If A Few Ebola Cases Can Make The Stock Market Crash This Much, What Would A Full-Blown Pandemic Mean?

Stock Market Crash Ebola - Public DomainIs Ebola going to cause another of the massive October stock market crashes that Wall Street is famous for?  At one point on Wednesday, the Dow was down a staggering 460 points.  It ultimately closed down just 173 points, but this was the fifth day in a row that the Dow has declined.  And of course Ebola is one of the primary things that is being blamed for this stunning stock market drop.  Since September 19th, we have seen the S&P 500 fall about 7 percent and the Nasdaq fall nearly 10 percent.  The VIX (the most important measure of volatility on Wall Street) shot up an astounding 22 percent on Wednesday.  So many of the ominous signs for the markets that I wrote about on Tuesday are now even worse.  If a handful of Ebola cases in the United States can cause this much panic in the financial world, what would a full-blown pandemic look like?

Of course Ebola is not the only reason why stocks are declining.  Just look at what is happening over in Europe.  The European Stoxx 600 index is already down a whopping 11.4 percent from the high that it hit just 18 days ago.  That is officially considered to be “correction” territory.

And Greece experienced a full-blown stock market collapse on Wednesday

As if the world didn’t have enough to be worried about (ISIS, Ebola, slowing China, Ukraine, slowing Germany, Fed tightening, etc.) now look what’s back: Greece. And in a big way.

The stock market is down over 9% on Wednesday, which is about as big as crashes come.

And the banks are getting absolutely smashed.

In general, markets tend to fall faster than they rise.

When there is a sudden downturn, the price action can be violent.  And just like we saw back in 2008, financial stocks are leading the way.  Just check out what happened to some of the biggest banks in America before the final bell sounded…

Volume leader Bank of America, down 5%, Citigroup, off 5.5%, and JP Morgan, down 4.6%, were particularly hard hit.

And thanks to Ebola fears, airline stocks plummeted as well

Airline stocks were roiled by the prospects of curtailed travel due to the spreading Ebola virus. United Continental fell 4% and American Airlines was off 4.3%. Among tech stocks, Intel lost 3.3%. Apple fell 1.7% and Microsoft slipped 2.3%.

An increasing number of voices are concerned that we could be on the verge of a repeat of what happened back in 2008.

For example, Professor Steve Keen, the head of Economics, History & Politics at Kingston University in London, wrote the following in a piece for CNN entitled “Brace yourself for another financial crash“…

My acceleration indicator has been flagging that the stock market was due for a fall since mid-2013.

It’s a tribute to the power of the Fed’s Quantitative Easing that the market continued to defy the gravity of decelerating debt for so long. QE was really a program to inflate asset prices since, as my colleague Michael Hudson puts it, “the Fed’s helicopter money fell on Wall Street, not Main Street”.

But with QE being unwound, the stock market is now back under the control of the not so tender mercies of excessive private debt.

So welcome to the New Crisis — same as the Old Crisis. The roller coaster ride is likely to continue.

Others are even more pessimistic.  For example, just check out what Daniel Ameduri of Future Money Trends recently told his readers

“If it drops below 15,000 points I would suggest people start buying food and ammo, because this depression is about to turn nasty.”

However, keep in mind that not that much has really changed from a month or two ago.

Yes, we now have had three confirmed cases of Ebola in the United States, but this could be just the beginning.

At first, the fear of Ebola will be worse than the disease.

But if a worst-case scenario does develop in the United States where hundreds of thousands of people are getting the virus, the fear such a pandemic will create will be off the charts.

In the midst of a full-blown Ebola pandemic, we wouldn’t just be talking about a 10 percent, 20 percent or 30 percent stock market decline.

Rather, we would be talking about the greatest stock market collapse in the history of stock market collapses.  In essence, there would not be much of a market at all at that point.

And if Ebola does start spreading wildly in this country, we would have a credit crunch that would make 2008 look like a Sunday picnic.

During times of extraordinary fear, financial institutions do not want to lend money to each other or to consumers.  But our economy is entirely based on debt.  If credit were to stop flowing, we would essentially not have an economy.

That is why we need to pray that this Ebola crisis stops here.  But thanks to the incompetence of Barack Obama and the CDC, there has been a series of very grave errors in trying to contain this disease.  This display of incompetence would be absolutely hilarious if we weren’t talking about a disease that could potentially kill millions of us.

Let us hope for the best, but let us also prepare for the worst.  That means stocking up on the food and supplies that you will need to stay isolated for an extended period of time.  As we have seen so many times in the past, basic essentials fly off of store shelves during any type of an emergency.  During an extended Ebola pandemic, those essentials would be in very short supply and prices on the basics would absolutely skyrocket.  Those that have taken the time to get prepared now will be way ahead of the game.

And if there were dozens or hundreds of people in your community that were contagious, you would definitely not want to go to a grocery store or anywhere else where large numbers of people circulate.

The key during any major pandemic is to keep yourself and your family isolated from the virus.  This is basic common sense, but it is something that Barack Obama does not seem to understand.  As I write this, he still has not done anything to restrict air travel between the United States and West Africa.  Hopefully this very foolish decision will not result in scores of dead Americans.

What In The World Is Happening To The Nasdaq?

NASDAQ MarketSite TV studio - Photo by Luis Villa del CampoAll of a sudden, the Nasdaq is absolutely tanking.  On Monday, it fell more than 1 percent after dropping 3.6 percent on Thursday and Friday combined.  At this point, the Nasdaq is off to the worst start to a year that we have seen since 2008, and we all remember what happened back then.  So why is this happening?  In recent years, the Nasdaq has been ground zero for “dotcom bubble 2.0”.  The hottest stocks in the entire world are on the Nasdaq – we are talking about stocks like Yahoo, Netflix, Apple, Tesla, Google and Facebook.  Those stocks have gone to absolutely incredible heights, but now they are starting to fall.  Some are blaming insider selling, and without a doubt the “smart money” is starting to flee the stock market.  Just check out this chart.  Others are blaming low expectations for first-quarter earnings or the tapering of quantitative easing by the Federal Reserve.  But whatever is causing this decline, it is starting to get alarming.  The Nasdaq just experienced its largest three day fall since November 2011.

No stock can resist gravity forever.  What goes up must eventually come down.  This is especially true for stock prices that become grotesquely distorted.

On Wall Street, a price to earnings ratio of 20 to 25 is usually considered fairly normal.  In recent years, the price to earnings ratios for many of these “hot tech stocks” have gone way, way beyond that.  For example, posted below is a screen capture from Bloomberg TV that was featured in a recent Zero Hedge article

Zero Hedge

There is no way in the world that such valuations are justified.

We have been living in another dotcom bubble, and it was inevitable that it was going to burst at some point.

The following is how one financial industry insider described the carnage that we have seen on the Nasdaq over the past few days…

Gary Kaltbaum, president of money-management firm Kaltbaum Capital Management, describes the carnage of once high-flying “growth” names in the Nasdaq composite, that have come crashing down to earth: “The best we can describe what we have been recently seeing in ‘growth-land’ is a 50-car pileup,” Kaltbaum told clients in a morning research note. “Call them what you want … risk areas, growth stocks, froth areas … they are melting away.

And of course it isn’t just the Nasdaq that has been seeing declines over the past few days.  On Monday, some of the biggest names on the Dow also fell precipitiously

Visa, Goldman Sachs and Boeing are among the biggest drags on the Dow Monday, falling 2.1%, 2.9% and 1.4% respectively. Weakness in these stocks is especially problematic since the Dow gives greatest weight to the stocks with the highest per-share prices. And at $203.41, $158.56 and $125.59 respectively, Visa, Goldman and Boeing are the stocks that really matter to the measure.

And the trouble in these stocks isn’t just today. So far this year, Visa is down 8.7%, Goldman is off 10.5% and Boeing is down 8.0%.

This recent decline has many analysts groping for answers.

Some believe that it is simply a “rotation” as investors leave growth stocks that have become overvalued and move into safer, more traditional stocks.

Others are pointing their fingers at the Federal Reserve

Peter Boockvar, chief market strategist at Lindsey Group, believes it’s all about the Fed. “I’m still amazed at the complacency with the Fed taper, and a lot of people still don’t think it’s a big deal,” he said. “I just don’t think it’s a coincidence that the high-fliers are getting popped when the Fed is half way done with QE. We’ve got tightening smack in front of your face with the taper.”

In fact, some believe that the really big stock market decline will happen later this year when the Fed starts to wrap up quantitative easing completely

Once the Fed begins to truly reduce its massive bond buying program later this year, markets could see a quarter of their value wiped off the books, a private equity pro told CNBC on Friday.

Jay Jordan, founder of the Jordan Company, issued the dire warning during an interview on CNBC’s “Squawk Box,” saying a 25 percent drop could extend to all asset classes. He blames the monetary policies of former Fed chair Ben Bernanke for artificially inflating asset prices through super-low interest rates.

Yet others point to the fact that we are now moving into earnings season, and it is being projected that corporate earnings will come in at very poor levels.  In fact, it is being estimated that overall earnings for companies in the S&P 500 for the first quarter will be down 1.2 percent.

So what should we expect to see next?

Whether it happens this month or not, at some point a massive stock market correction is coming.  In recent years, the financial markets have become completely and totally divorced from economic reality, and that is a state of affairs that cannot last indefinitely.

Many have compared the current state of affairs to 2008, but to me what is happening right now is eerily reminiscent of 2007.  The Dow soared to record heights quite a few times that year, but there were constant rumblings of economic trouble in the background.  Stocks began to drop steadily late in the year, and 2008 ultimately turned out to be an utter bloodbath.

I believe that what is happening right now is setting the stage for another financial bloodbath.  I truly believe that we will look back on this two year time period and regard it as a major “turning point” for America.

And as I have written about previously, we are in far worse shape as a nation than we were back in 2008.  We have far more debt, the “too big to fail banks” have a much larger share of the banking industry, the derivatives bubble has gotten completely and totally out of control, and our overall economy is far weaker than it was back then.

In other words, we are now even more vulnerable.  When the next great financial crisis strikes us, it is going to be absolutely crippling.

Now is not the time to get complacent.

Now is the time to get prepared, because time is running out.

They Actually Expect Us To Have Faith In These Financial Markets After This Week?

NASDAQ MarketSite TV studio - Photo by Luis Villa del CampoWhat in the world is happening to our financial markets?  Trading on the Nasdaq was halted on Thursday for more than 3 hours, and the only formal explanation that we got was that it was a “technical issue”.  On Tuesday, Goldman Sachs made thousands of “erroneous trades” that are now being canceled.  If those trades had not been canceled, it could have cost Goldman “hundreds of millions of dollars” according to the Wall Street Journal.  How nice for them that they get a “do over”.  When Knight Capital made a similar “trading error”, they were not so fortunate.  Our financial system has become completely and totally dependent on computers, and that means that it is extremely vulnerable.  After what we have witnessed this week, how can they actually expect us to have faith in these financial markets?  And what happens if these “technical issues” get even worse?

The stoppage on the Nasdaq on Thursday was unprecedented.  Trading in literally thousands of stocks and options was halted.  Big names like Apple, Netflix, Intel and Facebook were affected.

As of right now, officials are not telling us what caused the “technical issue”, but there are rumblings that hacking was involved.

And the Nasdaq would hardly be the first exchange to be hacked.  In fact, according to NBC News, about half of all the security exchanges around the world were hacked last year.

USA Today is suggesting that a group of Iranian hackers known as “Cyber Fighters of Izz ad-Din al-Qassam” may be responsible for what happened to the Nasdaq.  Apparently they have been quite active since last September…

The first wave of denial-of-service attacks attributed to the Cyber Fighters of Izz ad-Din al-Qassam began last September and lasted about six weeks. Knocked offline for various periods of time were Wells Fargo, U.S. Bank, Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase & Co. and PNC Bank.

The second wave commenced in December and lasted seven weeks, knocking out mid-tier banks and credit unions.

And a third wave of high-powered denial-of-service attacks commenced in March targeting credit card companies and financial brokerages.

But of course the Iranians have not been the only ones hacking financial institutions.  According to Gartner banking security analyst Avivah Litan, some “profit-minded hackers” have had quite a bit of success attacking U.S. banks…

More recently, a copycat group of profit-minded hackers has conducted denial-of-service attacks against certain U.S. banks as a smoke screen to divert attention while they execute an Ocean’s 11-style wire transfer fraud.

Litan earlier this month blogged about that caper. These bad guys, she says, set into motion sophisticated denial-of-service attacks that overwhelmed pretty sturdy bank network security. While tech staff labored manually to get the banks’ websites back into service, the crooks scrambled behind the scenes to extract funds from a bank employee’s privileged account, which they had gained access to.

Instead of getting into one customer account at a time, the criminals used the employee’s account to control the master payment switch for wire transfers, and moved as much money as they could from as many accounts as possible for as long as possible, Litan reports.

“Considerable financial damage has resulted from these attacks,” says Litan.

However, let’s certainly not blame all of the “technical issues” in the financial markets on hackers.  What happened to Goldman Sachs on Tuesday appears to be very much their own fault

A programming error at Goldman Sachs Group Inc. caused unintended stock-option orders to flood American exchanges this morning, roiling markets and shaking confidence in electronic trading infrastructure.

An internal system that Goldman Sachs uses to help prepare to meet market demand for equity options inadvertently produced orders with inaccurate price limits and sent them to exchanges, said a person familiar with the situation, who asked not to be named because the information is private. The size of the losses depends on which trades are canceled, the person said. Some have already been voided, data compiled by Bloomberg show.

Of course if those trades had made hundreds of millions of dollars for Goldman they would have been allowed to stand.

But because Goldman was about to lose hundreds of millions of dollars authorities worked very rapidly to start “breaking” those trades.

This is just another example that shows how much of a joke our financial system has become.

Wall Street has become a massive computerized casino, and at some point this fraudulent house of cards is going to come crashing down hard.

The seeds for all of this were planted back in the late 1990s.  The Glass-Steagall Act was repealed and the big banks started to go hog wild.

And according to an absolutely shocking memo uncovered by investigative reporter Greg Palast, a certain U.S. Treasury official was at the heart of the plot to make this possible…

When a little birdie dropped the End Game memo through my window, its content was so explosive, so sick and plain evil, I just couldn’t believe it.

The Memo confirmed every conspiracy freak’s fantasy: that in the late 1990s, the top US Treasury officials secretly conspired with a small cabal of banker big-shots to rip apart financial regulation across the planet. When you see 26.3 percent unemployment in Spain, desperation and hunger in Greece, riots in Indonesia and Detroit in bankruptcy, go back to this End Game memo, the genesis of the blood and tears.

The Treasury official playing the bankers’ secret End Game was Larry Summers. Today, Summers is Barack Obama’s leading choice for Chairman of the US Federal Reserve, the world’s central bank.

If Summers and U.S. Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin had not been working so hard for the benefit of the big banks, we might not be facing a quadrillion dollar derivatives bubble today…

The year was 1997. US Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin was pushing hard to de-regulate banks. That required, first, repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act to dismantle the barrier between commercial banks and investment banks. It was like replacing bank vaults with roulette wheels.

Second, the banks wanted the right to play a new high-risk game: “derivatives trading”. JP Morgan alone would soon carry $88 trillion of these pseudo-securities on its books as “assets”.

Deputy Treasury Secretary Summers (soon to replace Rubin as Secretary) body-blocked any attempt to control derivatives.

But what was the use of turning US banks into derivatives casinos if money would flee to nations with safer banking laws?

The answer conceived by the Big Bank Five: eliminate controls on banks in every nation on the planet — in one single move. It was as brilliant as it was insanely dangerous.

To learn more about how they used the WTO to transform the global financial system into a gigantic casino, head on over and read the rest of Palast’s outstanding article right here.

And you know what is truly frightening?

Larry Summers appears to be Barack Obama’s top choice to become the next chairman of the Federal Reserve.

That statement should send chills up your spine.

The truth is that Larry Summers should not even be running a Dairy Queen, much less the most powerful financial institution on the planet.

If Larry Summers becomes the next head of the Federal Reserve, it will be an unmitigated disaster.

But it looks like that is exactly what we are going to get.

We are rapidly heading toward the next major global financial crisis, and on top of everything else we will probably have Larry Summers running things soon.

What a nightmare.

80 Percent Of Americans Say That They Are Not Better Off Than They Were Four Years Ago

Are you better off today than you were four years ago?  If not, then you are just like most other Americans.  According to a CBS News/New York Times poll that was released a few days ago, 80 percent of Americans say that their financial situation is not “better today” than it was four years ago.  But if you turn on the television and listen to what the “pundits” are saying, you would be tempted to think that we were in the midst of a robust economic recovery.  You would be tempted to think that the U.S. economy is in great shape and that we are heading for a really bright future.  But the fact that the stock market is soaring does not mean much to most Americans.  In fact, most Americans couldn’t care less that the Dow is well above 13,000 and that the NASDAQ is above 3,000.  What most Americans care about is having a job and being able to provide for their families.  If you haven’t paid the mortgage in three months or if you don’t have enough money to take your daughter to go see the doctor it really is not going to matter to you how well the boys and girls over on Wall Street are doing.  Right now most American families are doing worse than they were doing four years ago, and no amount of media hype is going to change that fact.

Yes, the stock market is doing really well for the moment, but the truth is that more than 50 percent of all stocks and bonds are owned by just 1 percent of the U.S. population.

Good for them.  It looks like the trillions of dollars that the Federal Reserve poured into the big Wall Street banks is really paying off nicely for the financial community.

Meanwhile, much of the rest of the country is deeply suffering.

It was recently reported that 1.5 million American families live on less than two dollars a day (before counting government benefits).

That is horrifying.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the percentage of Americans living in “extreme poverty” is now sitting at an all-time high.

All across this country poverty is exploding.  Food banks are experiencing more demand than ever before and those offering free healthcare are absolutely swamped.

And every single measure of government dependence has gone way up since Barack Obama entered the White House.

For example, since Barack Obama became president the number of Americans on food stamps has gone up by 45 percent.

Just think about that.

At this point the federal government is helping to feed an all-time record 46.5 million Americans every month.

Oh yeah, times are good.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 49 percent of all Americans live in a home that receives direct monetary benefits from the federal government.

That is much higher than it has been historically.

For example, back in 1983 less than a third of all Americans lived in a home that received direct monetary benefits from the federal government.

The big problem is that there are simply not enough jobs for everyone.

Listening to the media, you would be tempted to think that the U.S. economy is now pumping out huge numbers of good jobs.

But that is simply not the case.

Right now there are 5.6 million fewer jobs than there were when the last recession began back in late 2007.

So where are the millions of jobs you promised us Obama?

The federal government is trying to convince us that the unemployment rate is going down, but that is not really true.

The key is to look at the percentage of working age Americans that actually have jobs.  During the last recession that percentage fell dramatically as you can see from the chart below.  After every other recession since World War II the employment to population ratio has always bounced back.  But it has not happened this time.  Instead, the employment to population ratio has remained between 58 and 59 percent since the end of 2009….

We have not had a jobs recovery.  Hopefully we will have one before the next recession hits, but we are running out of time for that.

Tonight there are millions upon millions of hard working Americans that are staring at their television screens and wondering why they can’t find good jobs.  The pretty people on television are telling them that the employment situation is getting much better but they can’t find work no matter how hard they try.  It is a cruel joke on them.

When Barack Obama entered the White House, the number of “long-term unemployed workers” in the United States was approximately 2.6 million.  Today, that number is sitting at 5.6 million.

Thanks for the improvement Obama.

Meanwhile, the average duration of unemployment continues to hover near a record high.  Just look at the chart posted below.  Does this look like a “jobs recovery” to you?….

But of course Obama and those that support him want to make things sound like they are getting better.  They want people to run out and vote for him again in November.

If things are going well for you right now, be thankful, and also remember the millions upon millions of Americans out there that are deeply hurting in this economy.

If you gathered together all of the workers that are “officially” unemployed in the United States at this point into one nation, they would constitute the 68th largest country in the entire world.  It would be a nation larger than Greece or Portugal.

That is a lot of people.

Obama promised us that the Wall Street bailouts would make everything better.  He promised us that if we poured gigantic mountains of money into Wall Street that it would end up helping “Main Street”.

Well, the last time I looked Goldman Sachs was doing just fine.

So where is the help for Main Street?

In the United States today, the wealthiest one percent of all Americans have a greater net worth than the bottom 90 percent combined.

How much wealthier do they have to get before they start creating more jobs for the rest of us?

Obama (like most of our politicians) is a complete fraud when it comes to the economy.  He is all saddle and no horse.  He talks a good game but he doesn’t have any game.

As Wall Street has recovered, the rest of the country has actually been in decline.  Median household income in the United States is down 7.8 percent since December 2007 after adjusting for inflation.  Millions of American families are reaching the breaking point and millions of other families have already reached it.

Incomes have been declining but the cost of living has not.

For example, health insurance costs have risen by 23 percent since Barack Obama became president.

Has your paycheck increased by 23 percent?

The average price of a gallon of gasoline in the United States has increased by more than 90 percent since Barack Obama became president.

Has your paycheck increased by 90 percent?

Millions of American families have lost their homes while Obama has been president and millions more will soon lose their homes.  At this point there are more than 6 million mortgages in the United States that are overdue.

It is a horrible, horrible feeling to know that you can’t pay your mortgage and that you will soon lose your home and your family will be put out on the street.

None of us would ever want to end up in that situation.

And the housing market sure has not shown any signs of recovery under Barack Obama.

In January, U.S. home prices were the lowest that they have been in more than a decade.

Weren’t home prices and home sales supposed to be turning around by now?

Under Barack Obama, new home sales in the United States set a brand new all-time record low in 2009, they set a brand new all-time record low again in 2010, and they set a brand new all-time record low once again during 2011.

That trend is not going in the right direction.

Of course Barack Obama is not solely responsible for the performance of the U.S. economy.  Congress should share part of the blame as well, and the Federal Reserve is more responsible for our economic performance than anyone else is.

But one area where Barack Obama has had a huge impact is in the area of government spending.

While Barack Obama has been president, the U.S. national debt has risen from 10.6 trillion to 15.5 trillion.

Thanks Obama.

During the first three years of the Obama administration, the U.S. government has accumulated more debt than it did between 1776 and 1995.

So is Obama planning a change of course?

Of course not.

At this point, our national debt is increasing by about 150 million dollars every single hour.

So should we be thanking Obama for stealing 150 million dollars from our children and our grandchildren every hour?

Should we be thanking Obama for ruining our future?

I think not.

But you know what?

According to the CBS News/New York Times poll mentioned above, about half of America would actually vote for Obama if the next presidential election was held today.

That alone is a clear sign that this country is in a massive amount of trouble.

The truth is that the leaders we elect are an accurate reflection of who we are as a country.

And when you look at the collection of misfits in Washington D.C. right now, that does not say a lot about the character of this nation.

So where does America go from here?

That is up to you America.