The American People Are Utterly Clueless About What Is Going To Happen As We Enter 2015

Wrong Way - Public DomainThe American people are feeling really good right about now.  For example, Gallup’s economic confidence index has hit the highest level that we have seen since the last recession.  In addition, nearly half of all Americans believe that 2015 will be a better year than 2014 was, and only about 10 percent believe that it will be a worse year.  And a lot of people are generally feeling quite good about the people that have been leading our nation.  According to Gallup, once again this year Hillary Clinton is the most admired woman in America and Barack Obama is the most admired man in America.  I don’t know what that says about our nation, but it can’t be good.  Unfortunately, when things seem to be going well common sense tends to go out the window.  A couple days ago, the Guardian ran an article entitled “Goodbye to one of the best years in history“, and a whole lot of people out there are feeling really optimistic these days.  But should they be?

Sadly, what we are experiencing right now is so similar to what we witnessed in 2007 and early 2008.  The stock market had been on a great run, people were flipping houses like crazy and most people were convinced that the party would never end.

But then it did end – very painfully.

The signs of trouble were there, but most people chose to ignore them.

Sadly, the exact same thing is happening again.

On Monday, the price of oil hit a brand new five year low.  As I write this, U.S. oil is sitting at a price of $53.76 a barrel, which is nearly a 50 percent decline from the peak earlier this year.

There is only one other time in history when the price of oil has declined by more than 50 dollars a barrel in such a short time frame.  That was back in the middle of 2008, shortly before the worst stock market crash since the Great Depression.

Unless the price of oil starts really bouncing back, the U.S. economy is going to be hit really hard.

Since 2009, oil industry employment has risen by 50 percent.  And jobs in the oil industry pay quite well.  One figure that I saw put the average weekly wage at about 1700 dollars.

But now we aren’t going to be gaining those types of jobs.  Instead, we are going to rapidly start losing them.

Already, the oil rig count has dropped for three weeks in a row and is now at an 8 month low.  And as the oil industry suffers, all of the industries that it supports are also going to start feeling the pain.  In fact, Business Insider is reporting that Texas business executives are “freaked out” about what is happening…

Business executives in Texas are worried about the drop in oil prices.

On Monday, the Dallas Fed’s latest manufacturing survey showed that activity in Texas was slowing down.

The latest composite index came in at 4.1, widely missing expectations and down big from November’s reading. Expectations were for the index to come in at 9, down from 10.5 last month.

So while most Americans are feeling really good about the coming year, many of those with an inside view are becoming quite alarmed.  One Texas business executive went so far as to say that the stunning decline in oil prices was going to make things ugly … quickly.

Meanwhile, the 9 trillion dollar U.S. dollar carry trade is starting to unwind.

The following is an excerpt from a recent Zero Hedge article

Oil’s collapse is predicated by one major event: the explosion of the US Dollar carry trade. Worldwide, there is over $9 TRILLION in borrowed US Dollars that has been ploughed into risk assets.

Energy projects, particularly Oil Shale in the US, are one of the prime spots for this. But it is not the only one. Economies that are closely aligned with commodities (all of which are priced in US Dollars) are getting demolished too.

Just about everything will be hit as well. Most of the “recovery” of the last five years has been fueled by cheap borrowed Dollars. Now that the US Dollar has broken out of a multi-year range, you’re going to see more and more “risk assets” (read: projects or investments fueled by borrowed Dollars) blow up. Oil is just the beginning, not a  standalone story.

If things really pick up steam, there’s over $9 TRILLION worth of potential explosions waiting in the wings. Imagine if the entire economies of both Germany and Japan exploded and you’ve got a decent idea of the size of the potential impact on the financial system.

And that’s assuming NO increased leverage from derivative usage.

Ouch.

And yes, as that last excerpt mentioned, derivatives could soon become a massive problem.  The big banks are holding trillions in commodity derivatives that could blow up if the price of oil does not rebound.  Overall, there are five U.S. banks that each have more than 40 trillion dollars of exposure to derivatives of all types, and the total global derivatives bubble is at least 700 trillion dollars at this point.

At the same time, many are becoming concerned that the unprecedented bond bubble that we are witnessing could soon implode and trillions of dollars of “wealth” could disappear into thin air.

In fact, Bloomberg says that we should “get ready for a disastrous year” for bonds…

Get ready for a disastrous year for U.S. government bonds. That’s the message forecasters on Wall Street are sending.

With Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen poised to raise interest rates in 2015 for the first time in almost a decade, prognosticators are convinced Treasury yields have nowhere to go except up. Their calls for higher yields next year are the most aggressive since 2009, when U.S. debt securities suffered record losses, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

That certainly does not sound very optimistic, does it?

Anyone with even a minimal amount of intelligence should be able to see the massive financial bubbles that the central banks of the world have created, and anyone with even a minimal amount of intelligence should be able to see that we are heading for a massive financial implosion which will be extraordinarily painful.

Unfortunately, as I wrote about yesterday, the American people have become “zombiefied“.  Instead of thinking for themselves, they let “the matrix” do their thinking for them.  And right now “the matrix” is telling them that everything is going to be just fine in 2015.

If you do not think that there is a propaganda machine that tells us what to think, I want you to watch the video posted below very carefully.  This video makes it so obvious that even a small child can understand it…

 

Junk Bonds Are Going To Tell Us Where The Stock Market Is Heading In 2015

Dominoes - Public DomainDo you want to know if the stock market is going to crash next year?  Just keep an eye on junk bonds.  Prior to the horrific collapse of stocks in 2008, high yield debt collapsed first.  And as you will see below, high yield debt is starting to crash again.  The primary reason for this is the price of oil.  The energy sector accounts for approximately 15 to 20 percent of the entire junk bond market, and those energy bonds are taking a tremendous beating right now.  This panic in energy bonds is infecting the broader high yield debt market, and investors have been pulling money out at a frightening pace.  And as I have written about previously, almost every single time junk bonds decline substantially, stocks end up following suit.  So don’t be fooled by the fact that some comforting words from Janet Yellen caused stock prices to jump over the past couple of days.  If you really want to know where the stock market is heading in 2015, keep a close eye on the market for high yield debt.

If you are not familiar with junk bonds, the concept is actually very simple.  Corporations that do not have high credit ratings typically have to pay higher interest rates to borrow money.  The following is how USA Today describes these bonds…

High-yield bonds are long-term IOUs issued by companies with shaky credit ratings. Just like credit card users, companies with poor credit must pay higher interest rates on loans than those with gold-plated credit histories.

But in recent years, interest rates on junk bonds have gone down to ridiculously low levels.  This is another bubble that was created by Federal Reserve policies, and it is a colossal disaster waiting to happen.  And unfortunately, there are already signs that this bubble is now beginning to burst

Back in June, the average junk bond yield was 3.90 percentage points higher than Treasury securities. The average energy junk bond yielded 3.91 percentage points higher than Treasuries, Lonski says.

That spread has widened to 5.08 percentage points for junk bonds vs. 7.86 percentage points for energy bonds — an indication of how worried investors are about default, particularly for small, highly indebted companies in the fracking business.

The reason why so many analysts are becoming extremely concerned about this shift in junk bonds is because we also saw this happen just before the great stock market crash of 2008.  In the chart below, you can see how yields on junk bonds started to absolutely skyrocket in September of that year…

High Yield Debt 2008

Of course we have not seen a move of that magnitude quite yet this year, but without a doubt yields have been spiking.  The next chart that I want to share is of this year.  As you can see, the movement over the past month or so has been quite substantial…

High Yield Debt 2014

And of course I am far from the only one that is watching this.  In fact, there are some sharks on Wall Street that plan to make an absolute boatload of cash as high yield bonds crash.

One of them is Josh Birnbaum.  He correctly made a giant bet against subprime mortgages in 2007, and now he is making a giant bet against junk bonds

When Josh Birnbaum was at Goldman Sachs in 2007, he made a huge bet against subprime mortgages.

Now he’s betting against something else: high-yield bonds.

From The Wall Street Journal:

Joshua Birnbaum, the ex-Goldman Sachs Group Inc. trader who made bets against subprime mortgages during the financial crisis, now has more than $2 billion in wagers against high-yield bonds at his Tilden Park Capital Management LP hedge-fund firm, according to investor documents.

Could you imagine betting 2 billion dollars on anything?

If he is right, he is going to make an incredible amount of money.

And I have a feeling that he will be.  As a recent New American article detailed, there is already panic in the air…

It’s a mania, said Tim Gramatovich of Peritus Asset Management who oversees a bond portfolio of $800 million: “Anything that becomes a mania — ends badly. And this is a mania.”

Bill Gross, who used to run PIMCO’s gigantic bond portfolio and now advises the Janus Capital Group, explained that “there’s very little liquidity” in junk bonds. This is the language a bond fund manager uses to tell people that no one is buying, everyone is selling. Gross added: “Everyone is trying to squeeze through a very small door.”

Bonds issued by individual energy developers have gotten hammered. For instance, Energy XXI, an oil and gas producer, issued more than $2 billion in bonds just in the last four years and, up until a couple of weeks ago, they were selling at 100 cents on the dollar. On Friday buyers were offering just 64 cents. Midstates Petroleum’s $700 million in bonds — rated “junk” by both Moody’s and Standard and Poor’s — are selling at 54 cents on the dollar, if buyers can be found.

So is there anything that could stop junk bonds from crashing?

Yes, if the price of oil goes back up to 80 dollars or more a barrel that would go a long way to settling things back down.

Unfortunately, many analysts are convinced that the price of oil is going to head even lower instead…

“We’re continuing to search for a bottom, and might even see another significant drop before the year-end,” said Gene McGillian, an analyst at Tradition Energy in Stamford, Connecticut.

As I write this, the price of U.S. oil has fallen $1.69 today to $54.78.

If the price of oil stays this low, junk bonds are going to keep crashing.

If junk bonds keep crashing, the stock market is almost certainly going to follow.

For additional reading on this, please see my previous article entitled “‘Near Perfect’ Indicator That Precedes Almost Every Stock Market Correction Is Flashing A Warning Signal“.

But just like in the years leading up to the crash of 2008, there are all kinds of naysayers proclaiming that a collapse will never happen.

Even though our financial problems and our underlying economic fundamentals have gotten much worse since the last crisis, they are absolutely convinced that things are somehow going to be different this time.

In the end, a lot of those skeptics are going to lose an enormous amount of money when the dominoes start falling.

Anyone That Believes That Collapsing Oil Prices Are Good For The Economy Is Crazy

Oil - Public DomainAre much lower oil prices good news for the U.S. economy?  Only if you like collapsing capital expenditures, rising unemployment and a potential financial implosion on Wall Street.  Yes, lower gasoline prices are good news for the middle class.  I certainly would rather pay two dollars for a gallon of gas than four dollars.  But in order to have money to fill up your vehicle you have got to have an income first.  And since the last recession, the energy sector has been the number one creator of good jobs in the U.S. economy by far.  Barack Obama loves to stand up and take credit for the fact that the employment picture in this country has been improving slightly, but without the energy industry boom, unemployment would be through the roof.  And now that the “energy boom” is rapidly becoming an “energy bust”, what will happen to the struggling U.S. economy as we head into 2015?

At the start of this article I mentioned that much lower oil prices would result in “collapsing capital expenditures”.

If you do not know what a “capital expenditure” is, the following is a definition that comes from Investopedia

“Funds used by a company to acquire or upgrade physical assets such as property, industrial buildings or equipment. This type of outlay is made by companies to maintain or increase the scope of their operations. These expenditures can include everything from repairing a roof to building a brand new factory.”

Needless to say, this kind of spending is very good for an economy.  It builds infrastructure, it creates jobs and it is an investment in the future.

In recent years, energy companies have been pouring massive amounts of money into capital expenditures.  In fact, the energy sector currently accounts for about a third of all capital expenditures in the United States according to Deutsche Bank

US private investment spending is usually ~15% of US GDP or $2.8trn now. This investment consists of $1.6trn spent annually on equipment and software, $700bn on non-residential construction and a bit over $500bn on residential. Equipment and software is 35% technology and communications, 25-30% is industrial equipment for energy, utilities and agriculture, 15% is transportation equipment, with remaining 20-25% related to other industries or intangibles. Non-residential construction is 20% oil and gas producing structures and 30% is energy related in total. We estimate global investment spending is 20% of S&P EPS or 12% from US. The Energy sector is responsible for a third of S&P 500 capex.

These companies make these investments because they believe that there are big profits to be made.

Unfortunately, when the price of oil crashes those investments become unprofitable and capital expenditures start getting slashed almost immediately.

For example, the budget for 2015 at ConocoPhillips has already been reduced by 20 percent

ConocoPhillips is one of the bigger shale players. And its decision to slash its budget for next year by 20% is raising eyebrows. The company said the new target reflects lower spending on major projects as well as “unconventional plays.” Despite the expectation that others will follow, it doesn’t mean U.S. shale oil production is dead. Just don’t expect a surge in spending like in recent years.

And Reuters is reporting that the number of new well permits for the industry as a whole plunged by an astounding 40 percent during the month of November…

Plunging oil prices sparked a drop of almost 40 percent in new well permits issued across the United States in November, in a sudden pause in the growth of the U.S. shale oil and gas boom that started around 2007.

Data provided exclusively to Reuters on Tuesday by industry data firm Drilling Info Inc showed 4,520 new well permits were approved last month, down from 7,227 in October.

If the price of oil stays this low or continues dropping, this is just the beginning.

Meanwhile, the flow of good jobs that this industry has been producing is also likely to start drying up.

According to the Perryman Group, the energy sector currently supports 9.3 million permanent jobs in this country

According to a new study, investments in oil and gas exploration and production generate substantial economic gains, as well as other benefits such as increased energy independence. The Perryman Group estimates that the industry as a whole generates an economic stimulus of almost $1.2 trillion in gross product each year, as well as more than 9.3 million permanent jobs across the nation.

The ripple effects are everywhere. If you think about the role of oil in your life, it is not only the primary source of many of our fuels, but is also critical to our lubricants, chemicals, synthetic fibers, pharmaceuticals, plastics, and many other items we come into contact with every day. The industry supports almost 1.3 million jobs in manufacturing alone and is responsible for almost $1.2 trillion in annual gross domestic product. If you think about the law, accounting, and engineering firms that serve the industry, the pipe, drilling equipment, and other manufactured goods that it requires, and the large payrolls and their effects on consumer spending, you will begin to get a picture of the enormity of the industry.

And these are good paying jobs.  They aren’t eight dollar part-time jobs down at your local big box retailer.  These are jobs that comfortably support middle class families.  These are precisely the kinds of jobs that we cannot afford to lose.

In recent years, there has been a noticeable economic difference between areas of the country where energy is being produced and where energy is not being produced.

Since December 2007, a total of 1.36 million jobs have been gained in shale oil states.

Meanwhile, a total of 424,000 jobs have been lost in non-shale oil states.

So what happens now that the shale oil boom is turning into a bust?

That is a very good question.

Even more ominous is what an oil price collapse could mean for our financial system.

The last time the price of oil declined by more than 40 dollars in less than six months, there was a financial meltdown on Wall Street and we experienced the deepest recession that we have seen since the days of the Great Depression.

And now many fear that this collapse in the price of oil could trigger another financial panic.

According to Citigroup, the energy sector now accounts for 17 percent of the high yield bond market.

J.P. Morgan says that it is actually 18 percent.

In any event, the reality of the matter is that the health of these “junk bonds” is absolutely critical to our financial system.  And according to Deutsche Bank, if these bonds start defaulting it could “trigger a broader high-yield market default cycle”

Based on recent stress tests of subprime borrowers in the energy sector in the US produced by Deutsche Bank, should the price of US crude fall by a further 20pc to $60 per barrel, it could result in up to a 30pc default rate among B and CCC rated high-yield US borrowers in the industry. West Texas Intermediate crude is currently trading at multi-year lows of around $75 per barrel, down from $107 per barrel in June.

A shock of that magnitude could be sufficient to trigger a broader high-yield market default cycle, if materialized,” warn Deutsche strategists Oleg Melentyev and Daniel Sorid in their report.

If the price of oil stays at this level or continues to go down, it is inevitable that we will start to see some of these junk bonds go bad.

In fact, one Motley Fool article recently stated that one industry analyst believes that up to 40 percent of all energy junk bonds could eventually go into default…

The junk bonds, or noninvestment-rated bonds, of energy companies are also beginning to see heavy selling as investors start to worry that drillers could one day default on these bonds. Those defaults could get so bad, according to one analyst, that up to 40% of all energy junk bonds go into default over the next few years if oil prices don’t recover.

That would be a total nightmare for Wall Street.

And of course bond defaults would only be part of the equation.  As I wrote about the other day, a crash in junk bonds is almost always followed by a significant stock market correction.

In addition, plunging oil prices could end up absolutely destroying the banks that are holding enormous amounts of energy derivatives.  This is something that I recently covered in this article and this article.

As you read this, there are five “too big to fail” banks that each have more than 40 trillion dollars in exposure to derivatives.  Of course only a small fraction of that total exposure is made up of energy derivatives, but a small fraction of 40 trillion dollars is still a massive amount of money.

These derivatives trades are largely unregulated, and even Forbes admits that they are likely to be at the heart of the coming financial collapse…

No one understands the derivative risk positions of the Too Big To Fail Banks, JP Morgan Chase, Citigroup, Bank of America, Goldman Sachs or Morgan Stanley. There is presently no way to measure the risks involved in the leverage, quantity of collateral, or stability of counter-parties for these major institutions. To me personally they are big black holes capable of potential wrack and ruin. Without access to confidential internal data about these risky derivative positions the regulators cannot react in a timely and measured fashion to block the threat to financial stability, according to a National Bureau of Economic Research study.

So do we have any hope?

Yes, if oil prices start going back up, much of what you just read about can be averted.

Unfortunately, that does not seem likely any time soon.  Even though U.S. energy companies are cutting back on capital expenditures, most of them are still actually projecting an increase in production for 2015.  Here is one example from Bloomberg

Continental, the biggest holder of drilling rights in the Bakken, last month said 2015 output will grow between 23 percent and 29 percent even after shelving plans to allocate more money to exploration.

Higher levels of production will just drive the price of oil even lower.

At this point, Morgan Stanley is saying that the price of oil could plummet as low as $43 a barrel next year.

If that happens, it would be absolutely catastrophic to the most important industry in the United States.

In turn, that would be absolutely catastrophic for the economy as a whole.

So don’t let anyone tell you that much lower oil prices are “good” for the economy.

That is just a bunch of nonsense.

Nowhere To Hide As Minority Report-Style Facial Recognition Technology Spreads Across America

Eye Black And White - Public DomainWhat is our society going to look like when our faces are being tracked literally everywhere that we go?  As part of the FBI’s new Next Generation Identification System, a facial recognition database known as the Interstate Photo System will have collected 52 million of our faces by the end of 2015.  But that is only a small part of the story.  According to Edward Snowden, the NSA has been using advanced facial recognition technology for years.  In addition, as you will see below, advertising companies are starting to use Minority Report-style face scanners in their billboards and many large corporations see facial recognition technology as a tool that they can use to serve their customers better.  Someday soon it may become virtually impossible to go out in public in a major U.S. city without having your face recorded.  Is that the kind of society that we want?

To the FBI, this technology does not represent an invasion of privacy.  Rather, they are very proud of the fact that they are not going to be so dependent on fingerprinting any longer.  The FBI has been developing the Next Generation Identification System for years, and this month it was announced that it is finally fully operational

The federal government’s Next Generation Identification System — a biometric database that relies largely on facial-recognition technology — is now fully operational, the FBI announced Monday.

“This effort is a significant step forward for the criminal justice community in utilizing biometrics as an investigative enabler,” the FBI said in a statement.

The latest advance in the technology gives users the ability to receive “ongoing status notifications” about individuals’ criminal histories, the FBI said. That means if, for instance, a teacher commits an offense, law enforcement can be immediately informed — and then pass that information on to administrators.

It’s to monitor criminal histories of those “in positions of trust,” the FBI said.

As part of this new system, every American will eventually be assigned a “Universal Control Number”.

Does that sound creepy to you?

Even mainstream news reports are admitting that it sounds like something out of a science fiction movie

It aims to eventually replace fingerprinting with a complex array of biometrics, assigning everyone with a “Universal Control Number”, in what sounds like a plotline from a sci-fi movie.

And it won’t just be the FBI using this database.

According to Fox News, more than 18,000 law enforcement agencies will have access to this information…

More than 18,000 law enforcement agencies and other authorized criminal justice partners across the country will have access to the system 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

So if your face is scanned somewhere or you do something noteworthy that is registered by the system, virtually every law enforcement agency in the country will instantly know about it.

Pretty scary stuff, eh?

But the FBI is actually lagging far behind the NSA.

According to Edward Snowden, the NSA has been using “sophisticated facial recognition programs” for many years

The National Security Agency is harvesting huge numbers of images of people from communications that it intercepts through its global surveillance operations for use in sophisticated facial recognition programs, according to top-secret documents.

The spy agency’s reliance on facial recognition technology has grown significantly over the last four years as the agency has turned to new software to exploit the flood of images included in emails, text messages, social media, videoconferences and other communications, the N.S.A. documents reveal. Agency officials believe that technological advances could revolutionize the way that the N.S.A. finds intelligence targets around the world, the documents show.

Do you remember that stuff you saw in the Jason Bourne movies about how the NSA can track people?

Well, most of that stuff is real.

If you don’t like it, that is just too bad.  At this point not even Congress has much control over what the NSA does.

And there are police departments around the nation that are also way ahead of the FBI.

For example, just check out what has been going on in southern California

In a single second, law enforcement agents can match a suspect against millions upon millions of profiles in vast detailed databases stored on the cloud. It’s all done using facial recognition, and in Southern California it’s already occurring.

Imagine the police taking a picture: any picture of a person, anywhere, and matching it on the spot in less than a second to a personalized profile, scanning millions upon millions of entries from within vast, intricate databases stored on the cloud.

It’s done with state of the art facial recognition technology, and in Southern California it’s already happening.

At least one law enforcement agency in San Diego is currently using software developed by FaceFirst, a division of nearby Camarillo, California’s Airborne Biometrics Group. It can positively identify anyone, as long as physical data about a person’s facial features is stored somewhere the police can access. Though that pool of potential matches could include millions, the company says that by using the “best available facial recognition algorithms” they can scour that data set in a fraction of a second in order to send authorities all known intelligence about anyone who enters a camera’s field of vision.

Widespread use of facial recognition technology by our law enforcement authorities is becoming a way of life.

If the American people don’t like this, they need to stand up and say something.

But instead, in an era of widespread Internet hacking and identity theft, many Americans are actually clamoring for the implementation of more biometric identification.

For instance, the following is a brief excerpt from a Fox News article entitled “Biometric security can’t come soon enough for some people“…

In a world where nearly every ATM now uses an operating system without any technical support, where a bug can force every user of the Internet to change the password to every account they’ve ever owned overnight, where cyber-attacks and identity theft grow more menacing every day, the ability to use your voice, your finger, your face or some combination of the three to log into your e-mail, your social media feed or your checking account allows you to ensure it’s very difficult for someone else to pretend they’re you.

As financial institutions adopt this kind of technology, a day may come when virtually all of us are required to have our faces scanned at the checkout counter.

That may sound crazy to you, but according to the Daily Mail a company in Finland has already launched this technology…

Bank cards are already being replaced by phones and wristbands that have payment technology built-in but the latest threat to the lowly plastic in your pocket could be your face.

A Finnish startup called Uniqul has launched what it calls the first ever payment platform based on facial recognition.

The system doesn’t require a wallet, bank card or phone – instead a camera is positioned at the checkout and takes a photo of a shopper’s face when they are ready to pay.

It then scans a database for the face and matches it to stored payment details in order to complete the transaction.

And advertisers are even more eager to adopt facial recognition technology.  In fact, the kind of face scanning billboards that we saw in “Minority Report” are already a reality.  For example, a company called Amscreen says that it already has more than 6,000 face scanning digital screens that are being viewed by approximately 50 million people each week…

Advertising network Amscreen recently launched a unique face-detection technology, originally developed by automated audience measurement firm Quividi.

Cameras have been installed in Amscreen’s digital advertising displays that can scan a person’s face and determine their gender, age, date, time and volume of the viewers.

This is so adverts are served to the most appropriate audience.

Amscreen already has over 6,000 digital screens seen by a weekly audience of over 50 million people.

Even dating websites are starting to use facial recognition technology at this point.

Just check out what Match.com has been doing…

Popular dating site Match.com will use photos of users’ exes to determine which type of look they’re attracted to in order to find them a dating match.

The dating site has partnered with Three Day Rule, a Los Angeles-based matchmaking service, which has dating experts that act as personal dating concierges who hand-select and personally meet every potential match before making a formal introduction to clients, Mashable reports.

Members of Match.com will be able to upgrade to Three Day Rule’s premium service which will ask users to send pictures of exes to determine the type of look they’re attracted to. Three Day Rule will then use facial-recognition technology in an effort to help users find dates.

Our world is changing at a faster pace than ever before.

Powerful new technologies are literally being introduced every single day now, and the future is probably going to look far different than any of us are imagining.

But with all of this new technology, will we end up losing what little personal privacy that we have left?

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

If Economic Cycle Theorists Are Correct, 2015 To 2020 Will Be Pure Hell For The United States

Economic CycleDoes the economy move in predictable waves, cycles or patterns?  There are many economists that believe that it does, and if their projections are correct, the rest of this decade is going to be pure hell for the United States.  Many mainstream economists want nothing to do with economic cycle theorists, but it should be noted that economic cycle theories have enabled some analysts to correctly predict the timing of recessions, stock market peaks and stock market crashes over the past couple of decades.  Of course none of the theories discussed below is perfect, but it is very interesting to note that all of them seem to indicate that the U.S. economy is about to enter a major downturn.  So will the period of 2015 to 2020 turn out to be pure hell for the United States?  We will just have to wait and see.

One of the most prominent economic cycle theories is known as “the Kondratieff wave”.  It was developed by a Russian economist named Nikolai Kondratiev, and as Wikipedia has noted, his economic theories got him into so much trouble with the Russian government that he was eventually executed because of them…

The Soviet economist Nikolai Kondratiev (also written Kondratieff) was the first to bring these observations to international attention in his book The Major Economic Cycles (1925) alongside other works written in the same decade. Two Dutch economists, Jacob van Gelderen and Samuel de Wolff, had previously argued for the existence of 50 to 60 year cycles in 1913. However, the work of de Wolff and van Gelderen has only recently been translated from Dutch to reach a wider audience.

Kondratiev’s ideas were not supported by the Soviet government. Subsequently he was sent to the gulag and was executed in 1938.

In 1939, Joseph Schumpeter suggested naming the cycles “Kondratieff waves” in his honor.

In recent years, there has been a resurgence of interest in the Kondratieff wave.  The following is an excerpt from an article by Christopher Quigley that discussed how this theory works…

Kondratiev’s analysis described how international capitalism had gone through many such “great depressions” and as such were a normal part of the international mercantile credit system. The long term business cycles that he identified through meticulous research are now called “Kondratieff” cycles or “K” waves.

The K wave is a 60 year cycle (+/- a year or so) with internal phases that are sometimes characterized as seasons: spring, summer, autumn and winter:

  • Spring phase: a new factor of production, good economic times, rising inflation
  • Summer: hubristic ‘peak’ war followed by societal doubts and double digit inflation
  • Autumn: the financial fix of inflation leads to a credit boom which creates a false plateau of prosperity that ends in a speculative bubble
  • Winter: excess capacity worked off by massive debt repudiation, commodity deflation & economic depression. A ‘trough’ war breaks psychology of doom.

Increasingly economic academia has come to realize the brilliant insight of Nikolai Kondratiev and accordingly there have been many reports, articles, theses and books written on the subject of this “cyclical” phenomenon. An influential essay, written by Professor W. Thompson of Indiana University, has indicated that K waves have influenced world technological development since the 900’s. His thesis states that “modern” economic development commenced in 930AD in the Sung province of China and he propounds that since this date there have been 18 K waves lasting on average 60 years.

So what does the Kondratieff wave theory suggest is coming next for us?

Well, according to work done by Professor W. Thompson of Indiana University, we are heading into an economic depression that should last until about the year 2020

Based on Professor Thompson’s analysis long K cycles have nearly a thousand years of supporting evidence. If we accept the fact that most winters in K cycles last 20 years (as outlined in the chart above) this would indicate that we are about halfway through the Kondratieff winter that commenced in the year 2000. Thus in all probability we will be moving from a “recession” to a “depression” phase in the cycle about the year 2013 and it should last until approximately 2017-2020.

But of course the Kondratieff wave is far from the only economic cycle theory that indicates that we are heading for an economic depression.

The economic cycle theories of author Harry Dent also predict that we are on the verge of massive economic problems.  He mainly focuses on demographics, and the fact that our population is rapidly getting older is a major issue for him.  The following is an excerpt from a Business Insider article that summarizes the major points that Dent makes in his new book…

  • Young people cause inflation because they “cost everything and produce nothing.” But young people eventually “begin to pay off when they enter the workforce and become productive new workers (supply) and higher-spending consumers (demand).”
  • Unfortunately, the U.S. reached its demographic “peak spending” from 2003-2007 and is headed for the “demographic cliff.” Germany, England, Switzerland are all headed there too. Then China will be the first emerging market to fall off the cliff, albeit in a few decades. The world is getting older.
  • The U.S. stock market will crash. “Our best long-term and intermediate cycles suggest another slowdown and stock crash accelerating between very early 2014 and early 2015, and possibly lasting well into 2015 or even 2016. The worst economic trends due to demographics will hit between 2014 and 2019. The U.S. economy is likely to suffer a minor or major crash by early 2015 and another between late 2017 and late 2019 or early 2020 at the latest.”
  • “The everyday consumer never came out of the last recession.” The rich are the ones feeling great and spending money, as asset prices (not wages) are aided by monetary stimulus.
  • The U.S. and Europe are headed in the same direction as Japan, a country still in a “coma economy precisely because it never let its debt bubble deleverage,” Dent argues. “The only way we will not follow in Japan’s footsteps is if the Federal Reserve stops printing new money.”
  • “The reality is stark, when dyers start to outweigh buyers, the market changes.” It all comes down to an aging population, Dent writes. “Fewer spenders, borrowers, and investors will be around to participate in the next boom.”
  • The U.S. has a crazy amount of debt and “economists and politicians have acted like we can just wave a magic wand of endless monetary injections and bailouts and get over what they see as a short-term crisis.” But the problem, Dent says, is long-term and structural — demographics.
  • Businesses can “dominate the years to come” by focusing on cash and cash flow, being “lean and mean,” deferring major capital expenditures, selling nonstrategic real estate, and firing weak employees now.
  • The big four challenges in the years ahead will be 1) private and public debt 2) health care and retirement entitlements 3) authoritarian governance around the globe and 4) environmental pollution that threatens the global economy.

According to Dent, “You need to prepare for that crisis, which will occur between 2014 and 2023, with the worst likely starting in 2014 and continuing off and on into late 2019.”

So just like the Kondratieff wave, Dent’s work indicates that we are going to experience a major economic crisis by the end of this decade.

Another economic cycle theory that people are paying more attention to these days is the relationship between sun spot cycles and the stock market.  It turns out that market peaks often line up very closely with peaks in sun spot activity.  This is a theory that was first popularized by an English economist named William Stanley Jevons.

Sun spot activity appears to have peaked in early 2014 and is projected to decline for the rest of the decade.  If historical trends hold up, that is a very troubling sign for the stock market.

And of course there are many, many other economic cycle theories that seem to indicate that trouble is ahead for the United States as well.  The following is a summary of some of them from an article by GE Christenson and Taki Tsaklanos

Charles Nenner Research (source)
Stocks should peak in mid-2013 and fall until about 2020. Similarly, bonds should peak in the summer of 2013 and fall thereafter for 20 years. He bases his conclusions entirely on cycle research. He expects the Dow to fall to around 5,000 by 2018 – 2020.

Kress Cycles (Clif Droke) (source)
The major 120 year cycle plus all minor cycles trend down into late 2014. The stock market should decline hard into late 2014.

Elliott Wave (Robert Prechter) (source)
He believes that the stock market has peaked and has entered a generational bear-market. He anticipates a crash low in the market around 2016 – 2017.

Market Energy Waves (source)
He sees a 36 year cycle in stock markets that is peaking in mid-2013 and will cycle down for 2013 – 2016. “… the controlling energy wave is scheduled to flip back to negative on July 19 of this year.” Equity markets should drop 25 – 50%.

Armstrong Economics (source)
His economic confidence model projects a peak in confidence in August 2013, a bottom in September 2014, and another peak in October 2015. The decline into January 2020 should be severe. He expects a world-wide crash and contraction in economies from 2015 – 2020.

Cycles per Charles Hugh Smith (source)
He discusses four long-term cycles that bottom in the 2010 – 2020 period. They are: Credit expansion/contraction cycle, Price inflation/wage cycle, Generational cycle, and Peak oil extraction cycle.

So does history repeat itself?

Well, it should be disconcerting to a lot of people that 2014 is turning out to be eerily similar to 2007.  But we never learned the lessons that we should have learned from the last major economic crisis, and most Americans are way too apathetic to notice that we are making many of the very same mistakes all over again.

And in recent months there have been a whole host of indications that the next major economic downturn is just around the corner.  For example, just this week we learned that manufacturing job openings have declined for four months in a row.  For many more indicators like this, please see my previous article entitled “17 Facts To Show To Anyone That Believes That The U.S. Economy Is Just Fine“.

Let’s hope that all of the economic cycle theories discussed above are wrong this time, but we would be quite foolish to ignore their warnings.

Everything indicates that a great economic storm is rapidly approaching, and we should use this time of relative calm to get prepared while we still can.

Economic Cycle

QE3: Helicopter Ben Bernanke Unleashes An All-Out Attack On The U.S. Dollar

You can’t accuse Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke of not living up to his nickname.  Back in 2002, Bernanke delivered a speech entitled “Deflation: Making Sure ‘It’ Doesn’t Happen Here” in which he referenced a statement by economist Milton Friedman about fighting deflation by dropping money from a helicopter.  Well, it might be time for a new nickname for Bernanke because what he did today was a lot more than drop money from a helicopter.  Today the Federal Reserve announced that QE3 will begin on Friday, but it is going to be much different from QE1 and QE2.  Both of those rounds of quantitative easing were of limited duration.  This time, the quantitative easing is going to be open-ended.  The Fed is going to buy 40 billion dollars worth of mortgage-backed securities per month until they have decided that the economy is in good enough shape to stop.  For those that get confused by terms like “quantitative easing” and “mortgage-backed securities”, what the Federal Reserve is essentially saying is this: “We’re going to print a bunch of money and buy stuff for as long as we feel it is necessary.”  In addition, the Federal Reserve has promised to keep interest rates at ultra-low levels all the way through mid-2015.  The course that the Federal Reserve has set us on is utter insanity.  Ben Bernanke can rain money down on us all he wants, but it is not going to do much at all to help the real economy.  However, it will definitely hasten the destruction of the U.S. dollar.

And the Federal Reserve is apparently very eager to get QE3 going.  Purchases of mortgage-backed securities are going to start on Friday.

In the coming months, hundreds of billions of dollars that the Federal Reserve has zapped into existence out of nothing will be injected into our financial system.

So what will happen to all of this new money?

If banks and financial institutions use that money to make loans then it could have somewhat of a positive impact on the economy in the short-term.

However, the truth is that it isn’t as if banks are hurting for cash to loan out.  In fact, right now banks are already sitting on $1.6 trillion in excess reserves.  Just like with the first two rounds of quantitative easing, a lot of the money from QE3 will likely end up being put on the shelf.

But the stock market loved the news because they know that the previous two rounds of quantitative easing have been great for the financial markets.  On Thursday, the stock market soared to levels not seen since December 2007.

There is much rejoicing on Wall Street right now.

And this stock market bounce is great for Bernanke’s good buddy Barack Obama.

Obama nominated Bernanke to a second term as Fed Chairman, and this might be Bernanke’s way of paying him back.

But of course the Fed is supposed to be “above politics” so that would never happen, right?

The Federal Reserve essentially “crossed the Rubicon” today.  No longer will quantitative easing be considered an “emergency measure”.  Rather, it will now be considered just another “tool” that the Fed uses in the normal course of business.

Considering how vulnerable the U.S. dollar already is, announcing an “open-ended” round of quantitative easing is utter foolishness.  According to the Fed, when you add the 40 billion dollars of new mortgage-backed security purchases per month to all of the other “easing” measures the Fed is continuing to do, the grand total is going to come to about 85 billion dollars a month.  The following is from the statement that the Fed released earlier today….

To support a stronger economic recovery and to help ensure that inflation, over time, is at the rate most consistent with its dual mandate, the Committee agreed today to increase policy accommodation by purchasing additional agency mortgage-backed securities at a pace of $40 billion per month. The Committee also will continue through the end of the year its program to extend the average maturity of its holdings of securities as announced in June, and it is maintaining its existing policy of reinvesting principal payments from its holdings of agency debt and agency mortgage-backed securities in agency mortgage-backed securities. These actions, which together will increase the Committee’s holdings of longer-term securities by about $85 billion each month through the end of the year, should put downward pressure on longer-term interest rates, support mortgage markets, and help to make broader financial conditions more accommodative.

The Committee will closely monitor incoming information on economic and financial developments in coming months. If the outlook for the labor market does not improve substantially, the Committee will continue its purchases of agency mortgage-backed securities, undertake additional asset purchases, and employ its other policy tools as appropriate until such improvement is achieved in a context of price stability. In determining the size, pace, and composition of its asset purchases, the Committee will, as always, take appropriate account of the likely efficacy and costs of such purchases.

So what does all of this mean?

I really like how one analyst put it when he described this announcement as a “I’m gonna ease till your eyes bleed kinda statement“.

The Fed also promised to keep interest rates at “exceptionally low levels” until mid-2015….

To support continued progress toward maximum employment and price stability, the Committee expects that a highly accommodative stance of monetary policy will remain appropriate for a considerable time after the economic recovery strengthens. In particular, the Committee also decided today to keep the target range for the federal funds rate at 0 to 1/4 percent and currently anticipates that exceptionally low levels for the federal funds rate are likely to be warranted at least through mid-2015.

It seems that whenever the U.S. economy gets into trouble, Bernanke and his friends at the Fed only have one prescription and it goes something like this….

“Print more money and promise to keep interest rates near zero even longer.”

Of course a lot of Republicans are quite disturbed that QE3 was announced with just a couple of months remaining in a very heated election battle.

Even big news organizations such as CNBC are commenting on this….

Though the Fed is ostensibly politically independent, the decision comes at a ticklish time with the presidential election less than two months away.

And without a doubt the mainstream media will be proclaiming this to be “good news” for the economy in the short-term.

But is QE3 really going to help the average person on the street?

Well, first let’s take a look at employment.  We are told that one of the primary reasons for QE3 is jobs.

But did QE1 and QE2 create jobs?

The answer is clearly no.

As you can see from the chart below, the percentage of working age Americans with a job fell dramatically during the last recession and has not bounced back since that time despite all of the quantitative easing that has been done already….

So why try the same thing again when it did not work the first two times?

But what more quantitative easing is likely to do is to pump up stock market values because a lot of the money from QE3 is going to end up being put into stocks and other investments.

This is going to help the wealthy get even wealthier, and it is going to make the “wealth gap” between the rich and the poor even larger in America.

QE3 is also probably going to cause commodity prices to rise just like QE1 and QE2 did.

That means that you will be paying more for gasoline, food and other basic necessities.

So there may not be more jobs, but at least you will get the privilege of paying more for things.

The inflation that QE3 will cause will be particularly cruel for those on fixed incomes such as retirees.

None of the extra money from QE3 is going to go into their pockets, but they will have to pay more to heat their homes and fill up their shopping carts.

And the “exceptionally low interest rate” policy of the Federal Reserve is absolutely devastating for those that have saved for retirement and that are relying on interest income for their living expenses.

In short, quantitative easing is very good for the wealthy and it is very bad for the average man and woman on the street.

But what else would you expect from the Federal Reserve?

It is imperative that we educate the American people about the Federal Reserve and about how they are destroying our economy.  For much more on this, please see my previous article entitled “10 Things That Every American Should Know About The Federal Reserve“.

Perhaps the biggest danger from QE3 is that it could greatly hasten the day when the U.S. dollar ceases to be the reserve currency of the world.

The rest of the world is not stupid.  They see that the Federal Reserve is now firing up the printing presses whenever they feel like it.  They can see the games that we are playing with our currency.

Why should the rest of the world continue to use the U.S. dollar to trade with one another when the United States is constantly debasing it and playing games with its value?

As I wrote about the other day, China and Russia have been calling for a new reserve currency for the world for several years.  They have been leading the charge to conduct international trade in currencies other than the U.S. dollar, and I have documented many of the major international agreements to move away from the U.S. dollar that have been made in the last couple of years.

The status of the U.S. dollar in the world has already been steadily slipping, and now Helicopter Ben Bernanke pulls this kind of nonsense.

We are handing the rest of the world an excuse to abandon the U.S. dollar on a silver platter.

And when the rest of the globe rejects the U.S. dollar as a reserve currency, the dollar will crash, the cost of living will increase dramatically, our standard of living will go way down and we will never fully recover from it.

So if you think that things are “bad” now, just wait until that happens.

The U.S. dollar is one of the best things that the U.S. economy still has going for it, and Helicopter Ben Bernanke is doing his best to absolutely destroy that.

What is your opinion of QE3?  Please feel free to post a comment with your thoughts below….

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