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Two More Harbingers Of Financial Doom That Mirror The Crisis Of 2008

Harbingers - Public DomainThe 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:

Wolf Richter

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.

10 Year Yield - Stansberry

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.

 

Guess What Happened The Last Time The U.S. Dollar Skyrocketed In Value Like This?…

Question Ball - Public DomainOver the past decade, there has been only one other time when the value of the U.S. dollar has increased by so much in such a short period of time.  That was in mid-2008 – just before the greatest financial crash since the Great Depression.  A surging U.S. dollar also greatly contributed to the Latin American debt crisis of the early 1980s and the Asian financial crisis of 1997.  Today, the globe is more interconnected than ever.  Most global trade is conducted in U.S. dollars, and much of the borrowing done by emerging markets all over the planet is denominated in U.S. dollars.  When the U.S. dollar goes up dramatically, this can put a tremendous amount of financial stress on economies all around the world.  It also has the potential to greatly threaten the stability of the 65 trillion dollars in derivatives that are directly tied to the value of the U.S. dollar.  The global financial system is more vulnerable to currency movements than ever before, and history tells us that when the U.S. dollar soars the global economy tends to experience a contraction.  So the fact that the U.S. dollar has been skyrocketing lately is a very, very bad sign.

Most of the people that write about the coming economic collapse love to talk about the coming collapse of the U.S. dollar as well.

But in the initial deflationary stage of the coming financial crisis, we are likely to see the U.S. dollar actually strengthen considerably.

As I have discussed so many times before, we are going to experience deflation first, and after that deflationary phase the desperate responses by the Federal Reserve and the U.S. government to that deflation will cause the inflationary panic that so many have written about.

Yes, someday the U.S. dollar will essentially be toilet paper.  But that is not in our immediate future.  What is in our immediate future is a “flight to safety” that will push the surging U.S. dollar even higher.

This is what we witnessed in 2008, and this is happening once again right now.

Just look at the chart that I have posted below.  You can see the the U.S. dollar moved upward dramatically relative to other currencies starting in mid-2008.  And toward the end of the chart you can see that the U.S. dollar is now experiencing a similar spike…

Dollar Index 2015

At the moment, almost every major currency in the world is falling relative to the U.S. dollar.

For example, this next chart shows what the euro is doing relative to the dollar.  As you can see, the euro is in the midst of a stunning decline…

Euro U.S. Dollar

Instead of focusing on the U.S. dollar, those that are looking for a harbinger of the coming financial crisis should be watching the euro.  As I discussed yesterday, analysts are telling us that if Greece leaves the eurozone the EUR/USD could fall all the way down to 0.90.  If that happens, the chart above will soon resemble a waterfall.

And of course it isn’t just the euro that is plummeting.  The yen has been crashing as well.  The following chart was recently posted on the Crux

Yen Dollar from the Crux

Unfortunately, most Americans have absolutely no idea how important all of this is.  In recent years, growing economies all over the world have borrowed gigantic piles of very cheap U.S. dollars.  But now they are faced with the prospect of repaying those debts and making interest payments using much more expensive U.S. dollars.

Investors are starting to get nervous.  At one time, investors couldn’t wait to pour money into emerging markets, but now this process is beginning to reverse.  If this turns into a panic, we are going to have one giant financial mess on our hands.

The truth is that the value of the U.S. dollar is of great importance to every nation on the face of the Earth.  The following comes from U.S. News & World Report

In the early ’80s, a bullish U.S. dollar contributed to the Latin American debt crisis, and also impacted the Asian Tiger crisis in the late ’90s. Emerging markets typically have higher growth, but carry much higher risk to investors. When the economies are doing well, foreign investors will lend money to emerging market countries by purchasing their bonds.

They also deposit money in foreign banks, which facilitates higher lending. The reason for this is simple: Bond payments and interest rates in emerging markets are much higher than in the U.S. Why deposit cash in the U.S. and earn 0.25 percent, when you could earn 6 percent in Indonesia? With the dollar strengthening, the interest payments on any bond denominated in U.S. dollars becomes more expensive.

Additionally, the deposit in the Indonesian bank may still be earning 6 percent, but that is on Indonesian rupiahs. After converting the rupiahs to U.S. dollars, the extra interest doesn’t offset the loss from the exchange. As investors get nervous, the higher interest on emerging market debt and deposits becomes less alluring, and they flee to safety. It may start slowly, but history tells us it can quickly spiral out of control.

Over the past few months, I have been repeatedly stressing that so many of the signs that we witnessed just prior to previous financial crashes are happening again.

Now you can add the skyrocketing U.S. dollar to that list.

If you have not seen my previous articles where I have discussed these things, here are some places to get started…

Guess What Happened The Last Time The Price Of Oil Crashed Like This?…

Not Just Oil: Guess What Happened The Last Time Commodity Prices Crashed Like This?…

10 Key Events That Preceded The Last Financial Crisis That Are Happening Again RIGHT NOW

The warnings signs are really starting to pile up.

When we look back at past financial crashes, there are recognizable patterns that can be identified.

Anyone with half a brain should be able to see that a large number of those patterns are unfolding once again right before our eyes.

Unfortunately, most people in this world end up believing exactly what they want to believe.

No matter how much evidence you show them, they will not accept the truth until it is too late.

This Is The Beginning Of The End For The Euro

The Euro - A Woman Rides The BeastThe long-anticipated collapse of the euro is here. When European Central Bank president Mario Draghi unveiled an open-ended quantitative easing program worth at least 60 billion euros a month on Thursday, stocks soared but the euro plummeted like a rock.  It hit an 11 year low of $1.13, and many analysts believe that it is going much, much lower than this.  The speed at which the euro has been falling in recent months has been absolutely stunning.  Less than a year ago it was hovering near $1.40.  But since that time the crippling economic problems in southern Europe have gone from bad to worse, and no amount of money printing is going to avert the financial nightmare that is slowly unfolding right before our eyes.  Yes, there may be some temporary euphoria for a few days, but it is important to remember that reckless money printing worked for the Weimar Republic for a little while too before it turned into an utter disaster.  Now that the ECB has decided to go this route, it is essentially out of ammunition.  The only thing that it could potentially do beyond this is to print even larger quantities of money.  As the global financial crisis begins to unfold over the next couple of years, the ECB is pretty much going to be powerless to do anything about it.  Over the next couple of months, we can expect the euro to continue to head toward parity with the U.S. dollar, and eventually it is going to go to all-time lows.  Meanwhile, the future of the eurozone itself is very much in doubt.  If it does break up, the elite of Europe will probably try to put it back together in some sort of new configuration, but the damage will already have been done.

Over the next 18 months, the European Central bank will create more than a trillion euros out of thin air and will use that money to buy debt.  The following is how this new QE program for Europe was described by the Telegraph

“The combined monthly purchases of public and private sector securities will amount to €60bn euros,” said Mr Draghi at a press conference following a meeting of the ECB’s governing council.

“They are intended to be carried out until end-September 2016 and will in any case be conducted until we see a sustained adjustment in the path of inflation,” he added, meaning the package will amount to at least €1.1 trillion.

Mr Draghi’s package of asset purchases, including bonds issued by national governments and EU institutions such as the European Commission, is intended to boost the eurozone’s flagging economy and to ward off the spectre of deflation.

When you print more money, you drive down the value of your currency.  And the euro has already been crashing for months as you can see from the chart below…

The Euro Is Collapsing

As I write this, the euro is down to $1.13.  And most analysts seem to agree that it is likely heading even lower.

How low could it ultimately go?

One prominent currency strategist recently told CNBC that he believes that it is actually heading beneath parity with the U.S. dollar…

The euro plunged to an 11-year low on Thursday, after the European Central Bank announced that it would begin a 60-euro monthly asset purchasing program. But it could still have a ways to fall.

Brown Brothers Harriman global head of currency strategy Marc Chandler predicts that the euro, which fell as low as 1.1362 on Thursday after trading near 1.4000 in May, is heading below 1.0. That widely watched level is the point at which it will just take a single U.S. dollar to purchase a euro, a condition known in the currency markets as “parity.”

I totally agree with Chandler.

In fact, I believe that the euro is ultimately going to break the all-time record low against the dollar.

I also believe that the current configuration of the eurozone is eventually going to fall to pieces.  The euro may survive as a currency, but Europe is ultimately going to look a whole lot different than it does right now.

In fact, we could see things start to come apart for the eurozone as soon as Sunday.  If Syriza wins a decisive victory in the upcoming Greek elections, it could create all sorts of chaos

The polls put Alexis Tsipras and Syriza ahead of the ruling New Democracy party of Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras.

Tsipras has vowed to convince the ECB and euro zone to write down the value of their Greek debt holdings to allow him to increase public spending and stimulate job growth.

“There is a good chance they could win, and if they begin moving away from fiscal austerity, other members of the EU are going to say: ‘No more lending, no more life support.’ On Monday morning you’ll know,” De Clue said.

But of course Europe is far from alone.  Financial problems are erupting all over the planet, and central banks are getting desperate.

Over the past week, seven major central banks have made moves to fight deflation.  But the more that they cut interest rates and print money, the less effect that it has.  And eventually, the people of the world are going to seriously lose confidence in these central banks as they realize what a sham the system really is.

I think that these recent words from Marc Faber are very wise…

My belief is that the big surprise this year is that investor confidence in central banks collapses. And when that happens — I can’t short central banks, although I’d really like to, and the only way to short them is to go long gold, silver and platinum,” he said. “That’s the only way. That’s something I will do.”

So what do you think?

Do you agree with Marc Faber?

And what do you think is next for the euro?

Do you agree with me that it is going to record lows?

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

Oil Falls Below 50 As Global Financial Markets Begin To Unravel

Crisis Silhouette - Public DomainOn Monday, the price of oil fell below $50 for the first time since April 2009, and the Dow dropped 331 points.  Meanwhile, the stock market declines over in Europe were even larger on a percentage basis, and the euro sank to a fresh nine year low on concerns that the anti-austerity Syriza party will be victorious in the upcoming election in Greece.  These are precisely the kinds of things that we would expect to see happen if a global financial crash was coming in 2015.  Just prior to the financial crisis of 2008, the price of oil collapsed, prices for industrial commodities got crushed and the U.S. dollar soared relative to other currencies.  All of those things are happening again.  And yet somehow many analysts are still convinced that things will be different this time.  And I agree that things will indeed be “different” this time.  When this crisis fully erupts, it will make 2008 look like a Sunday picnic.

Another thing that usually happens when financial markets begin to unravel is that they get really choppy.  There are big ups and big downs, and that is exactly what we have witnessed since October.

So don’t expect the markets just to go in one direction.  In fact, it would not be a surprise if the Dow went up by 300 or 400 points tomorrow.  During the initial stages of a financial crash, there are always certain days when the markets absolutely soar.

For example, did you know that the three largest single day stock market advances in history were right in the middle of the financial crash of 2008?  Here are the dates and the amount the Dow rose each of those days…

October 13th, 2008: +936 points

October 28th, 2008: +889 points

November 13th, 2008: +552 points

Just looking at those three days, you would assume that the fall of 2008 was the greatest time ever for stocks.  But instead, it was the worst financial crash that we have seen since the days of the Great Depression.

So don’t get fooled by the volatility.  Choppy markets are almost always a sign of big trouble ahead.  Calm waters usually mean that the markets are going up.

In order to avoid a major financial crisis in the near future, we desperately need the price of oil to rebound in a substantial way.

Unfortunately, it does not look like that is going to happen any time soon.  There is just way too much oil being produced right now.  The following is an excerpt from a recent CNBC article

The Morgan Stanley strategists say there are new reports of unsold West and North African cargoes, with much of the oil moving into storage. They also note that new supply has entered the global market with additional exports coming from Russia and Iraq, which is reportedly seeing production rising to new highs.

Since June, the price of oil has plummeted close to 55 percent.  If the price of oil stays where it is right now, we are going to see large numbers of small producers go out of business, the U.S. economy will lose millions of jobs, billions of dollars of junk bonds will go bad and trillions of dollars of derivatives will be in jeopardy.

And the lower the price of oil goes, the worse our problems are going to get.  That is why it is so alarming that some analysts are now predicting that the price of oil could hit $40 later this month

Some traders appeared certain that U.S. crude will hit the $40 region later in the week if weekly oil inventory numbers for the United States on Wednesday show another supply build.

‘We’re headed for a four-handle,’ said Tariq Zahir, managing member at Tyche Capital Advisors in Laurel Hollow in New York. ‘Maybe not today, but I’m sure when you get the inventory numbers that come out this week, we definitely will.’

Open interest for $40-$50 strike puts in U.S. crude have risen several fold since the start of December, while $20-$30 puts for June 2015 have traded, said Stephen Schork, editor of Pennsylvania-based The Schork Report.

The only way that the price of oil has a chance to move back up significantly is if global production slows down.  But instead, production just continues to increase in the short-term thanks to projects that were already in the works.  As a result, analysts from Morgan Stanley say that the oil glut is only going to intensify

Morgan Stanley analysts said new production will continue to ramp up at a number of fields in Brazil, West Africa, Canada and in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico as well as U.S. shale production. Also, the potential framework agreement with Iran could mean more Iranian oil on the market.

Yes, lower oil prices mean that we get to pay less for gasoline when we fill up our vehicles.

But as I have written about previously, anyone that believes that lower oil prices are good for the U.S. economy or for the global economy as a whole is crazy.  And these sentiments were echoed recently by Jeff Gundlach

Oil is incredibly important right now. If oil falls to around $40 a barrel then I think the yield on ten year treasury note is going to 1%. I hope it does not go to $40 because then something is very, very wrong with the world, not just the economy. The geopolitical consequences could be – to put it bluntly – terrifying.

If the price of oil does not recover, we are going to see massive financial problems all over the planet and the geopolitical stress that this will create will be unbelievable.

To expand on this point, I want to share an excerpt from a recent Zero Hedge article.  As you can see, a rapid rise or fall in the price of oil almost always correlates with a major global crisis of some sort…

Large and rapid rises and falls in the price of crude oil have correlated oddly strongly with major geopolitical and economic crisis across the globe. Whether driven by problems for oil exporters or oil importers, the ‘difference this time’ is that, thanks to central bank largesse, money flows faster than ever and everything is more tightly coupled with that flow.

Oil Crisis Chart - Zero Hedge

So is the 45% YoY drop in oil prices about to ’cause’ contagion risk concerns for the world?

And without a doubt, we are overdue for another stock market crisis.

Between December 31st, 1996 and March 24th, 2000 the S&P 500 rose 106 percent.

Then the dotcom bubble burst and it fell by 49 percent.

Between October 9th, 2002 and October 9th, 2007 the S&P 500 rose 101 percent.

But then that bubble burst and it fell by 57 percent.

Between March 9th, 2009 and December 31st, 2014 the S&P 500 rose an astounding 204 percent.

When this bubble bursts, how far will it fall this time?

 

It’s Currency War! – And Japan Has Fired The First Shot

Currency War - Public DomainThis is the big problem with fiat currency – eventually the temptation to print more of it when you are in a jam becomes too powerful to resist.  In a surprise move on Friday, the Bank of Japan dramatically increased the size of the quantitative easing program that it has been conducting.  This sent Japanese stocks soaring and the Japanese yen plunging.  The yen had already fallen by about 11 percent against the dollar over the last year before this announcement, and news of the BOJ’s surprise move caused the yen to collapse to a seven year low.  Essentially what the Bank of Japan has done is declare a currency war.  And as you will see below, in every currency war there are winners and there are losers.  Let’s just hope that global financial markets do not get shredded in the crossfire.

Without a doubt, the Japanese are desperate.  Their economic decline has lasted for decades, and their debt levels are off the charts.  In such a situation, printing more money seems like such an easy solution.  But as history has shown us, wild money printing always ends badly.  Just remember what happened in the Weimar Republic and in Zimbabwe.

At this point, the Bank of Japan is already behaving so recklessly that it is making the Federal Reserve look somewhat responsible in comparison.  The following is how David Stockman summarized what just happened…

This is just plain sick. Hardly a day after the greatest central bank fraudster of all time, Maestro Greenspan, confessed that QE has not helped the main street economy and jobs, the lunatics at the BOJ flat-out jumped the monetary shark. Even then, the madman Kuroda pulled off his incendiary maneuver by a bare 5-4 vote. Apparently the dissenters——Messrs. Morimoto, Ishida, Sato and Kiuchi—-are only semi-mad.

Never mind that the BOJ will now escalate its bond purchase rate to $750 billion per year—-a figure so astonishingly large that it would amount to nearly $3 trillion per year if applied to a US scale GDP. And that comes on top of a central bank balance sheet which had previously exploded to nearly 50% of Japan’s national income or more than double the already mind-boggling US ratio of 25%.

The Japanese are absolutely destroying the credibility of their currency in a last ditch effort to boost short-term economic growth.

So why would they want to devalue their currency?

Well, there are too main reasons why nations do this.

One reason is that it makes it easier to pay off debt.  The government debt to GDP ratio in Japan is approximately 250 percent at the moment, and the total debt to GDP ratio is approximately 600 percent.  When you have lots more money floating around, servicing crippling levels of debt becomes more feasible.

Secondly, nations like to devalue their currencies because it makes their products less expensive on the world stage.

In other words, it helps them sell more stuff to other people.

But in the process, this hurts other exporters.  For example, what the Bank of Japan just did is already having serious consequences for South Korean automakers

In Seoul, shares of auto makers Hyundai Motor and Kia Motors fell 5.9% and 5.6%, respectively, on Monday.

South Korean and Japanese companies often compete head-to-head in the same product groups in global markets, notably cars and electronics goods.

From the Bank of Japan’s standpoint, “you’re giving your industry a head start relative to someone else’s,” said Markus Rosgen, regional head of equity strategy at Citi in Hong Kong. “The perception in the equity market will be that they [South Korea] will have to take a hit from the lack of competitiveness versus the Japanese.”

This is why I said that there are winners and there are losers in every currency war.

If you boost your exports by devaluing your currency, you take away business from someone else.  And ultimately other nations start devaluing their currencies in an attempt to stay competitive.  That is why they call it a currency war.

For now, the Japanese are celebrating.  On Friday, Japanese stocks surged almost five percent for the day and reached a seven year high.  Investors tend to love quantitative easing, and they were very pleasantly surprised by what the Bank of Japan decided to do.

But of course rising stock prices are not always a good thing.  As Kyle Bass recently explained, wild money printing caused Zimbabwe’s stock market to skyrocket to unprecedented heights as well and that turned out very, very badly…

Amid the euphoria… Kyle Bass provided a few minutes of sanity this morning in an interview with CNBC’s Gary Kaminsky. Bass starts by reflecting on the ongoing (and escalating) money-printing (or balance sheet expansion as we noted here) as the driver of stock movements currently and would not be surprised to see them move higher still (given the ongoing printing expected).

However, he caveats that nominally bullish statement with a critical point, “Zimbabwe’s stock market was the best performer this decade – but your entire portfolio now buys you 3 eggs” as purchasing power is crushed. Investors, he says, are “too focused on nominal prices” as the rate of growth of the monetary base is destroying true wealth. Bass is convinced that cost-push inflation is coming (as the velocity of money will move once psychology shifts) and investors must not take their eye off the insidious nature of underlying inflation – no matter what we are told by the government (as they will always lie when its critical). Own ‘productive assets’, finance them at low fixed rates (thank you Ben)…

And just like we have experienced with quantitative easing in the United States, Japan’s money printing has done very little to help the real economy.  Here is more from David Stockman

Notwithstanding the massive hype of Abenomics, Japan’s real GDP is lower than it was in early 2013, while its trade accounts have continued to deteriorate and real wages have headed sharply south.

So up to this point Japan’s experiment in crazy money printing has been a dismal failure.

Will printing even more money turn things around?

We shall see, but I wouldn’t hold your breath.

Meanwhile, there are reports that the European Central Bank is getting ready for more quantitative easing.  Central banks all over the planet are becoming increasingly desperate for answers, and the temptation to print, print and print some more is extremely strong.

Nobody is quite sure how this currency war will play out, but I have a feeling that it isn’t going to be pretty.

The Almighty Dollar Is In Peril As The Global ‘De-Dollarization’ Trend Accelerates

50 Dollars - Public DomainAs the Obama administration continues to alienate almost everyone else around the entire planet, an increasing number of prominent international voices are starting to question why the U.S. dollar should be so overwhelmingly dominant in global trade.  In previous articles, I have discussed Russia’s “de-dollarization strategy” and the fact that Gazprom is now asking their large customers to start paying in currencies other than the dollar.  But this is not just a story about Russia any longer.  As you will read about below, China and South Korea have just signed a major agreement to facilitate trade with one another using their own national currencies, and even prominent French officials are now talking about the need to use the dollar less and the euro more.  John Williams of shadowstats.com recently said that things have never “been more negative” for the U.S. dollar, and he was right on the mark.  The power of the almighty dollar has allowed all of us living in the United States to enjoy an extremely high standard of living for decades, but as that power now fades it is going to have profound implications for the U.S. economy.  In future years the value of the dollar will go down substantially, all of the imported goods filling our stores will become much more expensive, and it is going to cost the federal government a lot more to borrow money.  Unfortunately, with the stock market hitting all-time record highs and with the mainstream media endlessly touting an “economic recovery”, most Americans are not paying any attention to these things.

French oil giant Total is one of the largest energy companies in the entire world.  On Saturday, Total’s CEO made an absolutely stunning statement.  According to Reuters, he told reporters that there “is no reason to pay for oil in dollars”…

“Doing without the (U.S.) dollar, that wouldn’t be realistic, but it would be good if the euro was used more,” he told reporters.

There is no reason to pay for oil in dollars,” he said. He said the fact that oil prices are quoted in dollars per barrel did not mean that payments actually had to be made in that currency.

If Gazprom’s CEO had made such a statement, it would not have really surprised anyone.  But this came from a high profile French CEO.  A decade ago, it would have been unthinkable for him to say such a thing.  Wars have been started over less.  Virtually all oil and natural gas around the planet has been bought and sold for U.S. dollars since the 1970s, and this is an arrangement that the U.S. government has traditionally guarded very zealously.  But now that Russia has broken the petrodollar monopoly, the fear of questioning the almighty dollar appears to be dissipating.

And at this point even French government officials are not afraid to publicly discuss moving away from the U.S. dollar.  Just check out what French finance minister Michel Sapin said to the press this weekend

French finance minister Michel Sapin says “now is the right time to bolster the use of the euro” adding, more ominously for the dollar, “we sell ourselves aircraft in dollars. Is that really necessary? I don’t think so.” Careful to avoid upsetting his ‘allies’ across the pond, Sapin followed up with the slam-dunk diplomacy, “This is not a fight against dollar imperialism,” except, of course – that’s exactly what it is… just as it was over 40 years ago when the French challenged Nixon.

So why are the French suddenly so upset?

Could it be the fact that we just slapped the largest bank in France with a nearly 9 billion dollar fine?

The remarks come a week after Paris-based bank BNP Paribas (BNP) SA was slapped with a $8.97 billion fine by U.S. authorities for transactions carried out in dollars in countries facing American sanctions. The fine spurred debate in France about the right of the U.S. in extending its regulatory reach beyond its borders.

This is yet another example of how the Obama administration is alienating friends all over the globe.

In fact, there doesn’t seem to be anyone that the Obama administration is afraid of crossing.  Just a couple of days ago, the German press exploded in outrage when Germany arrested a U.S. spy.  Why we feel the need to spy on our friends is something that I will never figure out.

And of course our relations with Russia are probably the worst that they have been since the end of the Cold War at this point.  And as the Russians now rapidly move away from the U.S. dollar, they seem intent on bringing the rest of “the BRICS” with them.  The following is a short excerpt from a recent Voice of Russia article entitled “BRICS morphing into anti-dollar alliance“…

However, in her discussion with Vladimir Putin, the head of the Russian central bank unveiled an elegant technical solution for this problem and left a clear hint regarding the members of the anti-dollar alliance that is being created by the efforts of Moscow and Beijing:

“We’ve done a lot of work on the ruble-yuan swap deal in order to facilitate trade financing. I have a meeting next week in Beijing,” she said casually and then dropped the bomb: We are discussing with China and our BRICS parters the establishment of a system of multilateral swaps that will allow to transfer resources to one or another country, if needed. A part of the currency reserves can be directed to [the new system].” (source of the quote: Prime news agency)

It seems that the Kremlin chose the all-in-one approach for establishing its anti-dollar alliance. Currency swaps between the BRICS central banks will facilitate trade financing while completely bypassing the dollar. At the same time, the new system will also act as a de facto replacement of the IMF, because it will allow the members of the alliance to direct resources to finance the weaker countries. As an important bonus, derived from this “quasi-IMF” system, the BRICS will use a part (most likely the “dollar part”) of their currency reserves to support it, thus drastically reducing the amount of dollar-based instruments bought by some of the biggest foreign creditors of the US.

Of course the key economic player in the BRICS alliance is China.

So will China actually go along with a “de-dollarization” strategy?

Well, the truth is that China has been making moves to become more independent of the dollar for a long time, and it has just been announced that China and South Korea have signed an agreement which will mean more direct trade between the two nations using their own national currencies

China’s central bank has authorized the Bank of Communications, the country’s fifth largest lender, to undertake yuan clearing business in the South Korean capital, the People’s Bank of China (PBoC) said in a statement.

The announcement came as Chinese President Xi Jinping wrapped up a state visit to South Korea on Friday. China is seeking to make the yuan – also known as the renminbi – used more internationally in keeping with the country’s status as the world’s second biggest economy behind the United States.

Unfortunately, most Americans don’t care about any of this at all.

They don’t understand that more U.S. dollars are actually used outside the United States than are used inside the United States.  Because most of the rest of the world uses U.S. dollars to trade with one another, this has created a tremendous amount of artificial demand for our currency.  In other words, the value of the U.S. dollar is much higher than it otherwise would be, and this has enabled us to import trillions of dollars of products at ridiculously low prices.  The standard of living that we enjoy today is highly dependent on this arrangement continuing.

And our ability to fund the federal government and our state and local governments is heavily dependent on the rest of the planet loaning our dollars back to us for next to nothing.  If we actually had to pay realistic market rates to borrow money, the finances of the federal government would have already collapsed long ago.

So it is absolutely imperative for our own economic well-being that this “de-dollarization” trend not accelerate any further.  The rest of the world could actually severely hurt us by deciding to stop using the almighty dollar, and the more that the Obama administration antagonizes both our friends and our foes around the globe the more likely that is to happen.

We live in very perilous times, and the almighty dollar is more vulnerable now than it has been in decades.

If it starts collapsing, it will take down the entire U.S. financial system with it.

Let us hope that we still have a bit more time before that happens, because once the U.S. dollar collapses it will be exceedingly painful for all of us.

Who Needs The United States? Not Russia And China

Vladimir PutinRussia and China have just signed what is being called “the gas deal of the century”, and the two countries are discussing moving away from the U.S. dollar and using their own currencies to trade with one another.  This has huge implications for the future of the U.S. economy, but the mainstream media in the United States is being strangely quiet about all of this.  For example, I searched CNN’s website to see if I could find something about this gas deal between Russia and China and I did not find anything.  But I did find links to “top stories” entitled “Celebs who went faux red” and “Adorable kid tugs on Obama’s ear“.  Is it any wonder why the mainstream media is dying?  If a particular story does not fit their agenda, they will simply ignore it.  But the truth is that this new agreement between Russia and China is huge.  It could end up fundamentally changing the global financial system, and not in a way that would be beneficial for the United States.

Russia and China had been negotiating this natural gas deal for ten years, and now it is finally done.  Russia is the largest exporter of natural gas on the entire planet, and China is poised to become the world’s largest economy in just a few years.  This new $400 billion agreement means that these two superpowers could potentially enjoy a mutually beneficial relationship for the next 30 years

Russia reached a $400 billion deal to supply natural gas to China through a new pipeline over 30 years, a milestone in relations between the world’s largest energy producer and the biggest consumer.

President Vladimir Putin is turning to China to bolster Russia’s economy as relations sour with the U.S. and European Union because of the crisis in Ukraine. Today’s accord, signed after more than a decade of talks, will allow state-run gas producer OAO Gazprom (GAZP) to invest $55 billion developing giant gas fields in eastern Siberia and building the pipeline, Putin said.

It’s an “epochal event,” Putin said in Shanghai after the contract was signed. Both countries are satisfied with the price, he said.

Of course countries sell oil and natural gas to each other all the time.  But what makes this deal such a potential problem for the U.S. is the fact that Russia and China are working on cutting the U.S. dollar out of the entire equation.  Just check out the following excerpt from a recent article in a Russian news source

Russia and China are planning to increase the volume of direct payments in mutual trade in their national currencies, according to a joint statement on a new stage of comprehensive partnership and strategic cooperation signed during high-level talks in Shanghai on Tuesday.

“The sides intend to take new steps to increase the level and expansion of spheres of Russian-Chinese practical cooperation, in particular to establish close cooperation in the financial sphere, including an increase in direct payments in the Russian and Chinese national currencies in trade, investments and loan services,” the statement said.

In my recent article entitled “De-Dollarization: Russia Is On The Verge Of Dealing A Massive Blow To The Petrodollar“, I warned about what could happen if the petrodollar monopoly ends.  In the United States, our current standard of living is extremely dependent on the rest of the world continuing to use our currency to trade with one another.  If Russia starts selling natural gas to China without the U.S. dollar being involved, that would be a monumental blow to the petrodollar.  And if other nations started following the lead of Russia and China, that could result in an avalanche from which the petrodollar may never recover.

And it isn’t just the national governments of Russia and China that are discussing moving away from the U.S. dollar.  For example, the second largest bank in Russia just signed a deal with the Bank of China “to pay each other in domestic currencies”

VTB, Russia’s second biggest lender, has signed a deal with Bank of China, which includes an agreement to pay each other in domestic currencies.

“Under the agreement, the banks plan to develop their partnership in a number of areas, including cooperation on ruble and renminbi settlements, investment banking, inter-bank lending, trade finance and capital-markets transactions,” says the official VTB statement.

The deal underlines VTB Group’s growing interest in Asian markets and will help grow trade between Russia and China that are already close trading partners, said VTB Bank Management Board Vasily Titov.

You can almost feel the power of the U.S. dollar fading.

A few months ago, when I wrote about how China had announced that it no longer planned to stockpile more U.S. dollars, I speculated that it may be evidence that China planned to start making a big move away from the U.S. dollar.

Well, now China’s intentions have become even more clear.

The Chinese do not plan to allow the United States to indefinitely dominate the globe financially.  In the long run, the Chinese plan to be the ones calling the shots, and that means that the power of the U.S. dollar must decline.

These days, instead of piling up mountains of U.S. currency, China has started accumulating hard assets instead.  In the past, I have written about how China is rapidly stockpiling gold, and it turns out that the Chinese have also been very busy stockpiling oil as well

China is stockpiling oil for its strategic petroleum reserve at a record pace, intervening on a scale large enough to send a powerful pulse through the world crude market.

The move comes as tensions mount in the South China Sea and the West prepares possible oil sanctions against Russia over the crisis in eastern Ukraine. Analysts believe China is quietly building up buffers against a possible spike in oil prices or disruptions in supply.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) said in its latest monthly report that China imported 6.81m barrels per day (bpd) in April, an all-time high.

Once upon a time, China was extremely dependent on the United States economically.  The same was true with most of the rest of the world.

But now economic power has shifted so dramatically that nations such as Russia and China are realizing that they don’t really need to be dependent on the United States any longer.

And with each passing year, the relationship between Russia and China is becoming stronger.  As Pepe Escobar recently observed, this emerging alliance is causing quite a bit of consternation in Washington…

And no wonder Washington is anxious. That alliance is already a done deal in a variety of ways: through the BRICS group of emerging powers (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa); at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, the Asian counterweight to NATO; inside the G20; and via the 120-member-nation Non-Aligned Movement (NAM). Trade and commerce are just part of the future bargain. Synergies in the development of new military technologies beckon as well. After Russia’s Star Wars-style, ultra-sophisticated S-500 air defense anti-missile system comes online in 2018, Beijing is sure to want a version of it. Meanwhile, Russia is about to sell dozens of state-of-the-art Sukhoi Su-35 jet fighters to the Chinese as Beijing and Moscow move to seal an aviation-industrial partnership.

Meanwhile, the relationship that the U.S. has with both nations is quickly going sour.  The crisis in Ukraine has caused relations with Russia to drop to the lowest point since the end of the Cold War, and now China is deeply offended by charges that Chinese military officers have been involved in cyberspying on the United States

China on Tuesday warned the United States was jeopardizing military ties by charging five Chinese officers with cyberspying and tried to turn the tables on Washington by calling it “the biggest attacker of China’s cyberspace.”

China announced it was suspending cooperation with the United States in a joint cybersecurity task force over Monday’s charges that officers stole trade secrets from major American companies. The Foreign Ministry demanded Washington withdraw the indictment.

The testy exchange marked an escalation in tensions over U.S. complaints that China’s military uses its cyber warfare skills to steal foreign trade secrets to help the country’s vast state-owned industrial sector.

The divide between the East and the West is growing.

But the Obama administration has not figured out that we need the East more than they need us.

Right now, the number one U.S. export is U.S. dollars.  Our massively inflated standard of living is very heavily dependent on the rest of the world using our currency to trade with one another and lending it to us at super low interest rates.

If the rest of the world quits playing our game, our debt-based financial system will quickly fall apart.

Unfortunately, nobody in the Obama administration seems to have much understanding of global economics, and they will probably continue to antagonize Russia and China.

In the end, the consequences for antagonizing them could end up being far greater than any of us ever imagined.

De-Dollarization: Russia Is On The Verge Of Dealing A Massive Blow To The Petrodollar

The U.S. Dollar - Photo by Pen WaggenerIs the petrodollar monopoly about to be shattered?  When U.S. politicians started slapping economic sanctions on Russia, they probably never even imagined that there might be serious consequences for the United States.  But now the Russian media is reporting that the Russian Ministry of Finance is getting ready to pull the trigger on a “de-dollarization” plan.  For decades, virtually all oil and natural gas around the world has been bought and sold for U.S. dollars.  As I will explain below, this has been a massive advantage for the U.S. economy.  In recent years, there have been rumblings by nations such as Russia and China about the need to change to a new system, but nobody has really had a big reason to upset the status quo.  However, that has now changed.  The struggle over Ukraine has caused Russia to completely reevaluate the financial relationship that it has with the United States.  If it starts trading a lot of oil and natural gas for currencies other than the U.S. dollar, that will be a massive blow for the petrodollar, and it could end up dramatically changing the global economic landscape.

The fact that the Russian government has held a meeting to discuss “getting rid of the US dollar in Russian export operations” should be front page news on every mainstream news website in the United States.  That is how big this is.  But instead, we have heard nothing from the big mainstream news networks about this so far.  Instead, we have only heard about this from Russian news sources such as the Voice of Russia

Russian press reports that the country’s Ministry of Finance is ready to greenlight a plan to radically increase the role of the Russian ruble in export operations while reducing the share of dollar-denominated transactions. Governmental sources believe that the Russian banking sector is “ready to handle the increased number of ruble-denominated transactions”.

According to the Prime news agency, on April 24th the government organized a special meeting dedicated to finding a solution for getting rid of the US dollar in Russian export operations. Top level experts from the energy sector, banks and governmental agencies were summoned and a number of measures were proposed as a response for American sanctions against Russia.

The “de-dollarization meeting” was chaired by First Deputy Prime Minister of the Russian Federation Igor Shuvalov, proving that Moscow is very serious in its intention to stop using the dollar.

So will Russia go through with this?

After all, this wouldn’t just be a slap in the face.  This would essentially be like slamming an economic fist into our nose.

You see, Russia is not just a small player when it comes to trading oil and natural gas.  The truth is that Russia is the largest exporter of natural gas and the second largest exporter of oil in the world.

If Russia starts asking for payment in currencies other than the U.S. dollar, that will essentially end the monopoly of the petrodollar.

In order to do this, Russia will need trading partners willing to go along.  In the article quoted above, the Voice of Russia listed Iran and China as two nations that would potentially be willing to make the switch…

Of course, the success of Moscow’s campaign to switch its trading to rubles or other regional currencies will depend on the willingness of its trading partners to get rid of the dollar. Sources cited by Politonline.ru mentioned two countries who would be willing to support Russia: Iran and China. Given that Vladimir Putin will visit Beijing on May 20, it can be speculated that the gas and oil contracts that are going to be signed between Russia and China will be denominated in rubles and yuan, not dollars.

And the reality of the matter is that China has seemed ready to move away from the U.S. dollar for quite some time.  In a previous article, I included a quote from a French news source that discussed how China’s official news agency has even called for a “new international reserve currency… to replace the dominant US dollar”…

For decades the US has benefited to the tune of trillions of dollars-worth of free credit from the greenback’s role as the default global reserve unit.

But as the global economy trembled before the prospect of a US default last month, only averted when Washington reached a deal to raise its debt ceiling, China’s official Xinhua news agency called for a “de-Americanised” world.

It also urged the creation of a “new international reserve currency… to replace the dominant US dollar”.

For much more on what China is thinking, please see my previous article entitled “9 Signs That China Is Making A Move Against The U.S. Dollar“.

So why is the petrodollar so important?

Well, it creates a tremendous amount of demand for the U.S. dollar all over the globe.  Since everyone has needed it to trade with one another, that has created an endless global appetite for the currency.  That has kept the value of the dollar artificially high, and it has enabled us to import trillions of dollars of super cheap products from other countries.  If other nations stopped using the dollar to trade with one another, the value of the dollar would plummet dramatically and we would have to pay much, much more for the trinkets that we buy at the dollar store and Wal-Mart.

In addition, since the U.S. dollar is essentially the de facto global currency, this has also increased demand for our debt.  Major exporting nations such as China and Saudi Arabia end up with giant piles of our dollars.  Instead of just letting them sit there and do nothing, those nations often reinvest their dollars into securities that can rapidly be changed back into dollars if needed.  One of the most popular ways to do this has been to invest those dollars in U.S. Treasuries.  This has driven down interest rates on U.S. debt over the years and has enabled the U.S. government to borrow trillions upon trillions of dollars for next to nothing.

But if the rest of the world starts moving away from the U.S. dollar, all of this could change.

In order for our current standard of living to continue, it is absolutely imperative that everyone else around the globe continues to use our currency.

So if Russia really does pull the trigger on a “de-dollarization” strategy, that would be huge – especially if the rest of the planet started following their lead.

The U.S. economy is already teetering on the brink of another major downturn, and there are a whole host of indications that big trouble is on the horizon.  For much more on this, please see the article that I posted on Monday entitled “If Economic Cycle Theorists Are Correct, 2015 To 2020 Will Be Pure Hell For The United States“.

Just about the last thing that we need right now is for our petrodollar monopoly to be threatened.

It would be nice if things would calm down in Ukraine and the relationship between the United States and Russia could go back to normal.

Sadly, that does not appear likely any time soon.

In fact, the Ukrainian government has already admitted that “we are essentially at war“, and on Tuesday six Ukrainian soldiers were killed and eight were wounded in a convoy attack in eastern Ukraine.

The regions in eastern Ukraine that have just declared independence have given the government in Kiev until Wednesday to pull their forces out of eastern Ukraine or else face war.

If a full blown civil war does erupt in Ukraine, it is going to take this crisis to a completely new level.

Unfortunately, most Americans are incredibly apathetic at this point and know very little about what is going on.

But in the end, this could have dramatic implications for all of us.

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