On Friday, we learned that the official “unemployment rate” has fallen to 5.5 percent. Since an unemployment rate of 5 percent is considered to be “full employment” by many economists, many in the mainstream media took this as a sign that the U.S. economy has almost fully “recovered” since the last recession. In fact, according to the Wall Street Journal, some Federal Reserve officials believe that “the U.S. economy is already at full employment“. But how can this possibly be? It certainly does not square with reality. Personally, I know people that have been struggling with unemployment for years and that still cannot find a decent job. And I get emails from readers all the time that are heartbroken because they are suffering through extended periods of unemployment. So what in the world is going on? How can the government be telling us that we are nearly at “full employment” when so many people can’t find work? Could it be possible that the government numbers are misleading?
It is my contention that the official “unemployment rate” has become so politicized and so manipulated that it is essentially meaningless at this point. The following are 10 reasons why…
#1 Since February 2008, the size of the U.S. population has grown by 16.8 million people, but the number of full-time jobs has actually decreased by 140,000.
#2 The percentage of working age Americans that have a job right now is still about the same as it was during the depths of the last recession. Posted below is a chart that shows how the employment-population ratio has changed since the beginning of the decade. Does this look like a full-blown “employment recovery” to you?…
#3 The primary reason for the decline in the official “unemployment rate” is the fact that the government now considers millions upon millions of long-term unemployed workers to “no longer be in the labor force”. Just check out the following numbers…
The number of Americans participating in the labor force has been on a decline for the past few years. Nearly 33 percent of the Americans above age 16 are not part of the workforce, the highest number since 1978. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) report issued recently has found 92,898,000 Americans above age 16 not a part of the labor force of the country as on February 2015.
When President Obama took over the office in January 2009, nearly 80,529,000 Americans were not a part of the labor force. The number has increase by nearly 12 million over the last few years.
#4 Over the past couple of years, the labor force participation rate in this country has been hovering near mutli-decade lows…
The labor force participation rate hovered between 62.9 percent and 62.7 percent in the eleven months from April 2014 through February, and has been 62.9 percent or lower in 13 of the 17 months since October 2013.
Prior to that, the last time the rate was below 63 percent was 37 years ago, in March 1978 when it was 62.8 percent, the same rate it was in February.
#5 When you add the number of “officially unemployed” Americans (8.7 million) to the number of Americans “not in the labor force” (92.9 million), you get a grand total of 101.6 million working age Americans that do not have a job right now. Does that sound like “full employment” to you?
#6 The quality of our jobs continues to decline. Right now, only 44 percent of U.S. adults are employed for 30 or more hours each week.
#7 Millions upon millions of Americans have been forced to take part-time jobs because that is all they can find, and wages for American workers are at depressingly low levels. The following numbers come directly from the Social Security Administration…
-39 percent of American workers make less than $20,000 a year.
-52 percent of American workers make less than $30,000 a year.
-63 percent of American workers make less than $40,000 a year.
-72 percent of American workers make less than $50,000 a year.
#8 The average duration of unemployment for an unemployed worker is still about twice as long as it was just prior to the last recession.
#9 Most Americans feel as though the Obama administration has done little to nothing to help the middle class. Just consider the following poll numbers…
According to a new poll by the Pew Research Center, Americans see government policies under the Obama administration as having mostly benefited wealthy people, large corporations and financial institutions.
Seventy-two percent of respondents said government policies have done little or nothing to help the middle class, and 65 percent said they have done nothing to help the poor. Sixty-eight percent said the policies have done nothing to help small businesses.
Meanwhile, 45 percent said the policies have done a “great deal” to help large banks and financial institutions, 38 percent say they have helped large corporations, and 36 percent say they have helped the wealthy.
#10 If the unemployment rate was calculated honestly, we would all be talking about the horrific “unemployment crisis” that we were currently enduring. According to John Williams of shadowstats.com, the real unemployment rate in the United States right now is above 23 percent.
Our politicians and the mainstream media are attempting to convince us that everything is just fine.
But what they are telling us simply does not match the cold, hard reality on the streets.
And since the talking heads on television are proclaiming that we are nearly at “full employment”, that just makes millions upon millions of Americans that can’t seem to find work no matter how hard they try feel even worse than they already do.
If jobs are “easy to get”, then those that are chronically unemployment must have “something wrong” with them. That is the message that we are being given. If the mainstream media says that unemployment has gone way down, then anyone that is still unemployed must be really “lazy”, right?
When you are unemployed for an extended period of time, it can really suck the life right out of you. It can be really tempting to believe that you are viewed as a failure by your family and friends. And for the government to lie to us like this just makes things even harder.
If you are unemployed and can’t find a job right now, I want you to understand that you are caught in the midst of a long-term downward economic spiral which is going to get a lot worse.
When the government tells you that we are in a “recovery”, they are lying to you.
And when the government tells you that things are about to get a lot better, they are lying to you.
Everyone has times in their lives when they get knocked down.
The key is to always get back up and to never, ever stop fighting.
Yes, we are facing some really hard economic times. But that does not mean that your life is over. Never give up, and never give in to fear. Just do what you can with what you have today, and tomorrow get up and fight with everything that you have got.
The truth is that the best chapters of your life could be just around the corner.
Just don’t sit back and wait for the government to save you. If you are waiting for the government to save you, then you are going to be deeply disappointed.
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.
Who is to blame for the staggering collapse of the price of oil? Is it the Saudis? Is it the United States? Are Saudi Arabia and the U.S. government working together to hurt Russia? And if this oil war continues, how far will the price of oil end up falling in 2015? As you will see below, some analysts believe that it could ultimately go below 20 dollars a barrel. If we see anything even close to that, the U.S. economy could lose millions of good paying jobs, billions of dollars of energy bonds could default and we could see trillions of dollars of derivatives related to the energy industry implode. The global financial system is already extremely vulnerable, and purposely causing the price of oil to crash is one of the most deflationary things that you could possibly do. Whoever is behind this oil war is playing with fire, and by the end of this coming year the entire planet could be dealing with the consequences.
Ever since the price of oil started falling, people have been pointing fingers at the Saudis. And without a doubt, the Saudis have manipulated the price of oil before in order to achieve geopolitical goals. The following is an excerpt from a recent article by Andrew Topf…
We don’t have to look too far back in history to see Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest oil exporter and producer, using the oil price to achieve its foreign policy objectives. In 1973, Egyptian President Anwar Sadat convinced Saudi King Faisal to cut production and raise prices, then to go as far as embargoing oil exports, all with the goal of punishing the United States for supporting Israel against the Arab states. It worked. The “oil price shock” quadrupled prices.
It happened again in 1986, when Saudi Arabia-led OPEC allowed prices to drop precipitously, and then in 1990, when the Saudis sent prices plummeting as a way of taking out Russia, which was seen as a threat to their oil supremacy. In 1998, they succeeded. When the oil price was halved from $25 to $12, Russia defaulted on its debt.
The Saudis and other OPEC members have, of course, used the oil price for the obverse effect, that is, suppressing production to keep prices artificially high and member states swimming in “petrodollars”. In 2008, oil peaked at $147 a barrel.
Turning to the current price drop, the Saudis and OPEC have a vested interest in taking out higher-cost competitors, such as US shale oil producers, who will certainly be hurt by the lower price. Even before the price drop, the Saudis were selling their oil to China at a discount. OPEC’s refusal on Nov. 27 to cut production seemed like the baldest evidence yet that the oil price drop was really an oil price war between Saudi Arabia and the US.
If the Saudis wanted to stabilize the price of oil, they could do that immediately by announcing a production cutback.
The fact that they have chosen not to do this says volumes.
In addition to wanting to harm U.S. shale producers, some believe that the Saudis are determined to crush Iran. This next excerpt comes from a recent Daily Mail article…
Above all, Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies see Iran — a bitter religious and political opponent — as their main regional adversary.
They know that Iran, dominated by the Shia Muslim sect, supports a resentful underclass of more than a million under-privileged and angry Shia people living in the gulf peninsula — a potential uprising waiting to happen against the Saudi regime.
The Saudis, who are overwhelmingly Sunni Muslims, also loathe the way Iran supports President Assad’s regime in Syria — with which the Iranians have a religious affiliation. They also know that Iran, its economy plagued by corruption and crippled by Western sanctions, desperately needs the oil price to rise. And they have no intention of helping out.
The fact is that the Saudis remain in a strong position because oil is cheap to produce there, and the country has such vast reserves. It can withstand a year — or three — of low oil prices.
There are others out there that are fully convinced that the Saudis and the U.S. are actually colluding to drive down the price of oil, and that their real goal is to destroy Russia.
In fact, Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro openly promoted this theory during a recent speech on Venezuelan national television…
“Did you know there’s an oil war? And the war has an objective: to destroy Russia,” he said in a speech to state businessmen carried live on state TV.
“It’s a strategically planned war … also aimed at Venezuela, to try and destroy our revolution and cause an economic collapse,” he added, accusing the United States of trying to flood the market with shale oil.
Venezuela and Russia, which both have fractious ties with Washington, are widely considered the nations hardest hit by the global oil price fall.
And as I discussed just the other day, Russian President Vladimir Putin seems to agree with this theory…
“We all see the lowering of oil prices. There’s lots of talk about what’s causing it. Could it be an agreement between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia to punish Iran and affect the economies of Russia and Venezuela? It could.”
Without a doubt, Obama wants to “punish” Russia for what has been going on in Ukraine. Going after oil is one of the best ways to do that. And if the U.S. shale industry gets hurt in the process, that is a bonus for the radical environmentalists in Obama’s administration.
There are yet others that see this oil war as being even more complicated.
Marin Katusa believes that this is actually a three-way war between OPEC, Russia and the United States…
“It’s a three-way oil war between OPEC, Russia and North American shale,” says Marin Katusa, author of “The Colder War,” and chief energy investment strategist at Casey Research.
Katusa doesn’t see production slowing in 2015: “We know that OPEC will not be cutting back production. They’re going to increase it. Russia has increased production to all-time highs.” With Russia and OPEC refusing to give up market share how will the shale industry compete?
Katusa thinks the longevity and staying power of the shale industry will keep it viable and profitable. “The versatility and the survivability of a lot of these shale producers will surprise people. I don’t see that the shale sector is going to collapse over night,” he says. Shale sweet spots like North Dakota’s Bakken region and Texas’ Eagle Ford area will help keep production levels up and output steady.
Whatever the true motivation for this oil war is, it does not appear that it is going to end any time soon.
And so that means that the price of oil is going to go lower.
How much lower?
One analyst recently told CNN that we could see the price of oil dip into the $30s next year…
Few saw the energy meltdown coming. Now that it’s here, industry analysts warn another move lower is possible as the momentum remains firmly to the downside.
“If this doesn’t hold, we could go back to price levels in late 2008 and early 2009 — down in the $30s. There’s no reason why it couldn’t happen,” said Darin Newsom, senior analyst at Telvent DTN.
Others are even more pessimistic. For instance, Jeremy Warner of the Sydney Morning Herald, who correctly predicted that the price of oil would fall below $80 this year, is now forecasting that the price of oil could fall all the way down to $20 next year…
Revisiting the past year’s predictions is, for most columnists a frequently humbling experience. The howlers tend to far outweigh the successes. Yet, for a change, I can genuinely claim to have got my main call for markets – that oil would sink to $US80 a barrel or less – spot on, and for the right reasons, too.
Just in case you think I’m making it up, this is what I said 12 months ago: “My big prediction is for $US80 oil, from which much of the rest of my outlook for the coming year flows. It’s hard to overstate the significance of a much lower oil price – Brent at, say, $US80 a barrel, or perhaps lower still – yet this is a surprisingly likely prospect, the implications of which have been largely missed by mainstream economic forecasters.”
If on to a good thing, you might as well stick with it; so for the coming year, I’m doubling up on this forecast. Far from bouncing back to the post crisis “normal” of something over $US100 a barrel, as many oil traders seem to expect, my view is that the oil price will remain low for a long time, sinking to perhaps as little as $US20 a barrel over the coming year before recovering a little.
But even Warner’s chilling prediction is not the most bearish.
A technical analyst named Abigail Doolittle recently told CNBC that under a worst case scenario the price of oil could fall as low as $14 a barrel…
No one really saw 2014’s dramatic plunge in oil price coming, so it’s probably fair to say that any predictions about where it’s going from here fall somewhere between educated guesses and picking a number out of a hat.
In that light, it’s less than shocking to see one analyst making a case—albeit in a pure outlier sense—for a drop all the way below $14 a barrel.
Abigail Doolittle, who does business under the name Peak Theories Research, posits that current chart trends point to the possibility that crude has three downside target areas where it could find support—$44, $35 and the nightmare scenario of, yes, $13.65.
But the truth is that none of those scenarios need to happen in order for this oil war to absolutely devastate the U.S. economy and the U.S. financial system.
There is a very strong correlation between the price of oil and the performance of energy stocks and energy bonds. But over the past couple of weeks this correlation has been broken. The following chart comes from Zero Hedge…
It is inevitable that at some point we will see energy stocks and energy bonds come back into line with the price of crude oil.
And it isn’t just energy stocks and bonds that we need to be concerned about. There is only one other time in all of history when the price of oil has crashed by more than 50 dollars in less than a year. That was in 2008 – just before the great financial crisis that erupted in the fall of that year. For much, much more on this, please see my previous article entitled “Guess What Happened The Last Time The Price Of Oil Crashed Like This?…”
Whether the price of oil crashed or not, we were already on the verge of massive financial troubles.
But the fact that the price of oil has collapsed makes all of our potential problems much, much worse.
As we enter 2015, keep an eye on energy stocks, energy bonds and listen for any mention of problems with derivatives. The next great financial crisis is right around the corner, but most people will never see it coming until they are blindsided by it.
Did you know that 65 percent of all children in the United States live in a home that receives aid from the federal government? We live at a time when child poverty in America is exploding. Yes, the U.S. economy is experiencing a temporary bubble of false stability for the moment, but even during this period of false stability the gap between the wealthy and the poor continues to rapidly expand and the middle class is being systematically destroyed. And sadly, this is having a disproportionate impact on children. This is happening for a couple of reasons. First of all, poorer households tend to have more children than wealthier households. Secondly, most people tend to have children when they are in their young adult years, and right now young adults are being absolutely hammered by this economy. As a result, things just continue to get even worse for children living in this country. Here are 14 facts that show that the number of children in America living in poverty this Christmas is at an all-time record high…
#1 The National Center for Children in Poverty says that 45 percent of all U.S. children belong to low income families.
#2 According to a Census Bureau report that was released just this week, 65 percent of all children in America are living in a home that receives some form of aid from the federal government…
“Almost two-thirds (65 percent) of children,” said the Census Bureau, “lived in households that participated in at least one or more of the following government aid programs: Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), Medicaid, and the National School Lunch Program.”
#3 According to a report recently released by UNICEF, almost one-third of all children in this country “live in households with an income below 60 percent of the national median income”.
#4 When it comes to child poverty, the United States ranks 36th out of the 41 “wealthy nations” that UNICEF looked at.
#5 An astounding 45 percent of all African-American children in America live in areas of “concentrated poverty”.
#6 40.9 percent of all children in the United States that are living with only one parent are living in poverty.
#7 These days, a lot of single mothers are really, really struggling to survive. A decade ago, the number of women in America that had jobs outnumbered the number of women in America on food stamps by more than a 2 to 1 margin. But now the number of women in America on food stamps actually exceeds the total number of women that have jobs.
#8 It is hard to believe, but right now 49 million Americans are dealing with food insecurity.
#9 According to a report that was released last month by the National Center on Family Homelessness, the number of homeless children in the United States has reached a new all-time high of 2.5 million.
#10 There are more than half a million homeless children in the state of California alone.
#11 One recent survey found that about 22 percent of all Americans have had to turn to a church food panty for assistance.
#12 This year, almost one out of every five households in the United States will go through the holiday season on food stamps.
#13 One of the primary reasons why kids are suffering so much is because their parents are simply not making enough money. This is especially true for parents of young children. For example, check out the following numbers from the Atlantic…
Since the Great Recession struck in 2007, the median wage for people between the ages of 25 and 34, adjusted for inflation, has fallen in every major industry except for health care.
These numbers come from an analysis of the Census Current Population Survey by Konrad Mugglestone, an economist with Young Invincibles.
In retail, wholesale, leisure, and hospitality—which together employ more than one quarter of this age group—real wages have fallen more than 10 percent since 2007. To be clear, this doesn’t mean that most of this cohort are seeing their pay slashed, year after year. Instead it suggests that wage growth is failing to keep up with inflation, and that, as twentysomethings pass into their thirties, they are earning less than their older peers did before the recession.
#14 Overall, the quality of the jobs in America continues to decline. At this point, most Americans do not bring home enough income to support a middle class lifestyle for their families. Below I have shared an excerpt from an article that I published a while back…
The following are some statistics about wages in the U.S. from a Social Security Administration report that was recently released…
-39 percent of American workers made less than $20,000 last year.
-52 percent of American workers made less than $30,000 last year.
-63 percent of American workers made less than $40,000 last year.
-72 percent of American workers made less than $50,000 last year.
In addition to all of these numbers, there is also a lot of anecdotal evidence that families with children are really struggling right now.
For example, McDonald’s has traditionally been a place where poor and middle class families have taken their children for a cheap meal. But the restaurant chain just released the worst sales numbers that we have seen in more than a decade.
And the really bad news is that this is just the beginning of the economic pain for families with children. The U.S. economy is in a bubble period right now, and the authorities have been trying with all of their might to keep the bubble inflated.
Just imagine a bodybuilder that is pressing with all of his might to do one more rep on the bench press. That is essentially where we are at. In a recent piece, Brian Pretti summarized some of the extraordinary measures that global central banks have taken to keep the economic bubble inflated…
Since early 2009, central banks globally have printed more than $13 trillion. In addition, governments across the planet have increased their borrowings at historic proportions (the US just crossed $18T – another new high!), all in an effort to stimulate economies and avoid deflationary pressures. Total US Federal debt has more than doubled in five years, an increase of $9.5 trillion and counting.
Despite all of these efforts, the best that we have achieved is economic stagnation.
And now it is becoming clear that the overwhelming deflationary forces around the globe are starting to win the battle. The central banks have used up their ammunition and they still have not turned things around. In fact, as Ambrose Evans-Pritchard so eloquently put it recently, what we see all around us is “evidence of a 1930s-style depression, albeit one that is still contained”…
What is clear is that the world has become addicted to central bank stimulus. Bank of America said 56pc of global GDP is currently supported by zero interest rates, and so are 83pc of the free-floating equities on global bourses. Half of all government bonds in the world yield less that 1pc. Roughly 1.4bn people are experiencing negative rates in one form or another.
These are astonishing figures, evidence of a 1930s-style depression, albeit one that is still contained. Nobody knows what will happen as the Fed tries to break out of the stimulus trap, including Fed officials themselves.
But will it still be contained once the next major financial crash strikes?
As I discussed yesterday, there has never been a time when conditions have been more ideal for a financial crisis since the last one happened in 2008.
So as bad as things are for the children of America right now, they are only going to get worse.
In the years ahead may we all have great compassion for these victims of our incredibly foolish economic mistakes.
It isn’t just the price of oil that is collapsing. The last time commodity prices were this low was during the immediate aftermath of the last financial crisis. The Bloomberg Commodity Index fell to 110.4571 on Monday – the lowest that it has been since April 2009. Just like junk bonds, industrial commodities are a very reliable leading indicator. In other words, prices for industrial commodities usually start to move in a particular direction before the overall economy does. We witnessed this in the summer of 2008 when a crash in commodity prices preceded the financial crisis in the fall by a couple of months. And right now, we are witnessing what may be another major collapse in commodity prices. In recent weeks, the price of copper has declined substantially. So has the price of iron ore. So has the price of nickel. So has the price of aluminum. You get the idea. So this isn’t just about oil. This is a broad-based commodity decline, and if it continues it is really bad news for the U.S. economy.
Of course most Americans would much rather read news stories about Kim Kardashian, but what is happening to the prices of these industrial metals at the moment is actually far more important to their daily lives. For example, when the price of iron ore goes down that is a strong indication that economic activity is slowing down. And that is why it is so troubling that the price of iron ore has almost sunk to a five year low. The following comes from an Australian news source…
The price of iron ore has held below $US70 a tonne in overnight trade, leaving its five-year low within reach.
At the end of the latest offshore session, benchmark iron ore for immediate delivery to the port of Tianjin in China was trading at $US69.40 a tonne, down 0.4 per cent from its previous close of $US69.70 a tonne and only 2 per cent above the five-year low of $US68 reached a fortnight ago.
This week’s dip back under $US70 a tonne has followed revised forecasts from JPMorgan that suggest the commodity will average just $US67 a tonne next year, about $US20 below the investment bank’s previous expectation.
Copper is probably an even better economic indicator than iron ore is. Economists commonly refer to it as “Dr. Copper”, and there is a really good reason for that. Looking back over history, the price of copper often makes a significant move in one direction or the other before the economy does. And now that the price of copper just hit the lowest level that we have seen since the last financial crash, alarm bells are going off. The following comes from an article by CNBC contributor Ron Insana…
Copper prices are now below $3 a pound and there’s an expression that “the economy is topped with a copper roof.” More simply put, copper tends to top out in price, before it becomes obvious that, in this case, the global economy is about to weaken.
So is the global economy heading for rough waters?
Could 2015 be a very rough year economically?
According to Insana, the signs are all around us…
We already have evidence that the commodity crash has ominous portents for the rest of the world:
* Japan’s recession is deeper than previously thought.
* China’s demand for basic materials, amid a glut of uneconomic construction projects, appears to be plummeting.
* Russia’s ruble has collapsed and the country is on the brink, if not already in, a recession.
* India’s economic recovery is beginning to look shaky.
* Europe’s growth rate and inflation rate, for the next two years, were just revised downward by the European Central Bank, suggesting that Europe’s economic crisis is far from over. In fact, at least one former European leader with whom I recently spoke, believes the crisis in Europe may just be in its early stages.
* Brazil and other emerging market nations are struggling with a variety of issues, from recessions at home, to the rising value of the dollar, which is complicating how emerging markets conduct economic policies at home, given how closely their currencies are tied to the greenback.
In addition, the Baltic Dry Index is now at the lowest point that we have seen at this time of the year since 2008…
Simply put, with collapsing commodity prices (iron ore for instance) and massive fleets of credit-driven mal-investment-based vessels, it should surprise no one that the shipping index just plunged back below 1000, now at its lowest for this time of year since 2008. Furthermore, the seasonal bounce always seen in Q3 was among the weakest ever.
What does all of this mean?
It is commonly said that those that do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.
So many of the exact same patterns that we witnessed leading up to the financial crash of 2008 are happening again.
Unfortunately, very few people saw the last crash coming, and this next crash will take most Americans by surprise as well.
I have written more than 1,200 articles about the economy on my website since 2009, and right now our financial system is more primed for a crash than at any other time since I started The Economic Collapse Blog.
Hopefully we have at least a couple more months of relative stability, but without a doubt 2015 is shaping up to be the most “interesting” year that we have seen in the financial world in a very long time.
All of the signs are there. But most people choose to believe that everything is going to be okay somehow. When the next crash comes, those people are going to be absolutely blindsided by it.
When you see storm clouds on the horizon, the logical thing to do is to prepare. And the number one thing that most people should be working on is an emergency fund. So don’t be frittering your money away on frivolous things. In the early stages of this next crisis, you are going to need money to pay the mortgage, to put food on the table and to take care of your family.
Just remember what happened back in 2008. A lot of middle class families were living on the financial edge every month, and because they didn’t have any cushion to fall back on, millions of those families ended up losing their homes when their jobs disappeared.
You need to have an emergency fund that can cover at least six months of expenses. You don’t want a job loss or a major emergency to put you into a situation where your family could be put out into the street.
And for those that still have lots of money invested in the stock market – I really hope that you know what you are doing.
The market giveth, and the market taketh away.
And when the market taketh away, the consequences can often be exceedingly cruel.
Are much lower oil prices good news for the U.S. economy? Only if you like collapsing capital expenditures, rising unemployment and a potential financial implosion on Wall Street. Yes, lower gasoline prices are good news for the middle class. I certainly would rather pay two dollars for a gallon of gas than four dollars. But in order to have money to fill up your vehicle you have got to have an income first. And since the last recession, the energy sector has been the number one creator of good jobs in the U.S. economy by far. Barack Obama loves to stand up and take credit for the fact that the employment picture in this country has been improving slightly, but without the energy industry boom, unemployment would be through the roof. And now that the “energy boom” is rapidly becoming an “energy bust”, what will happen to the struggling U.S. economy as we head into 2015?
At the start of this article I mentioned that much lower oil prices would result in “collapsing capital expenditures”.
If you do not know what a “capital expenditure” is, the following is a definition that comes from Investopedia…
“Funds used by a company to acquire or upgrade physical assets such as property, industrial buildings or equipment. This type of outlay is made by companies to maintain or increase the scope of their operations. These expenditures can include everything from repairing a roof to building a brand new factory.”
Needless to say, this kind of spending is very good for an economy. It builds infrastructure, it creates jobs and it is an investment in the future.
In recent years, energy companies have been pouring massive amounts of money into capital expenditures. In fact, the energy sector currently accounts for about a third of all capital expenditures in the United States according to Deutsche Bank…
US private investment spending is usually ~15% of US GDP or $2.8trn now. This investment consists of $1.6trn spent annually on equipment and software, $700bn on non-residential construction and a bit over $500bn on residential. Equipment and software is 35% technology and communications, 25-30% is industrial equipment for energy, utilities and agriculture, 15% is transportation equipment, with remaining 20-25% related to other industries or intangibles. Non-residential construction is 20% oil and gas producing structures and 30% is energy related in total. We estimate global investment spending is 20% of S&P EPS or 12% from US. The Energy sector is responsible for a third of S&P 500 capex.
These companies make these investments because they believe that there are big profits to be made.
Unfortunately, when the price of oil crashes those investments become unprofitable and capital expenditures start getting slashed almost immediately.
For example, the budget for 2015 at ConocoPhillips has already been reduced by 20 percent…
ConocoPhillips is one of the bigger shale players. And its decision to slash its budget for next year by 20% is raising eyebrows. The company said the new target reflects lower spending on major projects as well as “unconventional plays.” Despite the expectation that others will follow, it doesn’t mean U.S. shale oil production is dead. Just don’t expect a surge in spending like in recent years.
And Reuters is reporting that the number of new well permits for the industry as a whole plunged by an astounding 40 percent during the month of November…
Plunging oil prices sparked a drop of almost 40 percent in new well permits issued across the United States in November, in a sudden pause in the growth of the U.S. shale oil and gas boom that started around 2007.
Data provided exclusively to Reuters on Tuesday by industry data firm Drilling Info Inc showed 4,520 new well permits were approved last month, down from 7,227 in October.
If the price of oil stays this low or continues dropping, this is just the beginning.
Meanwhile, the flow of good jobs that this industry has been producing is also likely to start drying up.
According to the Perryman Group, the energy sector currently supports 9.3 million permanent jobs in this country…
According to a new study, investments in oil and gas exploration and production generate substantial economic gains, as well as other benefits such as increased energy independence. The Perryman Group estimates that the industry as a whole generates an economic stimulus of almost $1.2 trillion in gross product each year, as well as more than 9.3 million permanent jobs across the nation.
The ripple effects are everywhere. If you think about the role of oil in your life, it is not only the primary source of many of our fuels, but is also critical to our lubricants, chemicals, synthetic fibers, pharmaceuticals, plastics, and many other items we come into contact with every day. The industry supports almost 1.3 million jobs in manufacturing alone and is responsible for almost $1.2 trillion in annual gross domestic product. If you think about the law, accounting, and engineering firms that serve the industry, the pipe, drilling equipment, and other manufactured goods that it requires, and the large payrolls and their effects on consumer spending, you will begin to get a picture of the enormity of the industry.
And these are good paying jobs. They aren’t eight dollar part-time jobs down at your local big box retailer. These are jobs that comfortably support middle class families. These are precisely the kinds of jobs that we cannot afford to lose.
In recent years, there has been a noticeable economic difference between areas of the country where energy is being produced and where energy is not being produced.
Since December 2007, a total of 1.36 million jobs have been gained in shale oil states.
Meanwhile, a total of 424,000 jobs have been lost in non-shale oil states.
So what happens now that the shale oil boom is turning into a bust?
That is a very good question.
Even more ominous is what an oil price collapse could mean for our financial system.
The last time the price of oil declined by more than 40 dollars in less than six months, there was a financial meltdown on Wall Street and we experienced the deepest recession that we have seen since the days of the Great Depression.
And now many fear that this collapse in the price of oil could trigger another financial panic.
According to Citigroup, the energy sector now accounts for 17 percent of the high yield bond market.
J.P. Morgan says that it is actually 18 percent.
In any event, the reality of the matter is that the health of these “junk bonds” is absolutely critical to our financial system. And according to Deutsche Bank, if these bonds start defaulting it could “trigger a broader high-yield market default cycle”…
Based on recent stress tests of subprime borrowers in the energy sector in the US produced by Deutsche Bank, should the price of US crude fall by a further 20pc to $60 per barrel, it could result in up to a 30pc default rate among B and CCC rated high-yield US borrowers in the industry. West Texas Intermediate crude is currently trading at multi-year lows of around $75 per barrel, down from $107 per barrel in June.
“A shock of that magnitude could be sufficient to trigger a broader high-yield market default cycle, if materialized,” warn Deutsche strategists Oleg Melentyev and Daniel Sorid in their report.
If the price of oil stays at this level or continues to go down, it is inevitable that we will start to see some of these junk bonds go bad.
In fact, one Motley Fool article recently stated that one industry analyst believes that up to 40 percent of all energy junk bonds could eventually go into default…
The junk bonds, or noninvestment-rated bonds, of energy companies are also beginning to see heavy selling as investors start to worry that drillers could one day default on these bonds. Those defaults could get so bad, according to one analyst, that up to 40% of all energy junk bonds go into default over the next few years if oil prices don’t recover.
That would be a total nightmare for Wall Street.
And of course bond defaults would only be part of the equation. As I wrote about the other day, a crash in junk bonds is almost always followed by a significant stock market correction.
In addition, plunging oil prices could end up absolutely destroying the banks that are holding enormous amounts of energy derivatives. This is something that I recently covered in this article and this article.
As you read this, there are five “too big to fail” banks that each have more than 40 trillion dollars in exposure to derivatives. Of course only a small fraction of that total exposure is made up of energy derivatives, but a small fraction of 40 trillion dollars is still a massive amount of money.
These derivatives trades are largely unregulated, and even Forbes admits that they are likely to be at the heart of the coming financial collapse…
No one understands the derivative risk positions of the Too Big To Fail Banks, JP Morgan Chase, Citigroup, Bank of America, Goldman Sachs or Morgan Stanley. There is presently no way to measure the risks involved in the leverage, quantity of collateral, or stability of counter-parties for these major institutions. To me personally they are big black holes capable of potential wrack and ruin. Without access to confidential internal data about these risky derivative positions the regulators cannot react in a timely and measured fashion to block the threat to financial stability, according to a National Bureau of Economic Research study.
So do we have any hope?
Yes, if oil prices start going back up, much of what you just read about can be averted.
Unfortunately, that does not seem likely any time soon. Even though U.S. energy companies are cutting back on capital expenditures, most of them are still actually projecting an increase in production for 2015. Here is one example from Bloomberg…
Continental, the biggest holder of drilling rights in the Bakken, last month said 2015 output will grow between 23 percent and 29 percent even after shelving plans to allocate more money to exploration.
Higher levels of production will just drive the price of oil even lower.
At this point, Morgan Stanley is saying that the price of oil could plummet as low as $43 a barrel next year.
If that happens, it would be absolutely catastrophic to the most important industry in the United States.
In turn, that would be absolutely catastrophic for the economy as a whole.
So don’t let anyone tell you that much lower oil prices are “good” for the economy.
That is just a bunch of nonsense.
Did you know that some Americans are being hit with health insurance rate increases of more than 500 percent? Taking advantage of “the stupidity of the American voter”, the Democrats succeeded in ramming through one of the worst pieces of legislation that has ever come before Congress. The full implementation of Obamacare has been repeatedly delayed, but now we are finally starting to see the true horror of this terrible law. Thanks to Obamacare, millions of American families are losing health plans that they were very happy with, health insurance rates are skyrocketing, millions of workers are having their full-time hours cut back to part-time hours, rural hospitals all over the country are dying, and thousands of doctors are being driven out of the industry thus intensifying the greatest doctor shortage in U.S. history. Obamacare is a slow-motion train wreck of epic proportions, and the full effect of this law is only beginning to be felt. In the end, the economic impact of this law will likely be measured in the trillions of dollars.
One of the primary reasons why Democrats experienced so much pain during the recent elections was because millions of Americans are receiving some very disturbing letters from their health insurance providers. At a time when U.S. incomes are stagnating, health insurance rates are rising to absolutely ridiculous levels.
As the New York Times recently reported, even the Obama administration is admitting that “substantial price increases” are on the way…
The Obama administration on Friday unveiled data showing that many Americans with health insurance bought under the Affordable Care Act could face substantial price increases next year — in some cases as much as 20 percent — unless they switch plans.
The data became available just hours before the health insurance marketplace was to open to buyers seeking insurance for 2015.
An analysis of the data by The New York Times suggests that although consumers will often be able to find new health plans with prices comparable to those they now pay, the situation varies greatly from state to state and even among counties in the same state.
Originally, Barack Obama promised that if we liked our current health plans that we could keep them. Well, it turns out that was not true at all. Instead, the vast majority of us will eventually have to move to new plans if we have not done so already. This is particularly true for those that purchase health insurance individually. The following is an excerpt from an NBC News investigation…
Four sources deeply involved in the Affordable Care Act tell NBC News that 50 to 75 percent of the 14 million consumers who buy their insurance individually can expect to receive a “cancellation” letter or the equivalent over the next year because their existing policies don’t meet the standards mandated by the new health care law. One expert predicts that number could reach as high as 80 percent. And all say that many of those forced to buy pricier new policies will experience “sticker shock.”
This is something that actually happened to me. I received a letter in the mail informing me that my new health insurance policy which meets the requirements of Obamacare will cost me nearly twice as much as my old one.
Needless to say, I was not too thrilled about that.
Other Americans are being hit even harder. For instance, one family down in Texas got hammered with a 539 percent rate increase…
Obamacare is named the “Affordable Care Act,” after all, and the President promised the rates would be “as low as a phone bill.” But I just received a confirmed letter from a friend in Texas showing a 539% rate increase on an existing policy that’s been in good standing for years.
As the letter reveals (see below), the cost for this couple’s policy under Humana is increasing from $212.10 per month to $1,356.60 per month. This is for a couple in good health whose combined income is less than $70K — a middle-class family, in other words.
These rate increases are coming at a time when the middle class in the U.S. is already steadily shrinking. A lot of families that are already stretched to the breaking point are making the very painful decision to give up health insurance entirely. At this point, there are millions of families that simply cannot afford it.
But Obama is not about to let those people off the hook. In fact, huge tax penalties are on the way for those that do not participate in the new system…
Penalties for failing to secure a health-insurance plan will rise steeply next year, which could take a big bite out of some families’ pocketbooks.
“The penalty is meant to incentivize people to get coverage,” said senior analyst Laura Adams of InsuranceQuotes.com. “This year, I think a lot of people are going to be in for a shock.”
In 2014, Obamacare’s first year, individuals are facing a penalty of $95 per person, or 1 percent of their income, depending on which is higher. If an American failed to get coverage this year, that penalty will be taken out of their tax refund in early 2015, Adams noted.
While that might be painful to some uninsured Americans who are counting on their tax refunds in early 2015, the penalty for going uninsured next year is even harsher. The financial penalty for skipping out on health coverage will more than triple to $325 per person in 2015, or 2 percent of income, depending on whichever is higher.
Children will be fined at half the adult rate, or $162.50 for those under 18 years old.
No wonder so many people are so angry with the Democrats.
And as Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor Jonathan Gruber has so infamously observed, Obamacare never would have become law if the American people had been told the truth about what it would do to them.
It has been documented that Gruber has visited the White House about a dozen times since 2009, and he has been one of the leading intellectual proponents of Obamacare. A video in which he states that “the stupidity of the American voter” was “really critical” to the passage of Obamacare has gone viral over the past week. I have posted a copy of this video below…
What he is essentially saying is that the Democrats purposely deceived the American people because it was the only way that Obamacare was going to become law.
And this is a man that has become very wealthy advising government on healthcare matters. According to an article in the Washington Post, he has made millions of dollars from “consulting” in recent years…
Not all of the contracts could be found on public Web sites, but here is a sampling. In some cases, Gruber worked with other consultants, so the fees were shared. These figures also might not represent the final payout, and of course these are gross figures, before expenses. But it’s safe to say that about $400,000 appears to be the standard rate for gaining access to the Gruber Microsimulation Model.
Gruber has also earned more than $2 million over the last seven years for an ongoing contract with HHS to assess choices made by the elderly in Medicare’s prescription-drug plan.
If you are Gruber, life is quite good.
But for most of the rest of America, the economic pain continues.
For example, one recent study found that almost half of all Floridians cannot even afford “to pay for basic necessities”…
Nearly half of Florida households do not earn enough to pay for basic necessities, according to a report released Tuesday by the United Way that seeks to cast a light on the large group of state residents who struggle financially but do not meet the official criteria for being in poverty.
While 15 percent of Florida households are below the poverty level, another 30 percent are financially insecure — a figure that also applies to Sarasota and Manatee counties — based on a new measurement developed by the United Way.
If all those people cannot even afford the basics, how are they going to pay for Obamacare?
This law is going to financially cripple millions of American families. It truly is a death panel for the U.S. economy. And because Barack Obama can veto anything that the Republicans in Congress do, we are stuck with it for at least another two years (and probably longer).
So what about you?
Have your health insurance premiums gone up yet?
Please feel free to add to the discussion by posting a comment below…
Most people that discuss the “economic collapse” focus on what is coming in the future. And without a doubt, we are on the verge of some incredibly hard times. But what often gets neglected is the immense permanent damage that has been done to the U.S. economy by the long-term economic collapse that we are already experiencing. In this article I am going to share with you 12 economic charts that show that we are in much, much worse shape than we were five or ten years ago. The long-term problems that are eating away at the foundations of our economy like cancer have not been fixed. In fact, many of them continue to get even worse year after year. But because unprecedented levels of government debt and reckless money printing by the Federal Reserve have bought us a very short window of relative stability, most Americans don’t seem too concerned about our long-term problems. They seem to have faith that our “leaders” will be able to find a way to muddle through whatever challenges are ahead. Hopefully this article will be a wake up call. The last major wave of the economic collapse did a colossal amount of damage to our economic foundations, and now the next major wave of the economic collapse is rapidly approaching.
The mainstream media is constantly telling us about the “employment recovery” that is happening in the United States, but the truth is that it is just an illusion. As the chart below demonstrates, just prior to the last recession about 63 percent of all working age Americans had a job. During the last wave of the economic collapse, that number dropped to below 59 percent and stayed there for a very long time. In the past few months we have finally seen the employment-population ratio tick back up to 59 percent, but we are still far, far below where we used to be. To call the tiny little bump at the end of this chart a “recovery” is really an insult to our intelligence…
#2 The Labor Force Participation Rate
The percentage of Americans that are either employed or currently looking for a job started to fall during the last recession and it has not stopped falling since then. The labor force participation rate has now fallen to a 36 year low, and this is a sign of a very, very sick economy…
#3 The Inactivity Rate For Men In Their Prime Years
Some blame the decline in the labor force participation rate on the aging of our population. But it isn’t just elderly people that are dropping out of the labor force. In fact, the inactivity rate for men in their prime working years (25 to 54) continues to rise and is now at the highest level that has ever been recorded…
#4 Manufacturing Employees
Once upon a time in America, anyone that was reliable and willing to work hard could easily find a manufacturing job somewhere. But we have stood by and allowed millions upon millions of good paying manufacturing jobs to be shipped out of the country, and now many of our formerly great manufacturing cities have been transformed into ghost towns. Over the past few years, there has been a slight “recovery”, but we are still well below where we were at just previous to the last recession…
#5 Our Current Account Balance
As a nation, we buy far more from the rest of the world than they buy from us. In other words, we perpetually consume far more wealth than we produce. This is a recipe for national economic suicide. Our current account balance soared to obscene levels just prior to the last recession, and now we have almost gotten back to those levels…
#6 Existing Home Sales
Our economy has never fully recovered from the housing crash of 2007-2008. As you can see from the chart below, the number of existing home sales is still far below the level that we hit back in 2006. At this point we are just getting back to the level we were at in 2000, but our population today is far larger than it was back then…
#7 New Home Sales
Things are even more dramatic when you look at new home sales. This is an industry that have been absolutely emasculated. The number of new home sales in the United States is just a little more than half of what it was back in 2000, and it isn’t even worth comparing to what we experienced during the peak of 2006.
#8 The Monetary Base
In a desperate attempt to get the economy going again, the Federal Reserve has been wildly printing money. It has been so reckless that it is hard to put it into words. When I look at this chart, the phrase “Weimar Republic” comes to mind…
#9 Food Inflation
Thankfully, much of the money that the Federal Reserve has been injecting into the system has not made it into the real economy. But enough of it has gotten into the system to force food prices significantly higher. For example, my wife went to the store today and paid just a shade under 10 bucks for just four pieces of chicken. And as you can see from the chart below, food prices have been steadily going up in America for a very long time…
#10 The Velocity Of Money
One of the reasons why we have not seen even more inflation is because the velocity of money is extraordinarily low. In general, when an economy is healthy money tends to flow through the system rapidly. People are buying and selling and money changes hands frequently. But when an economy is sick, money tends to stagnate. And that is exactly what is happening in the United States right now. In fact, at this point the velocity of the M2 money stock has dropped to the lowest level ever recorded…
#11 The National Debt
As our economic fundamentals have deteriorated, our politicians have attempted to prop up our standard of living by borrowing from the future. The U.S. national debt is on pace to approximately double during the Obama years, and it increased by more than a trillion dollars in fiscal year 2014 alone. Despite assurances that “the deficit is under control”, the federal government borrows about a trillion dollars a year to fund new spending in addition to borrowing about 7 trillion dollars to pay off old debt that is coming due. What we are doing to future generations of Americans is absolutely criminal, and it is just a matter of time before this Ponzi scheme totally collapses…
#12 Total Debt
Of course it is not just the federal government that is gorging on debt. When you add up all forms of debt in our society (government, business, consumer, etc.) it comes to a grand total of more than 57 trillion dollars. This total has more than doubled since the year 2000…
If you know anyone that believes that we are in good economic shape, just show them these charts.
The numbers do not lie. Our economy is sick and it is getting sicker by the day.
And of course the next major financial crisis could strike at any time. U.S. stocks just experienced their worst week in three years, and if cases of Ebola start popping up around the country the fear that would cause could collapse our economy all by itself.
The debt-fueled prosperity that we are enjoying today is not real. We are living on the fumes of our past, and every single day our long-term problems get even worse.
Anyone with half a brain should be able to see what is coming.
Sadly, most Americans will continue to deny the truth until it is far too late.