, the price of U.S. oil is down to $33.26 a barrel. Those that follow my writing regularly already know that this is a really bad sign for the global economy.
-The Baltic Dry Index just hit another brand new all-time record low. Global trade is absolutely imploding, and this is having a devastating impact on China and other major exporting nations.
-U.S. manufacturing is contracting at the fastest pace that we have seen since the last recession. This is precisely what we would expect to see during the early stages of a new crisis.
-U.S. manufacturing imports are also contracting at the fastest pace that we have seen since the last recession. It appears that “the almighty U.S. consumer” is not going to save the global economy after all.
In 2015, trillions of dollars of stock market wealth was wiped out globally. Now this new global financial crisis is picking up speed, and many of the “experts” seem absolutely stunned by what is happening.
But most of my readers are not surprised. That is because I have been breaking down the signs that have been warning us of this new crisis in excruciating detail for months. The financial carnage that we have witnessed around the globe this week is simply a logical progression of what has already been happening.
To be honest, though, even I have been stunned by what has happened in China this week. I can’t say that I expected an emergency shutdown of the Chinese markets two times within the first four trading days of the year.
Panic and fear are beginning to grip the global marketplace, and once that starts to happen events become very difficult to predict.
Let us hope that things settle down soon, but I wouldn’t count on it.
As I have said before, 2016 is the year when everything changes, and we are going to see things take place over the next 12 months that are going to shock the world.
It’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.
Are stocks overvalued? By just about any measure that you could possibly name, stocks are at historically high prices right now. From a technical standpoint, the stock market is more overvalued today than it was just prior to the last financial crisis. The only two moments in U.S. history that even compare to our current state of affairs are the run up to the stock market crash of 1929 and the peak of the hysteria just before the dotcom bubble burst. It is so obvious that stocks are in a bubble that even Janet Yellen has talked about it, but of course she will never admit that the Federal Reserve has played a key role in creating this bubble. They say that hindsight is 20/20, but what is happening right in front of our eyes in 2015 is so obvious that everyone should be able to see it. Just like with all other financial bubbles throughout our history, someday people will look back and talk about how stupid we all were.
Why can’t we ever learn from history? We just keep on making the same mistakes over and over again. And without a doubt, some of the smartest members of our society are trying to warn us about what is coming. For example, Yale economics professor Robert Shiller has repeatedly tried to warn us that stocks are overvalued…
I think that compared with history, US stocks are overvalued. One way to assess this is by looking at the CAPE (cyclically adjusted P/E) ratio that I created with John Campbell, now at Harvard, 25 years ago. The ratio is defined as the real stock price (using the S&P Composite Stock Price Index deflated by the CPI) divided by the ten-year average of real earnings per share. We have found this ratio to be a good predictor of subsequent stock market returns, especially over the long run. The CAPE ratio has recently been around 27, which is quite high by US historical standards. The only other times it has been that high or higher were in 1929, 2000, and 2007—all moments before market crashes.
But the CAPE ratio is not the only metric I watch. In my book Irrational Exuberance (3rd Ed., Princeton 2015) I discuss several metrics that help judge what’s going on in the market. These include my stock market confidence indices. One of the indicators in that series is based on a single question that I have asked individual and institutional investors over the years along the lines of, “Do you think the stock market is overvalued, undervalued, or about right?” Lately, what I call “valuation confidence” captured by this question has been on a downward trend, and for individual investors recently reached its lowest point since the stock market peak in 2000.
Other analysts prefer to use different valuation indicators than Shiller does. But no matter which indicators you use, they all show that stocks are tremendously overvalued in mid-2015. For instance, just consider the following chart. It comes from Doug Short, and it shows the average of four of his favorite valuation indicators. As you can see, there is only one other time in all of our history when stocks have been more overvalued than they are today according to the average of these four indicators…
Another danger sign that many analysts are pointing to is the dramatic rise in margin debt that we have seen in recent years. Investors are borrowing tremendous amounts of money to fund purchases of stock. This is something that we witnessed during the dotcom bubble, it was something that we witnessed just prior to the financial collapse of 2008, and now it is happening again. In fact, margin debt just surged to a brand new all-time record high. Once again, the following chart comes from Doug Short…
All of this margin debt has helped drive stocks to ridiculous highs, but it can also serve to drive stock prices down very rapidly when the market turns. This was noted by Henry Blodget of Business Insider in a recent editorial…
What is “margin debt”?
It’s the amount of money stock investors have collectively borrowed via traditional margin accounts to fund stock purchases.
In a bull market, the growth of margin debt serves as a turbocharger that helps drive stock prices higher.
As with a home mortgage, the more investors borrow, the more house or stock they can buy. So as margin debt grows, collective buying power grows. The borrowed money gets used to fund new stock purchases, which helps drives the prices of those stocks higher. The higher prices, in turn, allow traders to borrow more money to fund additional purchases. And so on.
It’s a self-reinforcing cycle.
The trouble is that it’s a self-reinforcing cycle on the way down, too.
If the overall U.S. economy was absolutely booming, these ultra-high stock prices would not be as much of a concern. But the truth is that the financial markets have become completely divorced from economic reality. Right now, corporate profits are actually falling and our exports are way down. U.S. GDP shrunk during the first quarter, and there are a whole host of economic trouble signs on the horizon. I am calling this a “recession within a recession“, and I believe that we are heading into another major economic downturn.
Unfortunately, our “leaders” are absolutely clueless about what is coming. They assure us that everything is going to be just fine – just like they did back in 2008 before everything fell apart. But the truth is that things are already so bad that even the big banks are sounding the alarm. For instance, just consider the following words from Deutsche Bank…
At issue is whether or not the Fed in particular but the market in general has properly understood the nature of the economic problem. The more we dig into this, the more we are afraid that they do not. So aside from a data revision tsunami, we would suggest that the Fed has the outlook not just horribly wrong, but completely misunderstood.
Ultimately, most people believe what they want to believe.
Our politicians want to believe that the economy is going to get better, and so do the bureaucrats over at the Federal Reserve. The mainstream media wants to put a happy face on things, and they want all of us to continue to have faith in the system.
Unfortunately for them, the system is failing. I truly do hope that this bubble can last for a few more months, but I don’t see it going on for much longer than that.
The greatest financial crisis in U.S. history is fast approaching, and it is going to be extraordinarily painful.
When it arrives, it is not just going to destroy faith in the system. In the end, it is going to destroy the system altogether.
Just a few days ago, the bull market for the S&P 500 turned six years old. This six year period of time has been great for investors, but what comes next? On March 9th, 2009 the S&P 500 hit a low of 676.53. Since that day, it has risen more than 200 percent. As you will see below, there are only two other times within the last 100 years when the S&P 500 performed this well over a six year time frame. In both instances, the end result was utter disaster. And as you take in this information, I want you to keep in mind what I said in my previous article entitled “7 Signs That A Stock Market Peak Is Happening Right Now“. What we are witnessing at this moment is classic “peaking behavior”, and there is a long way to go down from here. So if historical patterns hold up, those with lots of money in the stock market could soon be in for a whole lot of trouble.
According to Societe Generale analyst Andrew Lapthorne, there was an S&P 500 bull market run of more than 200 percent over a six year time period that ended in 1929.
We all know what happened that year.
And there was another S&P 500 bull market run of more than 200 percent over a six year time period that ended in 1999. In the end, all of those gains were wiped out when the dotcom bubble burst.
And now we are near the end of another great bull market for the S&P 500. The following is an excerpt from a recent Business Insider article…
“Such a strong six year run up in US equities has only been seen twice since 1900, i.e., back in 1929 and 1999, neither of which ended well,” Lapthorne wrote.
It’s anyone’s guess what happens next. But Lapthorne and his colleagues have slanted bearish.
So how will this current bull market end?
Needless to say, a lot of people are not very optimistic about that right now.
And there was another very interesting bull market that ended in 1987…
On Aug. 12, the S&P 500 dipped to 102.42, setting the stage for the third-biggest bull market in stocks since 1929. Inflation and unemployment fell. In 1984, President Reagan would cruise to reelection with an ad telling voters “It’s morning again in America.” By 1987, the stock market had tripled. Shareholders who were able to see beyond the gloom of the early 1980s reaped a huge return.
Of course a lot of those huge stock market returns were eliminated in a single day. On October 19th, 1987 the Dow declined by more than 22 percent during a single trading session. That day is still known as “Black Monday” up to this present time.
Markets tend to go down a lot faster than they go up. So if your stock portfolio has gone up substantially over the past few years, good for you. But keep in mind that all of your gains can be wiped out very rapidly. Millions of people experienced this during the last financial crisis, and millions more will experience this during the next one.
And as I keep reminding people, so many of the exact same patterns that we witnessed just prior to the last great stock market collapse are happening once again.
For example, just yesterday I explained that there has been only one other time over the past decade when we have seen the U.S. dollar surge in value in such a short period of time.
That was in 2008, just prior to the last financial crisis.
Another example is what has happened to the price of oil. Since the middle of last year, the price of oil has fallen by more than 50 dollars a barrel.
In all of history, that has happened only one other time.
That was in 2008, just prior to the last financial crisis.
I could go on and on. I could talk about margin debt, price/earnings ratios, industrial commodities, etc.
But you know what? Despite all of the warning signs there are still people out there that are eagerly pouring money into the stock market.
Back in 2005 and 2006, I knew people that were hurrying to buy homes before they got “priced out of the market”. So they did everything that they could to scrape together down payments and they took on mortgages that were larger than they could really afford.
And in the end they got burned.
Today, people are doing similar things. For instance, my friend Bob recently sent me an article that I could hardly believe. It turns out that an “expert” on CNBC is encouraging people “to take out a 7 year loan with a rapidly amortizing asset as collateral in order to buy stocks.”
Let me be clear. The really, really, really dumb money is jumping into the stock market right now. Those that are pouring money into stocks today are really going to get hit hard when the crash comes.
And it isn’t just me saying this.
Just consider the words of billionaire hedge fund manager Crispin Odey…
Mr Odey is best known for his big macroeconomic calls, including foreseeing the 2008 global credit crisis; piling into insurers in the wake of September 2001 attacks; and picking the recent oil price rout. He famously paid himself £28 million in 2008 after shorting credit crisis casualties, including British lender Bradford & Bingley. Mr Odey’s fund returned 54.8 per cent that year.
“The market’s reaction to all of this is leave it to the professionals, leave it to those great guys, the central bankers, because they saved the day in 2009,” he said. “These guys are kind of relying on central banks pulling a rabbit out of a hat.”
The risk is that this time, monetary policy may be ineffective: “We need the crisis to reformulate policy. Central banks are not all singing and all dancing, they cannot basically avoid the natural consequences of what we are doing.”
An inadequate supply-side response to the plunge in commodity prices as the resources industry declines to reduce production was in effect stimulating supply into falling demand.
“The trouble is today the players, whether they are the miners or the oil companies or the Saudis or anybody else, they are not doing the right things. This is the first time in my career where economics 101 doesn’t work at all.”
But it was also true that the world has not had a major recession for 25 years and thanks to frequent interventions, “there is a sensation we don’t have a business cycle”. Stocks are enjoying a six-year bull market but he also hinted at liquidity issues bubbling under the surface.
“I just think that you and I have got grandstand seats here [to an imminent market shock] and my point is having found myself in the second quarter of last year selling a lot of equities and starting to go short, I found out just how illiquid it all was. You never actually see it until people try and get out of these things.”
It was unclear to Mr Odey what central banks could do to prevent a crash.
The warning signs are clear.
Soon the time for warning will be over and the crisis will be here.
I hope that you are getting ready.
The stock market continues to flirt with new record highs, but the signs that we could be on the precipice of the next major financial crisis continue to mount. A couple of days ago, I discussed the fact that the U.S. dollar is experiencing a tremendous surge in value just like it did in the months prior to the financial crisis of 2008. And previously, I have detailed how the price of oil has collapsed, prices for industrial commodities are tanking and market behavior is becoming extremely choppy. All of these are things that we witnessed just before the last market crash as well. It is also important to note that orders for durable goods are declining and the Baltic Dry Index has dropped to the lowest level on record. So does all of this mean that the stock market is guaranteed to crash in 2015? No, of course not. But what we are looking for are probabilities. We are looking for patterns. There are multiple warning signs that have popped up repeatedly just prior to previous financial crashes, and many of those same warning signs are now appearing once again.
One of these warning signs that I have not discussed previously is the wholesale inventories to sales ratio. When economic activity starts to slow down, inventory tends to get backed up. And that is precisely what is happening right now. In fact, as Wolf Richter recently wrote about, the wholesale inventories to sales ratio has now hit a level that we have not seen since the last recession…
In December, the wholesale inventory/sales ratio reached 1.22, after rising consistently since July last year, when it was 1.17. It is now at the highest – and worst – level since September 2009, as the financial crisis was winding down:
Rising sales gives merchants the optimism to stock more. But because sales are rising in that rosy scenario, the inventory/sales ratio, depicting rising inventories and rising sales, would not suddenly jump. But in the current scenario, sales are not keeping up with inventory growth.
Another sign that I find extremely interesting is the behavior of the yield on 10 year U.S. Treasury notes. As Jeff Clark recently explained, we usually see a spike in the 10 year Treasury yield about the time the market is peaking before a crash…
The 10-year Treasury note yield bottomed on January 30 at 1.65%. Today, it’s at 2%. That’s a 35-basis-point spike – a jump of 21% – in less than two weeks.
And it’s the first sign of an impending stock market crash.
As I explained last September, the 10-year Treasury note yield has ALWAYS spiked higher prior to an important top in the stock market.
For example, the 10-year yield was just 4.5% in January 1999. One year later, it was 6.75% – a spike of 50%. The dot-com bubble popped two months later.
In 2007, rates bottomed in March at 4.5%. By July, they had risen to 5.5% – a 22% increase. The stock market peaked in September.
Let’s be clear… not every spike in Treasury rates leads to an important top in the stock market. But there has always been a sharp spike in rates a few months before the top.
Once again, just because something has happened in the past does not mean that it will happen in the future.
But the fact that so many red flags are appearing all at once has got to give any rational person reason for concern.
Yes, the Dow gained more than 100 points on Thursday. But on Thursday we also learned that retail sales dropped again in January. Overall, this has been the worst two month drop in retail sales since 2009…
Following last month’s narrative-crushing drop in retail sales, despite all that low interest rate low gas price stimulus, January was more of the same as hopeful expectations for a modest rebound were denied. Falling 0.8% (against a 0.9% drop in Dec), missing expectations of -0.4%, this is the worst back-to-back drop in retail sales since Oct 2009. Retail sales declined in 6 of the 13 categories.
And economic activity is rapidly slowing down on the other side of the planet as well.
For example, Chinese imports and exports both fell dramatically in January…
Chinese imports collapsed 19.9% YoY in January, missing expectations of a modest 3.2% drop by the most since Lehman. This is the biggest YoY drop since May 2009 and worst January since the peak of the financial crisis. Exports tumbled 3.3% YoY (missing expectations of 5.9% surge) for the worst January since 2009. Combined this led to a $60.03 billion trade surplus in January – the largest ever. But apart from these massive imbalances, everything is awesome in the global economy (oh apart from The Baltic Dry at record lows, Iron Ore near record lows, oil prices crashed, and the other engine of the world economy – USA USA USA – imploding).
In light of so much bad economic data, it boggles my mind that stocks have been doing so well.
But this is typical bubble behavior. Financial bubbles tend to be very irrational and they tend to go on a lot longer than most people think they will. When they do finally burst, the consequences are often quite horrifying.
It may not seem like it to most people, but we are right on track for a major financial catastrophe. It is playing out right in front of our eyes in textbook fashion. But it is going to take a little while to unfold.
Unfortunately, most people these days do not have the patience to watch long-term trends develop. Instead, we have been trained by the mainstream media to have the attention spans of toddlers. We bounce from one 48-hour news cycle to the next, eagerly looking forward to the next “scandal” that is going to break.
And when the next financial crash does strike, the mainstream media is going to talk about what a “surprise” it is. But for those that are watching the long-term trends, it is not going to be a surprise at all. We will have seen it coming a mile away.
We are really starting to see the price of oil weigh very heavily on the economy and on the stock market. On Tuesday, the Dow was down 291 points, and the primary reason for the decline was disappointing corporate sales numbers. For example, heavy equipment manufacturer Caterpillar is blaming the “dramatic decline in the price of oil” for much lower than anticipated sales during the fourth quarter of 2014. Even though Caterpillar is not an “energy company”, the price of oil is critical to their success. And the same could be said about thousands of other companies. That is why I have repeatedly stated that anyone who believes that collapsing oil prices are good for the U.S. economy is crazy. The key to how much damage this oil collapse is going to do to our economy is not how low prices ultimately go. Rather, the key is how long they stay at these low levels. If the price of oil went back to $80 a barrel next week, the damage would be fairly minimal. But if the price of oil stays at this current level for the remainder of 2015, the damage will be absolutely catastrophic. Just think of the price of oil like a hot iron. If you touch it for just a fraction of a second, it won’t do too much damage. But if you press it against your skin for an hour, you will be severely damaged for the rest of your life at the very least.
So the damage that we are witnessing right now is just the very beginning unless the price of oil goes back up substantially.
When the price of oil first started crashing, most analysts focused on the impact that it would have on energy companies. And without a doubt, quite a few of them are likely to be wiped out if things don’t change soon.
But of even greater importance is the ripple effects that the price of oil will have throughout our entire economy. The oil price crash is not that many months old at this point, and yet big companies are already blaming it for causing significant problems. The following is how Caterpillar explained their disappointing sales numbers on Tuesday…
“The recent dramatic decline in the price of oil is the most significant reason for the year-over-year decline in our sales and revenues outlook. Current oil prices are a significant headwind for Energy & Transportation and negative for our construction business in the oil producing regions of the world. In addition, with lower prices for copper, coal and iron ore, we’ve reduced our expectations for sales of mining equipment. We’ve also lowered our expectations for construction equipment sales in China. While our market position in China has improved, 2015 expectations for the construction industry in China are lower”
We also learned on Tuesday that orders for durable goods were extremely disappointing. Many analysts believe that this is another area where the oil price crash is having an impact…
Orders for business equipment unexpectedly fell in December for a fourth month, signaling a global growth slowdown is weighing on American companies. Bookings for non-military capital goods excluding aircraft dropped 0.6 percent for a second month, data from the Commerce Department showed. Demand for all durable goods − items meant to last at least three years − declined 3.4 percent, the worst performance since August.
Let’s keep an eye on the durable goods numbers in coming months. Usually, when the economy is heading into a recession durable goods numbers start declining.
Meanwhile, a bunch of other big companies reported disappointing sales numbers on Tuesday as well. The following summary comes from the Crux…
Microsoft lost 9.9 percent as software-license sales to businesses were below forecasts. Caterpillar plunged 7.3 percent after forecasting 2015 results that trailed estimates as plunging oil prices signal lower demand from energy companies. DuPont Co. dropped 2.8 percent as a stronger dollar cuts into the chemical maker’s profit. Procter & Gamble Co. and United Technologies Corp. declined at least 2 percent after saying the surging greenback will lower full-year earnings.
What the economy could really use right now is a huge rebound in the price of oil.
Unfortunately, as I wrote about the other day, that is not likely to happen any time soon.
In fact, a top executive for Goldman Sachs recently told CNBC that he believes that the price of oil could ultimately go as low as 30 dollars a barrel.
And hedge fund managers are backing up their belief that oil is heading even lower with big money…
Hedge funds boosted bearish wagers on oil to a four-year high as US supplies grew the most since 2001.
Money managers increased short positions in West Texas Intermediate crude to the highest level since September 2010 in the week ended January 20, US Commodity Futures Trading Commission data show. Net-long positions slipped for the first time in three weeks.
US crude supplies rose by 10.1 million barrels to 397.9 million in the week ended January 16 and the country will pump the most oil since 1972 this year, the Energy Information Administration says. Saudi Arabia’s King Salman, the new ruler of the world’s biggest oil exporter, said he will maintain the production policy of his predecessor despite a 58 percent drop in prices since June.
Sadly, the truth is that anyone that thought that the stock market would go up forever and that the U.S. economy would be able to avoid a major downturn indefinitely was just being delusional.
Our economy goes through cycles, and every financial bubble eventually bursts.
For example, did you know that the S&P 500 has never had seven up years in a row? The following comes from a CNBC article that was posted on Tuesday…
Doubleline Capital founder Jeff Gundlach, more known for his bond prowess than as an equity market expert, pointed out that the S&P 500 has never had seven consecutive up years.
Of course, records are made to be broken, and each year is supposed to stand on its own.
But in a market that faces an uncertain future regarding monetary policy, the specter of a global economic slowdown, and an oil price plunge that is dampening capital investment, Gundlach’s little factoid sparked a lot of chatter at ETF.com’s InsideETFs conference in Hollywood, Florida.
Hmm – that reminds me of the seven year cycles that I discussed in my article yesterday.
If the price of oil stays this low for the rest of 2015, there is no way that we are going to avoid a recession.
If the price of oil stays this low for the rest of 2015, there is no way that we are going to avoid a stock market crash.
So let’s hope that the price of oil starts going back up.
If it doesn’t, the damage that is inflicted on our economy is going to get progressively worse.
When the stock market starts to behave like a roller coaster, that is a sign that a major move to the downside is right around the corner. As I have stated repeatedly, when the market is very calm it tends to go up. But when the waters start getting really choppy, that is a clear indication that stocks are about to plummet. In early 2015, volatility has returned to Wall Street in a big way. At one point on Tuesday, the Dow was up more than 300 points. But then the bottom dropped out. From the peak on Tuesday, the Dow plunged nearly 700 points in less than 30 hours before recovering more than 100 points at the end of the day. The Dow has now experienced the longest losing streak that we have seen in 3 months, but that is not that big of a deal. Of much greater concern is the huge price swings that we have been seeing. Remember, the three largest single day stock market increases in history were right in the middle of the financial crisis of 2008. So if stocks go up 400 points tomorrow that is NOT a good sign. What we really need is a string of days when stocks move less than 100 points in either direction. If stocks keep making dramatic moves up and dramatic moves down, history tells us that it is only a matter of time before they collapse. Any student of stock market history knows that what we are witnessing right now is exactly how markets behave right before they crash.
Examine the chart below very carefully. It is a chart of the CBOE Volatility Index from 2006 to 2008. As you can see, volatility was very low as stocks soared during 2006. Then things started to get a bit choppy in 2007, and investors should have recognized this as a warning sign. Finally, you can see that the VIX absolutely skyrocketed during the financial crisis of 2008…
Looking back, it seems so obvious.
So why aren’t more people alarmed this time around?
As CNN is reporting, the VIX is up almost 20 percent so far in 2015…
Volatility has returned with a vengeance this January. The Dow has been moving up or down by at least 100 points nearly every day this year.
CNNMoney’s Fear & Greed Index is showing signs of Extreme Fear again. And a volatility gauge known as the VIX, which is one of the components in our index, is up nearly 20% so far this year.
Meanwhile, there are lots of other signs of trouble on the horizon as well.
For example, the price of copper got absolutely hammered on Wednesday. As I write this, it has fallen more than 5 percent and it has not been this low in more than five years.
In financial circles, it is referred to as “Dr. Copper” because it is such a valuable indicator regarding where the global economy is heading next.
For example, in 2008 the price of copper was close to $4.00 before plummeting to below $1.50 by the end of that year as the global financial system fell apart.
Now the price of copper is plunging again, and many analysts are becoming extremely concerned…
One growing global worry is the steep decline in copper, which is used in many products and is often viewed as good gauge on how China is doing. The price of copper hit its lowest price since 2009 on Wednesday at $2.46. Copper is down nearly 7% this week alone.
Meanwhile, the recession (some call it a depression) in Europe continues to get even worse, and the euro continues to plunge.
On Wednesday, the euro declined to the lowest level that we have seen in nine years, and Goldman Sachs is now saying that the euro and the U.S. dollar could be at parity by the end of next year.
That is amazing considering the fact that it took $1.60 to get one euro back in July 2008.
Personally, I am fully convinced that Goldman Sachs is right on this one. I believe that the euro is going to all-time lows that we have never seen before, and this is going to create massive problems for the eurozone.
With all of these signs of trouble out there, the smart money is rapidly pulling their money out of stocks and putting it into government bonds. This usually happens when a crisis is looming. It is called a “flight to safety”, and it pushes government bond yields down.
On Wednesday, the yield on 10 year U.S. Treasuries fell beneath the important 1.8 percent barrier. We will probably see it go even lower in the months ahead.
As the rest of the world economy crumbles, the remainder of the globe is looking to America to be the rock in the storm. For example, the following quote that I found today comes from a British news source…
‘The global economy is running on a single engine… the American one,’ the World Bank’s chief economist, Kaushik Basu, said. ‘This does not make for a rosy outlook for the world.’
Well, they may not want to rely on us too much, because there are plenty of signs that our economy is slowing down too. For example, we learned today that December retail sales were down 0.9% from a year ago, and this is being called “an unmitigated disaster“. Americans were supposed to be taking the money that they were saving on gasoline and spending it, but that apparently is not happening.
Back on October 29th, I wrote an article entitled “From This Day Forward, We Will Watch How The Stock Market Performs Without The Fed’s Monetary Heroin“. In that article, I warned that the end of quantitative easing could have dire consequences for the financial system as bubbles created by the Fed began to burst.
And that is precisely what is happening. In fact, many analysts are now pinpointing the end of QE as the exact moment when our current troubles began. For instance, check out this excerpt from a CNBC article that was published on Wednesday…
“Stuff happens when QE ends,” said Peter Boockvar, chief market analyst at The Lindsey Group. “It’s no coincidence that the market started going into a higher volatility mode, it’s no coincidence that the decline in commodity prices accelerated, it’s no coincidence that the yield curve started flattening when QE ended.”
Indeed, the increase in volatility and its effect on prices across the capital market spectrum was closely tied to the Fed ending the third round of QE in October.
We are moving into a time of great danger for Wall Street and for the global economy as a whole.
If we continue to see a tremendous amount of volatility, history tells us that it is only a matter of time before the markets implode.
Hopefully you will be ready when that happens.