Stock Prices Are Surging Because Corporations Are Spending More Money On Stock Buybacks Than Anything Else

The primary reason why stock prices have been soaring in recent months is because corporations have been buying back their own stock at an unprecedented pace.  In fact, the pace of stock buybacks is nearly double what it was at this time last year.  According to Goldman Sachs, S&P 500 companies spent 384 billion dollars buying back stock during the first half of 2018.  That is an absolutely astounding number.  And in many cases, corporations are going deep into debt in order to do this.  Of course this is going to push up stock prices, but corporate America will not be able to inflate this bubble indefinitely.  At some point a credit crunch will come, and the pace of stock buybacks will fall precipitously.

Prior to 1982, corporations were not permitted to go into the market and buy back stock.

The reason for this is obvious – stock buybacks are a really easy way for corporations to manipulate stock prices.

But these days it is expected that most large corporations will engage in this practice.  Large stockholders love to see the price of the stock go up, and they are never going to complain when smaller shareholders are bought out and their share of the company is increased.  And corporate executives love buybacks because so much of their compensation often involves stock options or bonuses related to key metrics such as earnings per share.

So in the end, stock buybacks are often all about greed.  It is a way to funnel money to those at the very top of the pyramid, and those stock market gains are taxed at capital gains rates which are much lower than the rates on normal income.

Normally, you would expect successful companies to invest most of their available cash back into operations so that they can make even more money in the future.  And for 19 of the past 20 years, corporations have spent more on capital investments than anything else.  But now, share buybacks have actually surpassed capital spending.  The following comes from CNN

But that doesn’t mean companies aren’t spending on job-creating investments, like new equipment, research projects and factories. Business spending is up 19% — it’s just that buybacks are growing much faster.

In fact, Goldman Sachs said that buybacks are garnering the largest share of cash spending by S&P 500 firms. It’s a milestone because capital spending had represented the single largest use of cash by corporations in 19 of the past 20 years.

And this trend seems to be accelerating during the second half of 2018.  It is being projected that firms will spend more than 600 billion dollars on stock buybacks during the second half of this year, and that will bring the grand total for 2018 to more than a trillion dollars

And the trend may not be done yet. Goldman Sachs predicted that share buyback authorizations among all US companies in all of 2018 will surpass $1 trillion for the first time ever.

Wow.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we had more than a trillion dollars that we could put toward reducing the national debt?

This is the reason why stocks hit another new all-time record high this week.  Stock buybacks have reached absolutely insane levels, and what we are witnessing is essentially a giant orgy of greed.

To give you some perspective, the previous annual record for stock buybacks was just 589 billion dollars in 2007.

This year, we may come close to doubling the previous record.

And let us not forget that the year after 2007 was the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.

So what corporations are the worst offenders?  Here is more from CNN

Apple (AAPL) alone spent a whopping $45 billion on buybacks during the first half of 2018, triple what it did during the same time period last year, the firm said. That included a record-shattering sum during the first quarter.

Amgen (AMGN), Cisco (CSCO), AbbVie (ABBV) and Oracle (ORCL) have also showered investors with big boosts to their buyback programs.

As I noted earlier, corporate insiders greatly benefit from stock buybacks, and they took advantage of massively inflated stock prices by selling off $10.3 billion worth of their shares during the month of August.

Inflating your stock price by cannibalizing your own shares is not a good long-term strategy for any corporation, but without a doubt it is making a lot of people very wealthy.

But in the process, the size of the stock market as a whole has been steadily shrinking.  In fact, the number of shares on the S&P 500 has fallen by almost 8 percent since the beginning of 2011…

According to Ed Yardeni, the number of S&P 500 shares has shrunk by 7.7% since the start of 2011. This tends to increase the earnings per remaining share and the dividends available per remaining share.

This is yet another example that shows why the stock market has become completely disconnected from economic reality.  Wall Street is inhabited by con men that are promoting Ponzi scheme after Ponzi scheme, and it is only a matter of time before the entire system collapses under its own weight.

But for now, the euphoria on Wall Street continues as stock prices continue to march higher.  Meanwhile, we continue to get more signs of trouble from the real economy.  For instance, this week we learned that the third largest bank in the entire country is going to lay off thousands of workers

Wells Fargo, the third-biggest U.S. bank, plans to lower its employee headcount by 5 percent to 10 percent in the next three years as part of its ongoing turnaround plan, the company announced Thursday.

The bank has 265,000 employees, meaning the reduction would result in a loss of between 13,250 and 26,500 jobs.

Why would they do that if the economy was in good shape?

And globally, the emerging market currency crisis has continued to escalate.  According to one source, more than 80 percent of all global currencies have fallen in value so far this year…

A review of the values of 143 global currencies indicates that so far this year, more than 80 percent have fallen in value.

Another eleven appear to be pegged to the dollar and 13 have risen in value. Of the 13 that have increased in value, only six are up more than 1 percent versus the dollar.

There have been outsized declines in countries like Venezuela (down 99 percent), Argentina (53 percent) and Turkey (38 percent). However, Brazil is down 20 percent, Russia 15 percent, India 11 percent, Sweden 10 percent, and the Philippines 8 percent. Big economies like China are experiencing a 5 percent currency value decline while the Euro is off by 3 percent.

I applaud those that have made lots of money in the stock market, but the party will not last forever.

In 2007 corporations were pouring hundreds of billions of dollars into stock buybacks, and it propped up the market for a time.  But eventually the bubble burst and the crisis of 2008 was so dramatic that it will be remembered forever.

Now we are facing a similar scenario, and it is just a matter of time before this bubble bursts as well.

About the author: Michael Snyder is a nationally syndicated writer, media personality and political activist. He is publisher of The Most Important News and the author of four books including The Beginning Of The End and Living A Life That Really Matters.

The 5 Previous Times This Stock Market Indicator Has Reached This Level Stock Prices Have Fallen By At Least 50 Percent

Have you ever heard of the “Sound Advice Risk Indicator”?  Every single time in our history when it has gone above 2.0 the stock market has crashed, and now it has just surged above that threshold for the very first time since the late 1990s.  That doesn’t mean that a stock market crash is imminent, but it is definitely yet another indication that this stock market bubble is living on borrowed time.  But for the moment, there is still quite a bit of optimism on Wall Street.  The Dow set another brand new all-time record high earlier this week, and on Wednesday we learned that this bull market is now officially the longest in our history

For context, a bull market is defined as a 20% rally on a closing basis that’s at no point derailed by a subsequent 20% decline. March 9, 2009, has long been the agreed-upon starting point for such calculations because that was the absolute bottom for the prior bear market, which ended that day.

The S&P 500 has surged a whopping 323% over the period, with its roughly 19% annualized return slightly lagging behind the historical bull market average of 22%.

Of course the U.S. economy has not been performing nearly as well.  Even if you accept the highly manipulated numbers that the federal government puts out, we haven’t had a year when GDP grew by at least 3 percent since the middle of the Bush administration.

It simply is not possible for stock prices to continue to soar about 20 percent a year when the U.S. economy is growing less than 3 percent a year.  At some point a major adjustment is coming, and it is going to be exceedingly painful.

Author Gray Cardiff has been touting his “Sound Advice Risk Indicator” for many years.  He believes that the relationship between the S&P 500 and the median price of a new house in the United States is very important, and this is the very first time since the late 1990s that this indicator has entered the danger zone

The “Sound Advice Risk Indicator” is a different story. This indicator, the brainchild of Gray Cardiff, editor of the Sound Advice newsletter, is derived from the ratio of the S&P 500 to the median price of a new U.S. house. For the first time since the late 1990s, and for only the sixth time since 1895, this indicator has risen above the 2.0 level that represents a major sell signal for equities.

So should we be concerned?

In previous instances when this level has been breached, a crash hasn’t always happened right away, but in every instance the market eventually fell “by 50 % or more”

To be sure, Cardiff is quick to emphasize, his risk indicator is not a short-term market timing tool. In the wake of past occasions when it rose above 2.0, for example, equities stayed high or even continued rising “for many months, sometimes even a couple of years.” However, he continues, “in all cases, a major decline or crash followed, pulling down stock prices by 50% or more.”

Because Wall Street is so highly leveraged today, a 50 percent decline in stock prices would be totally catastrophic.  Banks would go down one after another, and we would be facing a financial crisis that would make 2008 look like a Sunday picnic.

And the truth is that much of the world is already in crisis mode.  The mainstream media is telling us that Italy is teetering on the brink of “financial disaster”, and China appears to be entering a serious economic downturn as the trade war begins to take a substantial toll on their economy.

Meanwhile, emerging market currencies continue to plummet, and this week it has been Brazil’s turn to capture the headlines.  The Brazilian real is absolutely crashing, and many analysts are pointing to their internal problems as the cause

According to analysts the devaluation of the Brazilian real is not due to the current foreign turbulence but to internal uncertainties and the upcoming October presidential elections.

“The (Brazilian) real was not devalued sixteen percent because of Turkey or other external reasons, it was because the rate of R$3.00 to R$3.30 (per US$1) was absolutely incompatible with the status quo of the Brazilian economy and the expressiveness of the country’s fiscal debt,” said Sidnei Moura Nehme, executive director at NGO.

At the same time, trouble signs continue to emerge here in the United States.

On Wednesday, we learned that Lowe’s is planning to shut down 99 Orchard Supply Hardware stores

The company said Wednesday that the 99 Orchard Supply Hardware stores that Lowe’s owns in California, Oregon and Florida, as well as a distribution center, will be shut down by the end of the fiscal year.

Orchard Supply Hardware has 4,300 employees. Ellison said in the earnings release that the chain’s workers will be given “priority status” if they apply for other jobs at Lowe’s and will also receive job placement assistance and severance.

If the U.S. economy really was in good shape, why would they be doing that?

Ultimately, most people out there realize on some level that our current economic situation is not sustainable.  Stock prices have become completely detached from reality, and we are enjoying a ridiculously high standard of living that has been fueled by the greatest debt binge that the world has ever seen.

We can steal from the future for an extended period of time, but eventually it will catch up with us.

When the stock market finally crashes, the mainstream media will treat it like a big surprise, but the truth is that it shouldn’t catch anybody off guard.  Key stock valuation ratios always return to their long-term averages eventually, and in this case stock prices are going to have to fall at least 40 or 50 percent before they begin to make sense again.

But as I noted earlier, our system is so fragile that we won’t be able to handle that kind of an adjustment.

Our system almost completely collapsed in 2008, but what we are facing is going to be much worse than that.  Most of the wealth of the country will be wiped out in the process, and it will be an exceptionally painful time for the American people.

This article originally appeared on The Economic Collapse Blog.  About the author: Michael Snyder is a nationally syndicated writer, media personality and political activist. He is publisher of The Most Important News and the author of four books including The Beginning Of The End and Living A Life That Really Matters.

5 Signs That Global Financial Markets Are Entering A Bear Market, And 11 Ways That You Can Get Prepared For The Chaos That Is Coming…

We haven’t seen carnage like this in the global financial marketplace in quite some time.  On Wednesday, U.S. stocks were down some, but things were much, much worse around the rest of the world.  Global banking stocks are plunging, emerging market stocks are cratering, and emerging market currencies continue their stunning decline.  This represents a dramatic change from the relative stability that we have seen throughout most of 2018.  It is almost as if someone flipped a switch once the month of August began, and the shakiness of global financial markets has many investors wondering what trouble fall will bring.  What we are witnessing right now is not a full-blown panic yet, but it definitely has the potential to turn into one.

The term “bear market” is being thrown around a lot lately, but a lot of people don’t understand what a “bear market” actually is.

A bear market is generally considered to be when we see a decline of 20 percent or more from the 52-week high, and after the carnage of this past week a lot of those thresholds are now being crossed.

It would probably be too early to call this a “global stock market crash”, but we are well on the way to getting there.  The following are 5 signs that global financial markets are entering a bear market…

#1 Global stocks have now fallen beneath all key moving averages.  Those key moving averages are important psychological thresholds for investors, and if we have a few more days like Wednesday we could see global financial markets go into full panic mode.

#2 European banking stocks have now officially entered a bear market, and all major European stock indexes are now red for the year.

#3 Global banking stocks are down a whopping 23 percent from the peak established earlier this year, and that means that they have officially entered a bear market.

#4 Emerging market stocks have fallen 20 percent from the peak, and that means that they are also now in a bear market.

#5 When demand for industrial metals falls, that indicates that an economic slowdown is coming.  On Wednesday, prices for industrial metals fell to their lowest level in almost a year, and “Dr. Copper officially entered a bear market.

If the financial carnage continues (and that is a big “if”), this could be the beginning of another financial crisis like we experienced in 2008, and that would almost certainly mean a crippling global recession.

And of course once the next global recession begins, it is likely to be more painful than we have ever seen before in modern history, because the global debt bubble is far larger than it has ever been before.

We live at a time of great global instability, and there are so many ominous warnings about our future.  A lot of people reach out to me for advice on how to get prepared for what is coming, and I hope to share quite a few tips in future articles.

Today, I would like to share with you 11 tips that my good friend Ray Gano shared with his readers in his most recent article

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1 – Get Out of Debt: The old saying, “the borrower is the servant of the lender”, is so incredibly true.  The key to insulating yourself from an economic meltdown is to become as independent as possible, and as long as you are in debt, you simply are not independent.  You don’t want a horde of creditors chasing after you when things really start to get bad out there.

2 – Find New Sources of Income: With the birth of The IRA, there simply is no such thing as job security anymore.  If you are dependent on a job (“just over broke”) for 100% of your income, you are in a very bad position.  There are thousands of different ways to make extra money.  What you don’t want to do is to have all of your eggs in one basket.  One day when the economy melts down and you are out of a job are you going to be destitute or are you going to be okay?

IF you need some ideas on what you can do, contact me and I can help.

3 – Reduce Your Expenses: Many Americans have left the rat race and have found ways to live on half or even on a quarter of what they were making previously.  It is possible – if you are willing to reduce your expenses.  In the future times are going to be tougher, so learn to start living with less today.

4 – Learn To Grow Your Own / Supplement Your Food: Today the vast majority of Americans are completely dependent on being able to run down to the supermarket or to the local Wal-Mart to buy food.  But what happens when the U.S. dollar declines dramatically in value and it costs ten bucks to buy a loaf of bread?  If you learn to grow your own food (even if is just a small garden) you will be insulating yourself against rising food prices. Another thing is to learn to hunt and fish. There is “low cost” food out there for the taking, you just need to assert yourself. (Low Cost = you still need to pay for hunting and fishing licenses.)

5 – Make Sure You Have A Reliable Water Supply: Water shortages are popping up all over the globe.  Water is quickly becoming one of the “hottest” commodities out there.  Even in the United States, water shortages have been making headline news recently.  As we move into the future, it will be imperative for you and your family to have a reliable source of water.  Some Americans have learned to collect rainwater and many others are using advanced technology such as atmospheric water generators to provide water for their families.  But whatever you do, make sure that you are not caught without a decent source of water in the years ahead.

6 – Buy Land: This is a tough one, because prices are high depending on where you are looking. If you are able to buy land when prices are low, that is going to insulate you a great deal from the rising housing costs that will occur when the U.S dollar does totally go into the tank.

7 – Buy Precious Metals: this is a no brainer, but it still amazes me how many people are not doing this. Right now silver is sitting at $14.41. That is a very affordable price and a price that everyone can afford.  We must start “paying ourselves first” and start pulling in these sort of assets.

The best place that I recommend is Renaissance Precious Metals. It is who I purchase from.

8 – Get Partially Off The Grid: An increasing number of Americans are going “off the grid”.  Essentially what that means is that they are attempting to operate independently of the utility companies.  In particular, going “off the grid” will enable you to insulate yourself from the rapidly rising energy prices that we are going to see in the future.  If you are able to produce energy for your own home, you won’t be freaking out like your neighbors are when electricity prices triple someday.

9 – Store Non-Perishable Supplies: Non-perishable supplies are one investment that is sure to go up in value.  Not that you would resell them.  You store up non-perishable supplies because you are going to need them someday.  So why not stock up on the things that you are going to need now before they double or triple in price in the future?  Your money is not ever going to stretch any farther than it does right now.

EXAMPLE – Toilet Paper

10 – Develop Stronger Relationships: Americans have become very insular creatures.  We act like we don’t need anyone or anything.  But the truth is that as the we see a socio-economic melt down we are going to need each other.  It is those that are developing strong relationships with family and friends right now that will be able to depend on them when times get hard.

11 – Get Educated And Stay Flexible: When times are stable, it is not that important to be informed because things pretty much stay the same.  However, when things are rapidly changing it is imperative to get educated and to stay informed so that you will know what to do.  The times ahead are going to require us all to be very flexible, and it is those who are willing to adapt that will do the best when things get tough.

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Michael Snyder is a nationally syndicated writer, media personality and political activist. He is publisher of The Most Important News and the author of four books including The Beginning Of The End and Living A Life That Really Matters.

22 Signs That The Global Economic Turmoil We Have Seen So Far In 2016 Is Just The Beginning

Skyline Globe Clock Gears - Public DomainAs bad as the month of January was for the global economy, the truth is that the rest of 2016 promises to be much worse.  Layoffs are increasing at a pace that we haven’t seen since the last recession, major retailers are shutting down hundreds of locations, corporate profit margins are plunging, global trade is slowing down dramatically, and several major European banks are in the process of completely imploding.  I am about to share some numbers with you that are truly eye-popping.  Each one by itself would be reason for concern, but when you put all of the pieces together it creates a picture that is hard to deny.  The global economy is in crisis, and this is going to have very serious implications for the financial markets moving forward.  U.S. stocks just had their worst January in seven years, and if I am right much worse is still yet to come this year.  The following are 22 signs that the global economic turmoil that we have seen so far in 2016 is just the beginning…

1. The number of job cuts in the United States skyrocketed 218 percent during the month of January according to Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

2. The Baltic Dry Index just hit yet another brand new all-time record low.  As I write this article, it is sitting at 303.

3. U.S. factory orders have now dropped for 14 months in a row.

4. In the U.S., the Restaurant Performance Index just fell to the lowest level that we have seen since 2008.

5. In January, orders for class 8 trucks (the big trucks that you see shipping stuff around the country on our highways) declined a whopping 48 percent from a year ago.

6. Rail traffic is also slowing down substantially.  In Colorado, there are hundreds of train engines that are just sitting on the tracks with nothing to do.

7. Corporate profit margins peaked during the third quarter of 2014 and have been declining steadily since then.  This usually happens when we are heading into a recession.

8. A series of extremely disappointing corporate quarterly reports is sending stock after stock plummeting.  Here is a summary from Zero Hedge of a few examples that we have just witnessed…

  • SHARES OF LIONS GATE ENTERTAINMENT FALL 5 PCT IN EXTENDED TRADE AFTER QUARTERLY RESULTS – RTRS
  • TABLEAU SOFTWARE SHARES TUMBLE 40 PCT IN AFTER HOURS TRADING – RTRS
  • YRC WORLDWIDE SHARES DOWN 16.4 PCT AFTER THE BALL FOLLOWING RESULTS – RTRS
  • SPLUNK INC SHARES DOWN 7.6 PCT IN AFTER HOURS TRADING – RTRS
  • LINKEDIN SHARES EXTEND DECLINE, DOWN 24 PCT AFTER RESULTS, GUIDANCE – RTRS
  • HANESBRANDS SHARES FURTHER ADD TO LOSSES IN EXTENDED TRADE, LAST DOWN 14.9 PCT – RTRS
  • OUTERWALL SHARES FALL 11 PCT IN EXTENDED TRADING AFTER QUARTERLY RESULTS – RTRS
  • GENWORTH SHARES DOWN 16.5 PCT AFTER THE BELL FOLLOWING RESULTS, RESTRUCTURING PLAN

9. Junk bonds continue to crash on Wall Street.  On Monday, JNK was down to 32.60 and HYG was down to 77.99.

10. On Thursday, a major British news source publicly named five large European banks that are considered to be in very serious danger…

Deutsche Bank, Credit Suisse, Santander, Barclays and RBS are among the stocks that are falling sharply sending shockwaves through the financial world, according to former hedge fund manager and ex Goldman Sachs employee Raoul Pal.

11. Deutsche Bank is the biggest bank in Germany and it has more exposure to derivatives than any other bank in the world.  Unfortunately, Deutsche Bank credit default swaps are now telling us that there is deep turmoil at the bank and that a complete implosion may be imminent.

12. Last week, we learned that Deutsche Bank had lost a staggering 6.8 billion euros in 2015.  If you will recall, I warned about massive problems at Deutsche Bank all the way back in September.  The most important bank in Germany is exceedingly troubled, and it could end up being for the EU what Lehman Brothers was for the United States.

13. Credit Suisse just announced that it will be eliminating 4,000 jobs.

14. Royal Dutch Shell has announced that it is going to be eliminating 10,000 jobs.

15. Caterpillar has announced that it will be closing 5 plants and getting rid of 670 workers.

16. Yahoo has announced that it is going to be getting rid of 15 percent of its total workforce.

17. Johnson & Johnson has announced that it is slashing its workforce by 3,000 jobs.

18. Sprint just laid off 8 percent of its workforce and GoPro is letting go 7 percent of its workers.

19. All over America, retail stores are shutting down at a staggering pace.  The following list comes from one of my previous articles

-Wal-Mart is closing 269 stores, including 154 inside the United States.

-K-Mart is closing down more than two dozen stores over the next several months.

-J.C. Penney will be permanently shutting down 47 more stores after closing a total of 40 stores in 2015.

-Macy’s has decided that it needs to shutter 36 stores and lay off approximately 2,500 employees.

-The Gap is in the process of closing 175 stores in North America.

-Aeropostale is in the process of closing 84 stores all across America.

-Finish Line has announced that 150 stores will be shutting down over the next few years.

-Sears has shut down about 600 stores over the past year or so, but sales at the stores that remain open continue to fall precipitously.

20. According to the New York Times, the Chinese economy is facing a mountain of bad loans that “could exceed $5 trillion“.

21. Japan has implemented a negative interest rate program in a desperate attempt to try to get banks to make more loans.

22. The global economy desperately needs the price of oil to go back up, but Morgan Stanley says that we will not see $80 oil again until 2018.

It is not difficult to see where the numbers are trending.

Last week, I told my wife that I thought that Marco Rubio was going to do better than expected in Iowa.

How did I come to that conclusion?

It was simply based on how his poll numbers were trending.

And when you look at where global economic numbers are trending, they tell us that 2016 is going to be a year that is going to get progressively worse as it goes along.

So many of the exact same things that we saw happen in 2008 are happening again right now, and you would have to be blind not to see it.

Hopefully I am wrong about what is coming in our immediate future, because millions upon millions of Americans are not prepared for what is ahead, and most of them are going to get absolutely blindsided by the coming crisis.

Bear Market: The Average U.S. Stock Is Already Down More Than 20 Percent

Angry BearThe stock market is in far worse shape than we are being told.  As you will see in this article, the average U.S. stock is already down more than 20 percent from the peak of the market.  But of course the major indexes are not down nearly that much.  As the week begins, the S&P 500 is down 9.8 percent from its 2015 peak, the Dow Jones Industrial Average is down 10.7 percent from its 2015 peak, and the Nasdaq is down 11.0 percent from its 2015 peak.  So if you only look at those indexes, you would think that we are only about halfway to bear market territory.  Unfortunately, a few high flying stocks such as Facebook, Amazon, Netflix and Google have been masking a much deeper decline for the rest of the market.  When the market closed on Friday, 229 of the stocks on the S&P 500 were down at least 20 percent from their 52 week highs, and when you look at indexes that are even broader things are even worse.

For example, let’s take a look at the Standard & Poor’s 1500 index.  According to the Bespoke Investment Group, the average stock on that index is down a staggering 26.9 percent from the peak of the market…

Indeed, the Standard & Poor’s 1500 index – a broad basket of large, mid and small company stocks – shows that the average stock’s distance from its 52-week high is 26.9%, according to stats compiled by Bespoke Investment Group through Friday’s close.

“That’s bear market territory!” says Paul Hickey, co-founder of Bespoke Investment Group, the firm that provided USA TODAY with the gloomy price data.

So if the average stock has fallen 26.9 percent, what kind of market are we in?

To me, that is definitely bear market territory.

The rapid decline of the markets last week got the attention of the entire world, but of course this current financial crisis did not begin last week.  These stocks have been falling since the middle part of last year.  And what Bespoke Investment Group discovered is that small cap stocks have been hurt the most by this current downturn

Here’s a statistical damage assessment, provided by Bespoke Investment Group, of the pain being felt by the average U.S. stock in the S&P 1500 index:

* Large-company stocks in the S&P 500 index are down 22.6%, on average, from peaks hit in the past 12 months.

* Mid-sized stocks in the S&P 400 index are sporting an average decline of 26.5% since hitting 52-week highs.

* Small stocks in the S&P 600 index are the farthest distance away from their recent peaks. The average small-cap name is 30.7% below its high in the past year.

After looking at those numbers, is there anyone out there that still wants to try to claim that “nothing is happening”?

Over the past six months or so, the sector that has been hit the hardest has been energy.  According to CNN, the average energy stock has now fallen 52 percent…

And then there’s energy. The dramatic decline in crude oil prices rocked the energy space. The average energy stock is now down a whopping 52% from its 52-week high, according to Bespoke. The only thing worse than that is small-cap energy, which is down 61%.

If you go up to an energy executive and try to tell him that “nothing is happening”, you might just get punched in the face.

And it is very important to keep in mind that stocks still have a tremendous distance to fall.  They are still massively overvalued by historical standards, and this is something that I have covered repeatedly on my website in recent months.

So how far could they ultimately fall?

Well, Dr. John Hussman is convinced that we could eventually see total losses in the 40 to 55 percent range…

I remain convinced that the U.S. financial markets, particularly equities and low-grade debt, are in a late-stage top formation of the third speculative bubble in 15 years.

On the basis of the valuation measures most strongly correlated with subsequent market returns (and that havefully retained that correlation even across recent market cycles), current extremes imply 40-55% market losses over the completion of the current market cycle, with zero nominal and negative real total returns for the S&P 500 on a 10-to-12-year horizon.

These are not worst-case scenarios, but run-of-the-mill expectations.

If the market does fall about 40 percent, that will just bring us into the range of what is considered to be historically “normal”.  If some sort of major disaster or emergency were to strike, that could potentially push the market down much, much farther.

And with each passing day, we get even more numbers which seem to indicate that we are entering a very, very deep global recession.

For instance, global trade numbers are absolutely collapsing.  This is a point that Raoul Pal hammered home during an interview with CNBC just the other day…

Looking at International Monetary Fund data, “the year-over-year change in global exports is at the second lowest level since 1958,” Raoul Pal, Publisher of the Global Macro Investor told CNBC’s”Fast Money”this week.

Basically, it means economies around the world are shipping their goods at near historically low levels. “Something massive is going on in the global economy and people are missing it,” Pal added.

The steep decline in 2015 exports is second only to 2009, when the global recession led to a 37 percent drop in export growth.

We have never seen global exports collapse this much outside of a recession.

Clearly we are witnessing a tremendous shift, and it boggles my mind that more people cannot see it.

As for this current wave of financial turmoil, it is hard to say how long it will last.  As I write this article, markets all over the Middle East are imploding, stocks in Asia are going crazy, currencies are crashing, and carry trades are being unwound at a staggering pace.  But at some point we should expect the level of panic to subside a bit.

If things do temporarily calm down, don’t let that fool you.  Global financial markets have not been this fragile since 2008.  Any sort of a trigger event is going to cause stocks all over the world to slide even more.

And let us not minimize the damage that has already been done one bit.  As you just read, the average stock on the Standard & Poor’s 1500 index is already down 26.9 percent.  The financial crisis that erupted during the second half of 2015 has already resulted in trillions of dollars of wealth being wiped out.

When people ask me when the “next financial crisis” is coming, I have a very simple answer for them.

The next financial crisis is not coming.

The next financial crisis is already here.

An angry bear has been released after nearly seven years in hibernation, and the entire world is going to be absolutely shocked by what happens next.

This Is What A Financial Crisis Looks Like

Financial Crisis 2015 - Public DomainJust within the past few days, three major high yield funds have completely imploded, and panic is spreading rapidly on Wall Street.  Funds run by Third Avenue Management and Stone Lion Capital Partners have suspended payments to investors, and a fund run by Lucidus Capital Partners has liquidated its entire portfolio.  We are witnessing a race for the exits unlike anything that we have seen since the great financial crash of 2008, and many of those that choose to hesitate are going to end up getting totally wiped out.  In case you are wondering, this is what a financial crisis looks like.  In 2008, other global stock markets started to tumble, then junk bonds began to crash, and finally U.S. stocks followed.  The exact same pattern is playing out again, and the carnage that we have seen so far is just the tip of the iceberg.

Since the end of 2009, a high yield bond ETF that I watch very closely known as JNK has been trading in a range between 36 and 42.  I have been waiting all this time for it to dip below 35, because I knew that would be a sign that the next major financial crisis was imminent.

In September, it closed as low as 35.33 at one point, but that was not the signal that I was looking for.  Finally, early last week JNK broke below 35 for the very first time since the last financial crisis, and since then it has just kept on falling.  As I write this, JNK has plummeted all the way to 33.42, and Bloomberg is reporting that many bond managers “are predicting more carnage for high-yield investors”…

Top bond managers are predicting more carnage for high-yield investors amid a market rout that forced at least three credit funds in the past week to wind down.

Lucidus Capital Partners, a high-yield fund founded in 2009 by former employees of Bruce Kovner’s Caxton Associates, said Monday it has liquidated its entire portfolio and plans to return the $900 million it has under management to investors next month. Funds run by Third Avenue Management and Stone Lion Capital Partners have stopped returning cash to investors, after clients sought to pull too much money.

When it says that those firms “have stopped returning cash to investors”, what that means is that many of those investors will be lucky to get pennies on the dollar when it is all said and done.

Like I said, now that the crisis has started, the ones that are going to lose the most are those that hesitate.

And just check out some of the very big names that are “warning of more high-yield trouble ahead”

Scott Minerd, global chief investment officer at Guggenheim Partners, predicts 10 percent to 15 percent of junk bond funds may face high withdrawals as more investors worry about getting their money back. He joins money managers Jeffrey GundlachCarl Icahn, Bill Gross and Wilbur Ross in warning of more high-yield trouble ahead.

In this type of environment, the Federal Reserve would have to be completely insane to raise interest rates.

Unfortunately, that appears to be exactly what is going to happen.

If the Fed raises rates, that is going to make corporate debt defaults even more likely and will almost certainly drive high-yield bonds down even further…

Higher rates could make corporate bond defaults more likely and investors are already bailing out of the sector, pulling $3.8 billion out of high-yield funds in the week ended December 9, the biggest move in 15 weeks. The effective yield on U.S. junk bonds is now 17 percent, the highest level in five years, according to Bank of America Merrill Lynch data.

A whole host of prominent names are warning that the Fed is about to make a tragic mistake.  One of them is James Rickards

“The Fed should have raised interest rates in 2010 and 2011 and if they did that they would actually be in a position to cut them today,” said James Rickards, a central bank critic and chief global strategist at West Shore Funds. “The Fed is on the brink of committing a historic blunder that may rank with the mistakes it made in 1927 and 1929. By raising into weakness, they will likely cause a recession.”

In 2015, we have already seen stocks crash all over the globe.  Coming into December, more than half of the 93 largest stock market indexes in the world were down more than 10 percent year to date, and some of them were down by as much as 30 or 40 percent.  At this point, conditions are absolutely perfect for a frightening collapse of U.S. markets, and the Federal Reserve is about to pour gasoline on to the fire.

Anyone that says that “nothing is happening” is either completely misinformed or is totally crazy.

I like how James Howard Kunstler summarized what we are currently facing…

Equities barfed nearly four percent just last week, credit is crumbling (nobody wants to lend), junk bonds are tanking (as defaults loom), currencies all around the world are crashing, hedge funds can’t give investors their money back, “liquidity” is AWOL (no buyers for janky securities), commodities are in freefall, oil is going so deep into the sub-basement of value that the industry may never recover, international trade is evaporating, the president is doing everything possible in Syria to start World War Three, and the monster called globalism is lying in its coffin with a stake pointed over its heart.

The financial markets held together far longer than many people thought that they would, but now they are finally coming apart at the seams.

Moving forward, the “winners” are going to be the people that pull their money out the fastest.  This is especially true for high risk funds like the three that just imploded.  If you hesitate, you could end up losing everything.

And as this rush for the exits accelerates, sellers are going to greatly outnumber buyers, and this is going to push prices down at a very rapid pace.  We are going to hear a lot about a “lack of liquidity” in the days ahead, but the truth is that what we will really be looking at is a good old-fashioned panic.

27 Major Global Stocks Markets That Have Already Crashed By Double Digit Percentages In 2015

Earth Globe - Public DomainAnyone that tries to tell you that a global financial crisis is not happening is not being honest with you.  Right now, there are 27 major global stock markets that have declined by double digit percentages from their peaks earlier this year.  And this is truly a global phenomenon – we have seen stock market crashes in Asia, Europe, South America, Africa and the Middle East.  But because U.S. stocks are only down less than a thousand points from the peak earlier this year, most Americans seem to think that everything is just fine.

The truth, of course, is that everything is not fine.  We are witnessing a pattern similar to what we saw back in 2008.  Back then, Chinese stocks and other major stock markets started crashing first, and then U.S. stocks followed later.

And it appears that we may have entered the next leg down for markets in the western world this week.  The Dow was down another 252 points on Thursday, and all of the major stock indexes in the U.S. are now negative for the year except for the NASDAQ.  Unless there is a major turnaround in the coming weeks, the six year winning streak for U.S. stocks is likely over.

But when you step back and look at what has been happening globally, a much more ominous picture emerges.  I spent much of the afternoon looking at stock market charts for the largest economies all over the globe.  What I discovered was financial carnage that was much worse than I anticipated.

It turns out that there are 27 major global stock markets that have fallen by more than 10 percent from peaks that were set earlier this year.  If you want to verify this information for yourself, just go to Trading Economics.  As you can see, many of these stock market declines have been quite impressive…

1. China: down more than 30 percent

2. Saudi Arabia: down 26 percent

3. Germany: down about 13 percent

4. United Kingdom: down close to 12 percent

5. Spain: down 15 percent

6. Brazil: down more than 22 percent (13,000 points overall)

7. Kuwait: down 14 percent

8. Turkey: down 16 percent

9. India: down close to 12 percent

10. Chile: down 11 percent

11. Columbia: down about 30 percent

12. Peru: down more than 40 percent

13. Bulgaria: down more than 20 percent

14. Greece: down more than 30 percent

15. Poland: down about 19 percent

16. Malaysia: down 10 percent

17. Egypt: down 32 percent

18. Indonesia: down 18 percent

19. Canada: down 12 percent

20. Ukraine: down 45 percent

21. Morocco: down 13 percent

22. Ghana: down 17 percent

23. Kenya: down 27 percent

24. Australia: down 13 percent

25. Nigeria: down more than 30 percent

26. Taiwan: down 15 percent

27. Thailand: down 20 percent

We have not seen numbers like these since 2008, and trillions of dollars of stock market wealth has been wiped out globally.  So the “nothing is happening” crowd is simply dead wrong.  Stocks are already crashing all over the planet.  Just because the big U.S. stock market crash has not happened quite yet does not mean that a major global financial crisis is not happening.

But do you know what is crashing here in this country?

Junk bonds.

At this point, yields on the riskiest junk bonds have risen to levels that we have not seen since the last financial crisis.  As I have discussed repeatedly, yields on junk bonds spiked dramatically just before the stock market crash of 2008, and now it is happening again…

Yield On CCC Bonds - Chart from Federal Reserve

This is precisely the kind of behavior that we would expect to see if a major U.S. stock market crash was imminent.  Personally, I watch the junk bond market very, very closely because it is such a key leading indicator.  And according to Jeffrey Snider, it appears that “something” is starting to cause junk bonds to sell off at an alarming pace…

There isn’t much as far as confirmation, but it increasingly appears as if “something” just hit the triple hooks (CCC) in the junk bond bubble. At least as far as one view of it, Bank of America ML’s CCC implied yield, there was a huge selloff that brought the yield to a new cycle high (low in price) above even the 2011 crisis peak.

But just like in 2008, a lot of people will not heed the warnings because they don’t have the patience to watch long-term trends play out.

We live in a society where we expect constant instant gratification.  We have instant coffee, video on demand and 48 hour news cycles.  If something does not happen immediately, most of us quickly lose patience.

On my other website, I include a lot more stories about things that are trending in the news.  For example, earlier today I wrote about the horrible shootings in San Bernardino, California and I explained why I believe that Islamic terror is now more of a threat to the American people than ever before.

But on this website I like to take a broader view of things.  For months, I have been warning that conditions were perfect for another major global financial crisis, and since that time events have been unfolding in textbook fashion.

And as you can see from the numbers above, we have already entered a new global financial crisis.  If you tried to tell someone in China, Brazil or Saudi Arabia that a financial crisis was not happening, they would just laugh at you.  We need to start learning that the world doesn’t revolve around the United States.

Of course the U.S. is heading for tremendous difficulties as well.  This is something that I covered yesterday.  All of the fundamental economic numbers are absolutely screaming “recession”, and yet most of the “experts” are still forecasting good things for the coming year.

Those that do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.  None of the problems that caused the crisis the last time around have been fixed, and most of our “leaders” seem blind to what is happening at this moment even though the exact same patterns that played out in 2008 are playing out once again right in front of our eyes.

If you have been waiting for the next global financial crisis, you can stop, because it is already here.

As we move toward the end of 2015, let us hope for the best, but let us also get prepared for the worst.

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