Welcome To The New Normal: The Dow Crashes Another 390 Points And Wal-Mart Closes 269 Stores

Welcome to the new normalDid you know that 15 trillion dollars of global stock market wealth has been wiped out since last June?  The worldwide financial crisis that began in the middle of last year is starting to spin wildly out of control.  On Friday, the Dow plunged another 390 points, and it is now down a total of 1,437 points since the beginning of this calendar year.  Never before in U.S. history have stocks ever started a year this badly.  The same thing can be said in Europe, where stocks have now officially entered bear market territory.  As I discussed yesterday, the economic slowdown and financial unraveling that we are witnessing are truly global in scope.  Banks are failing all over the continent, and I expect major European banks to start making some huge headlines not too long from now.  And of course let us not forget about China.  On Friday the Shanghai Composite declined another 3.6 percent, and overall it is now down more than 20 percent from its December high.  Much of this chaos has been driven by the continuing crash of the price of oil.  As I write this article, it has dipped below 30 dollars a barrel, and many of the big banks are projecting that it still has much farther to fall.

The other night, Barack Obama got up in front of the American people and proclaimed that anyone that was saying that the economy was not recovering was peddling fiction.  Well, if the U.S. economy is doing so great, then why in the world has Wal-Mart decided to shut down 269 stores?…

Walmart (WMT) will close 269 stores around the world in a strategic move to focus more on its supercenters and e-commerce business, the company said Friday.

The closures include 154 U.S. locations, encompassing Walmart’s entire fleet of 102 ‘Express’ format stores, its smallest stores that have been in pilot testing since 2011. Some supercenters, Sam’s Club locations and Neighborhood Markets will also close, plus 115 stores in Latin American markets. The closures were decided based on financial performance and how well the locations fit with Walmart’s broader strategy, says Greg Hitt, a company spokesman.

We have grown accustomed to other major retailers shutting down stores, but this is Wal-Mart.

Wal-Mart doesn’t retreat.  For decades, Wal-Mart has been on a relentless march forward.  They have been an unstoppable juggernaut that has expanded extremely aggressively and that has ruthlessly crushed the competition.

I was absolutely stunned when I saw that they were going to close down 269 stores.  If you want to know if your local store is in danger, you can view the full list right here.

Overall, 10,000 Wal-Mart employees will be affected.  I could understand closing down a few underperforming stores, but if the U.S. economy truly is in great shape then it wouldn’t make any sense at all to shut down hundreds of stores.

What in the name of Sam Walton is going on out there?

The truth, of course, is that the U.S. economy is in great danger.  We have now entered the next great crisis, but most communities around the country never even recovered from the last one.  In fact, the Wall Street Journal is reporting that a whopping 93 percent of all counties in the United States “have failed to fully recover” from the last recession…

More than six years after the economic expansion began, 93% of counties in the U.S. have failed to fully recover from the blow they suffered during the recession.

Nationwide, 214 counties, or 7% of 3,069, had recovered last year to prerecession levels on four indicators: total employment, the unemployment rate, size of the economy and home values, a study from the National Association of Counties released Tuesday found.

The next few weeks are going to be very interesting to watch.  The economic fundamentals continue to deteriorate, and the financial markets are finally starting to catch up with economic reality.

As the collapse on Wall Street accelerates, we are going to increasingly see panic selling and forced liquidations.  In the past, it was mostly humans that had their hands on the controls during market crashes, but today the machines are making more of the decisions than ever before.  The following comes from CNBC

The new market age is decidedly different: Rather than that seething cacophony, aggressive corrections like the current ones are directed by a faceless metronome of computer-generated orders, triggering irresistible momentum and trillions in losses.

Amid it all, market veterans are left to ponder when the script will flip and market direction will turn not by newfound optimism among traders in the pits, but rather by algorithms that generate “buy” rather than “sell” signals.

It feels like sell program after sell program,” said Michael Cohn, chief market strategist at Atlantis Asset Management, a boutique firm in New York. “It seems to happen first thing in the morning, and then however the market transpires during the day is how they close it. If it looks like it’s coming back, they’ll take it at the end. If if looks like it’s heading lower, they’ll slam it at the end of the day.”

Earlier today, an article authored by Michael Pento entitled “A recession worse than 2008 is coming” was posted on CNBC.  Here is a short excerpt…

But a recession has occurred in the U.S. about every five years, on average, since the end of WWII; and it has been seven years since the last one — we are overdue.

Most importantly, the average market drop during the peak to trough of the last 6 recessions has been 37 percent. That would take the S&P 500 down to 1,300; if this next recession were to be just of the average variety.

But this one will be worse.

If stocks do drop a total of 37 percent, that would just bring them back to levels that would be considered “normal” or “average” by historical standards.  There is certainly the possibility that they could fall much farther than that.

And of course the markets are so incredibly fragile at this point that any sort of a “trigger event” could cause a collapse of epic proportions.

All it is going to take is a major disaster or emergency of some sort.

Do you have a feeling that something really bad is about to happen?  This is something that I have been hearing from people that I respect, and I would like to know if it is a phenomenon that is more widespread.  If you have been feeling something like this, please feel free to share it with us by posting a comment below…

Stock Market Crash 2016: This Is The Worst Start To A Year For Stocks Ever

Stock Market Collapse 2016We have never had a year start the way that 2016 has started.  In the U.S., the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500 have both posted their worst four-day starts to a year ever.  Canadian stocks are now down 21 percent since September, and it has been an absolute bloodbath in Europe over the past four days.  Of course the primary catalyst for all of this is what has been going on in China.  There has been an emergency suspension of trading in China two times within the past four days, and nobody is quite certain what is going to happen next.  Eventually this wave of panic selling will settle down, but that won’t mean that this crisis will be over.  In fact, what is coming is going to be much worse than what we have already seen.

On Thursday I was doing a show with some friends, and we were amazed that stocks just seemed to keep falling and falling and falling.  The Dow closed down 392 points, and the NASDAQ got absolutely slammed.  At this point, the Dow and the NASDAQ are both officially in “correction territory”, and some of the talking heads on television are warning that this could be the beginning of a “bear market”.  But of course some of the other “experts” are insisting that this is just a temporary bump in the road.

But what everyone can agree on is that we have never seen a start to a year like this one.  The following comes from CNN

The global market freakout of 2016 just got worse.

The latest scare came on Thursday as China’s stock market crashed 7% overnight and crude oil plummeted to the lowest level in more than 12 years.

The Dow dropped 392 points on Thursday. The S&P 500 fell 2.4%, while the Nasdaq tumbled 3%.

The wave of selling has knocked the Dow down 911 points, or more than 5% so far this year. That’s the worst four-day percentage loss to start a year on record, according to FactSet stats that go back to 1897.

When CNN starts sounding like The Economic Collapse Blog, you know that things are really bad.  I particularly like their use of the phrase “global market freakout”.  I might have to borrow that one.

Even some of the biggest and most trusted stocks are plummeting.  For instance, Apple dropped to $96.45 on Thursday.  It is now down a total of 28 percent since hitting a record high of more than 134 dollars a share back in April.

So that means that if someone put all of their retirement money into Apple stock last April (which may have seemed like a really good idea at that time), by now more than one-fourth of that money is gone.

For months, I have been warning that the exact same patterns that we witnessed just prior to the great stock market crash of 2008 were happening again.  To me, the parallels between 2008 and 2015/2016 were just uncanny.  And now other very prominent names are making similar comparisons.  According to the Washington Post, George Soros says that the way this new crisis is unfolding “reminds me of the crisis we had in 2008″…

Influential investor George Soros said that China had a “major adjustment problem” on its hands. “I would say it amounts to a crisis,” he told an economic forum in Sri Lanka, according to Bloomberg News. “When I look at the financial markets, there is a serious challenge which reminds me of the crisis we had in 2008.”

Don’t get me wrong – I am certainly not a supporter of George Soros.  My point is that we are starting to hear a lot of really ominous talk from a lot of different directions.  All over the world, people are starting to understand that the next great financial crisis is already here.

As I write this tonight, I just feel quite a bit of sadness.  A lot of hard working people are going to lose a lot of money this year, and that includes people that I know personally.  I wish that my voice had been clearer and louder.  I wish that I could have done more to get people to understand what was coming.  I wish that my warnings could have made more of a difference.

I just think about how I would feel if everything that I had worked for all my life was suddenly wiped out.  And that is what is going to end up happening to some of these people.  When you lose everything, it can be absolutely debilitating.

You only make money in the markets if you get out in time.  And unfortunately, most of the general population will be like deer in the headlights and won’t know which way to move.

There will be up days for the markets in our near future.  But don’t be fooled by them.  It is important to remember that some of the greatest up days in U.S. stock market history were right in the middle of the stock market crash of 2008.  So don’t let a rally fool you into thinking that the crisis is over.

The financial crisis that began in the second half of 2015 is now accelerating, and everything that we have witnessed over the past few days is just a natural extension of what has already been happening.

Personally, I am just really looking forward to this weekend when I will hopefully get caught up on some rest.  Plus, my Washington Redskins will be hosting a playoff game on Sunday, and if they find a way to win that game that will put me in a particularly positive mood.

It is good to enjoy these simple pleasures while we still can.  Unprecedented chaos is coming this year, and we are all going to need strength and courage for what is ahead.

Stock Markets All Over The World Crash As We Begin 2016

Dominoes - Public DomainThe first trading day of 2016 was full of chaos and panic.  It started in Asia where the Nikkei was down 582 points, Hong Kong was down 587 points, and Chinese markets experienced an emergency shutdown after the CSI 300 tumbled 7 percent.  When European markets opened, the nightmare continued.  The DAX was down 459 points, and European stocks overall had their worst start to a year ever.  In the U.S., it looked like we were on course for a truly historic day as well.  The Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 467 points at one stage, but some very mysterious late day buying activity helped trim the loss to just 276 points at the close of the market.  The sudden market turmoil caught many by surprise, but it shouldn’t have.  The truth is that a whole host of leading indicators have been telling us that this is exactly what should be happening.  The global financial crisis that began in 2015 is now accelerating, and my regular readers already know precisely what is coming next.

The financial turmoil of the last 24 hours is making headlines all over the globe.  It began last night in China.  Very bad manufacturing data and another troubling devaluation of the yuan sent Chinese stocks tumbling to a degree that we have not seen since last August.  In fact, the carnage would have probably been far, far worse if not for a new “circuit breaker” that China recently implemented.  Once the CSI 300 was down 7 percent, trading was completely shut down for the rest of the day.  The following comes from USA Today

Under a new market “circuit breaker” rule in China established last year, which is designed to slow down markets and halt panic in the event of moves of 5% or more, the CSI 300, a large-company stock index in mainland China was halted for 15 minutes in mid-afternoon trading after diving more than 5%. But when shares headed lower once again just minutes after the initial trading halt, and losses for the day swelled to more than 7%, the new circuit breaker rules kicked in, prompting a shutdown of mainland China’s stock market for the day, according to Bloomberg.

After the first 15 minute halt, panic set in as Chinese traders rushed to get out of their trades before the 7 percent circuit breaker kicked in.  This resulted in an absolutely chaotic seven minutes as investors made a mad dash for the exits…

The sell orders piled up fast on Monday at Shenwan Hongyuan Group, China’s fifth-biggest brokerage by market value.

China’s CSI 300 Index had just tumbled 5 percent, triggering a 15-minute trading halt, and stock investors were scrambling to exit before getting locked in by a full-day suspension set to take effect at 7 percent. When the first halt was lifted, the market reaction was swift: it took just seven minutes for losses to reach the limit as volumes surged to their highs of the day.

“Investors rushed to the door during the level-one stage of the circuit breaker as they fretted the market would go down further,” said William Wong, the head of sales trading at Shenwan Hongyuan in Hong Kong.

The financial carnage continued once the European markets opened.  Markets were red all across the continent, and things were particularly bad in Germany.  The DAX was down 459 points, and it is rapidly approaching the psychologically-important 10,000 barrier.  Overall, it was the worst start to a year that the European markets have ever experienced.

When U.S. markets opened, unexpectedly bad U.S. manufacturing data seemed to add fuel to the fire.  Monday morning we learned that our manufacturing sector is contracting at a pace that we haven’t seen since the last recession

America’s manufacturing sector shrank for the second straight month in December. The industry’s key index — ISM — hit 48.2% in December, the lowest mark since June 2009. Anything below 50% is a contraction and a month ago it hit 48.6%.

The index has fallen for six straight months.

The trend is certainly heading in a direction that would ring alarm bells,” says Sam Bullard, senior economist at Wells Fargo.

This is yet another sign that tells us that the U.S. economy has already entered the next recession.

And what happens to the markets during a recession?

They go down.

In addition to the bad data that we got from the U.S. and China, there was another number that was also extremely troubling.

South Korean exports have traditionally been considered a key leading indicator for the entire global economy, and on Monday we learned that they were down a whopping 13.8 percent in December from a year earlier…

One of the more reliable indicators of the global economy continues to confirm fears of a worldwide slowdown.

South Korean exports — also referred to as the world’s economic canary in the coal mine — fell 13.8% in December from a year earlier.

This was a deterioration from the 4.8% decline in November, and it was much worse than the 11.7% decline expected by economists.

The “nothing is happening” crowd may not be willing to admit it yet, but the truth is that a major global economic slowdown is already happening.

And what happened to global markets today is perfectly consistent with the longer term patterns that have been emerging over the past six months or so.

In the weeks and months to come, things are going to get even worse.  There will always be days when the markets are up, but don’t let those days fool you into thinking that the crisis is over.  In the western world we are so accustomed to 48 hour news cycles, and many of us seem to be incapable of focusing on trends that develop over longer periods of time.

If I was going to put together a scenario for a global financial crisis for a textbook, what we have seen over the past six months or so would be perfect.  Things are playing out exactly how they should be, and that means big trouble for the rest of 2016.

But that doesn’t mean that we have to live in fear.  In fact, I just wrote an entire article entitled “2016: A Year For Living With No Fear“.  It is when times are at their worst that our character is put to the test.  Some will respond to what happens in 2016 with courage and strength, and others will respond with fear and panic.

As things start falling apart all around us this year, how will you respond?

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