12 Signs That Spain Is Shifting Gears From Recession To Depression

Where have we seen this before?  Bond yields soar above the 7 percent danger level.  Check.  The stock market crashes to new lows.  Check.  Industrial activity plummets like a rock and the economy contracts.  Check.  The unemployment rate skyrockets to more than 20 percent.  Check.  The bursting of a massive real estate bubble pushes the banking system to the brink of implosion.  Check.  Broke local governments beg the broke national government for bailouts.  Check.  The international community pressures the national government to implement deep austerity measures which will slow down the economy even more and hordes of violent protesters take to the streets.  Check.  All of this happened in Greece, it is happening right now in Spain, and mark my words it will eventually happen in the United States.  Every debt bubble eventually bursts, and right now Spain is experiencing a level of economic pain that very, very few people saw coming.  The recession in Spain is rapidly becoming a full-blown economic depression, and at this point there is no hope and no light at the end of the tunnel.

The bad news for the global economy is that Spain is much larger than Greece.  According to the United Nations, the Greek economy is the 32nd largest economy in the world.  The Spanish economy, on the other hand, is the 4th largest economy in the eurozone and the 12th largest economy on the entire planet.  It is nearly five times the size of the Greek economy.

Financial markets all over the globe are very nervous right now because if the Spanish government ends up asking for a full-blown bailout it could spell the end for the eurozone.  There simply is not enough money to do the same kind of thing for Spain that is being done for Greece.

Of course European officials are going to do their best to keep the eurozone from collapsing, but what they have completely failed to do is to keep these countries from falling into depression.

As I have written about previously, Greece has already been in an economic depression for some time.

I warned that Spain, Italy, Portugal and a bunch of other European nations were going down the exact same path.

Now we are watching a virtual replay of what happened in Greece take place in Spain.

Unfortunately, the global financial system may not be able to handle a complete implosion of the Spanish economy.

The following are 12 signs that Spain is shifting gears from recession to depression….

#1 At one point on Monday, the IBEX stock market index fell to 5,905, which was the lowest level in nearly ten years.  When it hit 5,905 that represented a drop of about 12 percent over just two trading days.  If that happened in the United States, it would be the equivalent of the Dow falling by about 1500 points in 48 hours.

#2 So far this year, the Spanish stock market is down more than 25 percent.  Back in 2008, the IBEX 35 was well over 15,000.  Today it is sitting just above 6,000.

#3 Spain has banned many forms of short selling for 3 months.

#4 The yield on 10 year Spanish bonds is now well above the 7 percent “danger level”.

#5 Thanks to the problems in Spain, the euro continues to fall like a rock.  On Monday it hit a new two year low against the U.S. dollar, and it is near a twelve year low against the Japanese yen.

#6 During the first quarter of 2012, the Spanish economy contracted by 0.3 percent.  During the second quarter of 2012, the Spanish economy contracted by 0.4 percent.

#7 Local governments all over Spain are flat broke and need to be bailed out by the broke national government.  The following is from a recent CNBC article….

Adding to Madrid’s woes, media reports suggested another half a dozen of Spain’s 17 regional authorities, facing an undeclared funding crisis, were ready to follow Valencia in seeking aid from the central government.

#8 The percentage of bad loans on the books of Spanish banks has reached an 18 year high.  European officials have already promised a 100 billion euro bailout for Spain’s troubled banking system, but most analysts agree that 100 billion euros will not be nearly enough.

#9 Spanish industrial output declined for the ninth month in a row in May.

#10 The unemployment rate in Spain is up to an astounding 24.6 percent.  The unemployment rate in Spain is already higher than it was in the United States at the peak of the Great Depression of the 1930s.

#11 The youth unemployment rate in Spain is now over 52 percent.

#12 The Spanish government has just announced a whole bunch of new tax increases and spending cuts which will cause the Spanish economy to slow down even more.  In response to these austerity measures, people are taking to the streets all over Spain.  Last week, 100,000 demonstrators poured into the streets to protest in Madrid alone.

Sadly, the nightmare in Spain is just beginning.

If the yield on 10 year Spanish bonds stays above 7 percent, that is going to be a really bad sign.  According to the Wall Street Journal, the 7 percent level is key as far as investor confidence is concerned….

Monday’s dramatic market moves suggest Spain may be stuck in a spiral that culminates in a bailout from other euro-zone countries.

“The rise in the 10-year yield well beyond 7% carries a very distinct reminder of events in Greece in April 2010, Ireland in October 2010 and Portugal in February 2011,” said analysts at Bank of New York Mellon. “In each case, a decisive move beyond 7% signaled the start of a collapse in investor confidence that, in each case, led to a bailout within weeks,” they added.

So keep an eye on that number in the weeks ahead.

Meanwhile, the Spanish economy continues to get worse with each passing month.

So just how bad are things in Spain right now?

Just check out this excerpt from a recent article by Mark Grant….

Recently two noted Spanish economists were interviewed. One was always an optimist and one was always a pessimist. The optimist droned on and on about how bad things were in Spain, the dire situation with the regional debt, the huge problems overtaking the Spanish banks and the imminent collapse of the Spanish economy. In the end he said that the situation was so bad that the Spanish people were going to have to eat manure. The pessimist was shocked by the comments of his colleague who had never heard him speak in such a manner. When it was the pessimist’s turn to speak he said that he agreed with the optimist with one exception; the manure would soon run out.

That may make you laugh, but for those in Europe going through these horrific economic conditions it is no laughing matter.

On Sunday, Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras actually told former U.S. president Bill Clinton that Greece is already in a “Great Depression“.

Like Spain, the unemployment rate in Greece is well above 20 percent and the youth unemployment rate is above 50 percent.

The only reason the Greek financial system has not totally collapsed is because of outside assistance, but now there are indications that the assistance may soon be cut off.

At this point there are persistent rumors that the IMF does not plan to give any more aid money to Greece unless Greece “shapes up”.

Meanwhile, the suffering in Greece just gets worse and worse.

Sadly, most Americans pay very little attention to what is going on in Greece and Spain.

Most Americans just assume that we will always have “the greatest economy on earth” and that we can take prosperity for granted.

Unfortunately, the truth is that the United States already has more government debt per capita than either Greece or Spain does.

Just like Greece and Spain, we are also rapidly traveling down the road to economic oblivion, and depression-like conditions will arrive in this country soon enough.

So enjoy these last months of economic prosperity while you still can.

A whole lot of pain is on the horizon.

Oh Crud! 19 Reasons Why It Is Time To Start Freaking Out About The Global Economy

Yes, it is officially time to start freaking out about the global economy.  The European financial system is falling apart and it is going to go down hard.  If Europe was going to be saved it would have happened by now.  The big money insiders have already pulled their funds from vulnerable positions and they are ready to ride the coming chaos out.   Over the next few months the slow motion train wreck currently unfolding in Europe will continue to play out and things will likely really start really heating up in the fall once summer vacations are over.  Most Americans greatly underestimate how much Europe can affect the global economy.  Europe actually has a larger population than the United States does.  Europe also has a significantly larger economy and a much larger banking system.  The world is more interconnected today than ever before, and a collapse of the financial system in Europe will cause a massive global recession.  Once the global economy slides into another major recession, it is going to take years to recover.  The pain is going to be immense.  Yes, that is going to include the United States.  Sadly, we never recovered from the last recession, and it is frightening to think about how much farther this next recession is going to knock us down.

The big problem is that there is simply way, way, way too much debt in the United States and Europe.  It has been a lot of fun spending all of this borrowed money, but now we get to pay the price.

The following are 19 reasons why it is time to start freaking out about the global economy….

#1 The yield on 10 year Italian bonds has now risen to more than 6 percent.

#2 The yield on 10 year Spanish bonds has now risen to more than 7 percent.  This is considered to be an unsustainable level.

#3 Citigroup Chief Economist Willem Buiter says that both Italy and Spain are going to need major bailouts.

#4 The Spanish banking crisis continues to get worse.  The following is from a CNN article that was posted on Monday….

But the depth of the nation’s crisis has raised doubts about whether €100 billion will be enough to recapitalize the banks. For example, the Bank of Spain, the nation’s central bank, released data Monday showing that “doubtful” loans — those that are more than 3 months overdue — rose to €152.7 billion in April, equal to 8.7% of all the loans held by the nation’s banks.

#5 Unemployment in Spain is sitting at a record high of over 24 percent with no hope in sight.

#6 Unemployment in the eurozone as a whole has hit a brand new all-time record high.

#7 The socialists won an outright majority in the recent parliamentary elections in France.  That means that France and Germany are now headed in completely different directions.  The close cooperation that we have seen between France and Germany in recent years is now over.

#8 New French President Francois Hollande has promised to implement a top tax rate of 75 percent on those making over 1 million euros a year.

#9 German Chancellor Angela Merkel has declared that Germany will not budge at all on the terms of the Greek bailout.

#10 Analysts at Citigroup Global Markets are projecting that the odds of Greece leaving the euro over the next 12 to 18 months are still between 50 and 75 percent.

#11 Money is being transferred from banks in southern Europe to banks in northern Europe at an astounding pace….

Financial advisers and private bankers whose clients have accounts too large to be covered by a Europe-wide guarantee on deposits up to 100,000 euros ($125,000), are reporting a “bank run by wire transfer” that has picked up during May.

Much of this money has headed north to banks in London, Frankfurt and Geneva, financial advisers say.

“It’s been an ongoing process but it certainly picked up pace a couple of weeks ago We believe there is a continuous 2-3 year bank run by wire transfer,” said Lorne Baring, managing director at B Capital, a Geneva-based pan European wealth management firm.

#12 As I wrote about recently, about 500 million euros a day has been pulled out of Greek banks so far this month.

#13 The Bank for International Settlements is warning that global lending is contracting at the fastest rate that we have seen since the end of the last financial crisis.

#14 Lloyd’s of London has publicly admitted that it is making preparations for a collapse of the eurozone.

#15 Government debt levels all over the industrialized world have exploded in recent years.  The following is from a recent article by Stephen Lendman….

Five years ago, OECD countries sovereign debt/GDP ratios were 70%. Today it’s 106% and rising.

Anything over 100% is considered to be an extremely dangerous level.

#16 The economic problems in Europe are already taking a toll on the U.S. economy.  At this point U.S. exports to Europe are way down.

#17 One recent poll found that 75 percent of Americans are either “very or somewhat worried” that the U.S. economy is heading for another recession.

#18 Under Barack Obama, the United States has been indulging in a debt binge unlike anything ever seen in U.S. history.  The following is from a recent Forbes article….

After just one year of the Obama spending binge, federal spending had already rocketed to 25.2% of GDP, the highest in American history except for World War II.  That compares to 20.8% in 2008, and an average of 19.6% during Bush’s two terms.  The average during President Clinton’s two terms was 19.8%, and during the 60-plus years from World War II until 2008 — 19.7%.  Obama’s own fiscal 2013 budget released in February projects the average during the entire 4 years of the Obama Administration to come in at 24.4% in just a few months.  That budget shows federal spending increasing from $2.983 trillion in 2008 to an all time record $3.796 trillion in 2012, an increase of 27.3%.

Moreover, before Obama there had never been a deficit anywhere near $1 trillion.  The highest previously was $458 billion, or less than half a trillion, in 2008. The federal deficit for the last budget adopted by a Republican controlled Congress was $161 billion for fiscal year 2007.  But the budget deficits for Obama’s four years were reported in Obama’s own 2013 budget as $1.413 trillion for 2009, $1.293 trillion for 2010, $1.3 trillion for 2011, and $1.327 trillion for 2012, four years in a row of deficits of $1.3 trillion or more, the highest in world history.

#19 Barack Obama almost seems more focused on his golf game than on the problems the global economy is having.  He just finished up playing his 100th round of golf since he became president.

If you are looking for some kind of a global financial miracle you can stop watching.

If European leaders had a master plan to save Europe they would have shown it by now.

If Barack Obama had a master plan to fix things he would have implemented it by now.

If the Federal Reserve had a master plan to fix things we would have seen it by now.

The entire house of cards is starting to come down and things are going to get really messy.

A lot of people both in the United States and in Europe are going to lose their jobs and their homes over the next few years.

It is likely that the next recession will be even more painful than the last one was.

Now is not the time to panic.  If you acknowledge what is coming and prepare accordingly then you will likely be in good shape.

But if you stick your head in the sand and pretend that everything is going to be okay then the next few years will likely be incredibly painful for you.

Jim Cramer Is Predicting Bank Runs In Spain And Italy And Financial Anarchy Throughout Europe

During an appearance on Meet The Press on Sunday, Jim Cramer of CNBC boldly predicted that “financial anarchy” is coming to Europe and that there will be “bank runs” in Spain and Italy in the next few weeks.  This is very strong language for the most famous personality on the most watched financial news channel in the United States to be using.  In fact, if Cramer is not careful, people will start accusing him of sounding just like The Economic Collapse Blog.  It may not happen in “the next few weeks”, but the truth is that the European banking system is in a massive amount of trouble and if Greece does leave the euro it is going to cause a tremendous loss of confidence in banks in countries such as Spain, Italy and Portugal.  There are already rumors that the “smart money” is pulling out of Spanish and Italian banks.  So could we see some of these banks collapse?  Would they get bailed out if they do collapse?  It is so hard to predict exactly how “financial anarchy” will play out, but it is becoming increasingly clear that the European financial system is heading for a massive amount of pain.

Posted below is a clip of Jim Cramer making his bold predictions during his appearance on Meet The Press.  He is obviously very, very disturbed about the direction that Europe is heading in….

But what is Europe supposed to do?  Even though “austerity measures” have been implemented in many eurozone nations, the truth is that they are all still running up more debt.  Are European nations just supposed to run up massive amounts of debt indefinitely and pretend that there will never been any consequences?

That is apparently what Barack Obama wants.  During the G-8 summit that just concluded, Obama urged European leaders to pursue a “pro-growth” path.

Of course to Obama a “pro-growth” economic plan includes spending trillions of dollars that you do not have without any regard for what you are doing to future generations.

Germany has been trying to get the rest of the eurozone to move much closer to living within their means, but as the recent elections in France and Greece demonstrated, much of the rest of the eurozone is not too thrilled with the end of debt-fueled prosperity.

In Greece, the recent elections failed to produce a new government, so new elections will be held on June 17th.

Many EU politicians are trying to turn these upcoming elections into a referendum on whether Greece stays in the eurozone or not.  If the next Greek government is willing to honor the austerity agreements that have been previously agreed to, then Greece will probably stay in the eurozone for a while longer.  If the next Greek government is not willing to honor the austerity agreements that have been previously agreed to, then Greece will probably be forced out of the eurozone.

The following is what John Praveen, the chief investment strategist at Prudential International Investments Advisers, had to say about the political situation in Greece recently….

“If the pro-euro major parties fail to muster enough support to form a coalition and the radical left Syriza party and other anti-euro, anti-austerity parties secure a majority, the risk of a disorderly Greek exit from the Euro increases and could roil markets”

Right now, polls show the leading anti-austerity party, Syriza, doing very well.  The leader of Syriza, Alexis Tsipras, has declared that he plans “to stop the experiment” with austerity and that what the rest of the eurozone has tried to do in Greece is a “crime against the Greek people“.

But the Germans do not see it that way.  The Germans just want the Greeks to stop spending far more money than they bring in.

The Germans do not want to endlessly bail out the Greeks if the Greeks are not willing to show some financial discipline.

As we approach the June 17th elections, the financial markets are likely to be quite nervous.  According to Art Hogan of Lazard Capital Partners, many investors are deeply concerned about how “sloppy” a great exit from the euro could be….

“Next week is only one of the four weeks we have to wait until the Greek election. Every utterance out of Greece makes us think about their [possible] exit and how sloppy that could be”

Most Greek citizens want to remain in the eurozone and most European politicians want Greece to remain in the eurozone, but it is looking increasingly likely as if that may not happen.

In fact, there are reports that preparations are rapidly being made for a Greek exit.  According to Reuters, “contingency plans” for the printing of Greek drachmas have already been drawn up….

De La Rue (DLAR.L) has drawn up contingency plans to print drachma banknotes should Greece exit the euro and approach the British money printer, an industry source told Reuters on Friday.

And even EU officials are now acknowledging that plans for a Greek exit from the euro are being developed.  The following is what EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht said during one recent interview….

“A year and a half ago, there may have been the danger of a domino effect,” he said, “but today there are, both within the European Central Bank and the European Commission, services that are working on emergency scenarios in case Greece doesn’t make it.”

When these kinds of things start to become public, that is a sign that officials really do not expect Greece to remain a part of the euro.

And Greece is rapidly beginning to run out of money.  According to a recent Ekathimerini article, the Greek government is likely to run out of money at the end of June….

The public coffers are seen running dry at the end of June, but this will depend on two key factors. First, revenue collection: In the first 10 days of May, inflows were about 15 percent lower than projected but there are fears that the slide may reach 50 percent. The GAO will have a picture for the first 20 days on May 23, while the last three days of the month are considered crucial, when 1.5 billion euros of the month’s budgeted total of 3.6 billion are expected to flow in.

Second, whether the IMF and EFSF installments are disbursed: This is not certain, as the decision will be purely political for both providers and evidently partly linked to political developments. Earlier this month the eurozone approved a disbursement 1 billion short of the 5 billion euros that were expected.

If Greece runs out of money and if the rest of Europe cuts off the flow of euros, Greece would essentially be forced to leave the euro.

So the last half of June looks like it could potentially be a key moment for Greece.

Meanwhile, the Greek banking system is struggling to survive as hundreds of millions of euros get pulled out of it.  The following is from a recent CNN article….

The Greek financial system is straining hard for cash.

Consumers and businesses are making massive withdrawals from Greece’s banks — leading to concern the beleaguered nation could be forced out of the eurozone by a banking crisis even before its government runs out of cash.

Deposits are the lifeblood of any bank, and Greeks pulled 800 million euros out of the banking system on Tuesday alone, the most recent day for which figures are available.

If Greece does leave the euro and the Greek banking system does collapse, that is going to be a clear signal that a similar scenario will be allowed to play out in other eurozone nations.

That is why Jim Cramer, myself and many others are warning that there could soon be bank runs all over the eurozone.

Sadly, the banking crisis in Europe just seems to get worse with each passing day.

For example, the Telegraph has reported that wealthy individuals are starting to pull money out of Spanish banking giant Santander….

Customers with large deposits have started withdrawing cash from Santander, the bank has admitted, as it tried to reassure concerned members of the public that their money is safe.

Round and round we go.  Where all this will stop nobody knows.

If Greece does end up leaving the euro, that could set off a chain of cascading events that could potentially be absolutely catastrophic.

Former Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi recently stated that the “whole house of cards will come down” if Greece leaves the euro.

And if the “house of cards” does come down in Europe, that is going to greatly destabilize the global derivatives market.

You see, the truth is that the global derivatives market is very delicately balanced.  The assumption most firms make is that things are not going to deviate too much from what is considered “normal”.

If we do end up seeing “financial anarchy” in Europe, that is going to greatly destabilize the system and we could rapidly have a huge derivatives crisis on our hands.

And as we saw with JP Morgan recently, losses from derivatives can add up really fast.

Originally, we were told that the derivatives losses that JP Morgan experienced recently came to a total of only about 2 billion dollars.

Now, we are told that it could be a whole lot more than that.  According to the Wall Street Journal, JP Morgan could end up losing about 5 billion dollars (or more) before it is all said and done….

J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. is struggling to extricate itself from disastrous wagers by traders such as the “London whale,” in a sign that the size of its bets could bog down the bank’s unwinding of the trades and deepen its losses by billions of dollars.

The nation’s largest bank has said publicly that its losses on the trades have surpassed $2 billion, and people familiar with the matter have said they could over time reach $5 billion.

And if Europe experiences a financial collapse, the losses experienced by U.S. firms could make that 5 billion dollars look like pocket change.  The following is from a recent article by Graham Summers….

According to Reuters once you include Spain and Italy as well as Credit Default Swaps and indirect exposure to Europe, US banks have roughly $4 TRILLION in potential exposure to the EU.

To put that number in perspective, the entire US banking system is $12 trillion in size.

Interesting days are ahead my friends.

Let us hope for the best, but let us also prepare for the worst.

The Bank Runs In Greece Will Soon Be Followed By Bank Runs In Other European Nations

The bank runs that we are watching right now in Greece are shocking, but they are only just the beginning.  Since May 6th, nearly one billion dollars has been withdrawn from Greek banks.  For a small nation like Greece, that is an absolutely catastrophic number.  At this point, the entire Greek banking system is in danger of collapsing.  If you had money in a Greek bank, why wouldn’t you pull it out?  If Greece leaves the euro, all euros in Greek banks will likely be converted to drachmas, and the value of those drachmas will almost certainly decline dramatically.  In fact, it has been estimated that Greek citizens could see the value of their bank accounts decline by up to 50 percent if Greece leaves the euro.  So if you had money in a Greek bank, it would only make sense to withdraw it and move it to another country as quickly as possible.  And as the eurozone begins to unravel, this is a scenario that we are going to see play out in country after country.  As member nations leave the eurozone, you would be a fool to have your euros in Italian banks or Spanish banks when you could have them in German banks instead.  So the bank runs that are happening in Greece right now are only a preview of things to come.  Before this crisis is over we are going to see bank runs happening all over Europe.

If Greece leaves the euro, the consequences are likely to be quite messy.  Those that are promoting the idea that a “Grexit” can be done in an orderly fashion are not being particularly honest.  The following is from a recent article in the Independent….

“Whoever tells you a Greek exit would be no big deal is an idiot, lying or disingenuous,” said Sony Kapoor of the European think-tank Re-Define. Economists fear that a disorderly exit would prompt a huge run by investors on Spanish and Italian debt, forcing those countries to seek support from an EU bailout fund, which, with a capacity of just €500bn, is widely regarded as too small to cope with those pressures.

A Greek exit from the euro would not only result in a run on Spanish and Italian bonds, but it would also likely result in a run on Spanish and Italian banks.

If Greece is allowed to leave the euro, that will be a signal that other countries will eventually be allowed to leave as well.  Nobody in their right mind would want their euros stuck in Spanish or Italian banks if those countries end up converting back to national currencies.

Fear is a powerful motivator.  If Greece converts their euros back to drachmas, that will be a clear signal that all euros are not created equally.  The race to move money into German banks will accelerate dramatically.

And a Greek exit from the euro is looking more likely with each passing day.  Even the IMF is now admitting that it is a very real possibility….

Christine Lagarde, head of the IMF, warned she was “technically prepared for anything” and said the utmost effort must be made to ensure any Greek exit was orderly. The effect was likely to be “quite messy” with risks to growth, trade and financial markets. “It is something that would be extremely expensive and would pose great risks but it is part of options that we must technically consider,” she said.

Meanwhile, banks in other troubled European nations are already on shaky ground.  The Spanish banking system is an absolute disaster zone at this point and on Monday night Moody’s downgraded the credit ratings of 26 Italian banks.

The situation in Italy is especially worth keeping a close eye on.  As Ambrose Evans-Pritchard recently noted, things are not looking good for Italy at all….

Italy’s former premier Romano Prodi said the EU risks instant contagion to Spain, Italy, and France if Greece leaves. “The whole house of cards will come down”, he said

Angelo Drusiani from Banca Albertini said the only way to avert catstrophe is to convert the European Central Bank into a lender of last resort. Otherwise Italy faces “massive devaluation, three to five years of hyperinflation, and unbearable unemployment.”

So what can be done about any of this?

Well, there is actually a lot that could be done if politicians in Europe were willing to think outside of the established global financial paradigm.

The truth is that Greece could solve their current financial problems in four easy steps.  They would have to be willing to stick it to the rest of Europe and to risk being blackballed by the international community, but it could be done.

The following is my prescription for Greece….

1) Default on all debts.

2) Leave the euro.

3) Issue drachmas that are debt-free and that do not come from a central bank.  Instead, have the Greek government create them and spend them directly into circulation.

4) Enjoy a return to prosperity.

In such a scenario, the Greek national debt would no longer be a problem, the Greek government would never have to borrow any more money and austerity would no longer be needed.

Yes, inflation would be an issue with the new currency, but a bit of inflation would be a walk in the park compared to the horrible economic depression that Greece is experiencing right now.

And once the Greek economy was growing again, it would certainly be possible for them to make the transition to “hard money” if they wanted to.

It is imperative that we all understand that just because the global financial system works a certain way today does not mean that it must always work that way.

If you have a few minutes, I want you to watch an incredible speech by a 12-year-old Canadian girl named Victoria Grant.  In this 6 minute speech, she details how the bankers are defrauding the people of Canada and how the Canadian government does not actually need to borrow a single penny from the bankers….

If a 12-year-old girl can figure this out, then why can’t the rest of us?

Sadly, the financial world still seems enamored with the corrupt central banking system that has gotten us into this mess.  In fact, one recent poll found that Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke has a 75 percent approval rating from global investors.

Right now, America is going down the same path as Greece, Spain and Italy have gone.  Eventually we will hit a wall and our financial system will fall apart.

We need the American people to understand that the Federal Reserve system is a perpetual debt machine.  The U.S. national debt is now more than 5000 times larger than it was when the Fed was first created.  It is at the very core of our national financial problems.

When will people wake up and realize that central banking is the problem and not the solution?

When will people wake up and realize that national governments do not have to go into debt to anyone if they do not want to?

In our world today, there is far more debt than there is money.

It is a system that will inevitably crash.

But there are other alternatives.

Unfortunately, politicians all over the globe continue to want to be married to our current debt-based financial system.

As a result, we will suffer the consequences of that system.

A Warning Sign For The World

Any financial system that is based on debt is doomed to fail.  Today, we are living in the greatest debt bubble that the world has ever seen, and if all of a sudden people could not use credit to buy things our economy would immediately ground to a halt.  Unfortunately, no debt bubble can last forever.  When this current debt bubble finally bursts, faith in the financial system is going to disappear, credit is going to freeze up and there is going to be a massive wave of bank failures.  Right now, Greece is a warning sign for the world.  Nobody wants to lend money to Greece, the Greek banking system is dying, one out of every four businesses has already shut down, unemployment is soaring and the Greek economy has now been in recession for five years in a row.  Sadly, the economic implosion in Greece is rapidly accelerating.  The Greek economy shrunk at a 7 percent annual rate during the 4th quarter of 2011.  That wasn’t supposed to happen.  Things were supposed to be getting better in Greece by now.  But instead the Greek depression is getting even worse, and very soon the rest of the world is going to be going through what Greece is currently experiencing.

Unfortunately, most in the mainstream media are treating what is happening in Greece as an “isolated incident” rather than as a very serious warning sign for the world.

Thankfully, there are at least a few reporters out there that are realizing the gravity of the situation.  The following is how one reporter from the New York Times recently described what life is like in Greece now….

By many indicators, Greece is devolving into something unprecedented in modern Western experience. A quarter of all Greek companies have gone out of business since 2009, and half of all small businesses in the country say they are unable to meet payroll. The suicide rate increased by 40 percent in the first half of 2011. A barter economy has sprung up, as people try to work around a broken financial system. Nearly half the population under 25 is unemployed. Last September, organizers of a government-sponsored seminar on emigrating to Australia, an event that drew 42 people a year earlier, were overwhelmed when 12,000 people signed up. Greek bankers told me that people had taken about one-third of their money out of their accounts; many, it seems, were keeping what savings they had under their beds or buried in their backyards. One banker, part of whose job these days is persuading people to keep their money in the bank, said to me, “Who would trust a Greek bank?”

Can you imagine?

Greece is experiencing a full-blown economic collapse and nobody can see a light at the end of the tunnel at this point.

As I have written about previously, the overall rate of unemployment in Greece has now risen above 20 percent and the youth unemployment rate in Greece has soared to an astounding 48 percent.

Deleveraging can be an extremely painful process.  Greece has been forced to try to reduce the size of its budget deficit, but every time it cuts government spending that causes economic activity (and thus government revenues) to slow down as well.

Now the EU and the IMF are demanding that even more very painful austerity measures be implemented in Greece even though Greece is already experiencing a full-blown depression.

The EU and the IMF are demanding that Greece fire 15,000 more government workers immediately and a total of 150,000 government workers by 2015.

The EU and the IMF are demanding that wages for government workers be cut by another 20 percent.

The EU and the IMF are demanding that the minimum wage be slashed by more than 20 percent.

The EU and the IMF are also demanding significant reductions in unemployment benefits and pension benefits.

Of course all of those cuts are going to make the short-term economic conditions in Greece even worse.

The rioting, looting and burning of buildings that we are witnessing right now in Greece is likely to continue for quite some time as exasperated citizens attempt to express their frustrations to politicians that simply do not seem to care.

According to the National Confederation of Greek Commerce, recent rioting resulted in damage to 153 businesses in Athens.  45 of those businesses were totally destroyed.

You can view some stunning footage of the current rioting in Greece right here.

Despite all of the austerity measures that have already been implemented, the truth is that Greece is very likely to default soon anyway.

There is a very good chance that the new austerity agreement that the Greek parliament just approved will never be implemented.  There are new elections scheduled for April and the current party in power is polling in the single digits.

The new Greek government is likely to look much different from the current one, and nobody knows for sure if the new government will follow through on any of the promises being made by the current government.

In addition, the German parliament must approve this new deal with Greece, and the German parliament is not scheduled to vote on it until February 27th.  Considering the mood in Germany right now, approval is not guaranteed.

So there are all kinds of things that could go wrong with the “deals” that are currently being discussed.  The truth is that a Greek default in the coming months seems to become more likely by the day.

Some in the financial world almost seem eager for a Greek default.  The following is what Jon Moulton, the chairman of Better Capital, recently told CNBC….

“If I was Greek, I wouldn’t be going for these measures, I’d be going for default and getting it over with. Would you like two to three years of pain or 20?”

But a disorderly Greek default would not be a pleasant thing for the global economy at all.  A recent article in the Guardian detailed what some of the consequences of a Greek default and exit from the eurozone might be….

But default and “re-drachmatisation” would be a costly and chaotic process. In the long term the euro might be strengthened if some of its weaker members headed for the door. But in the short term banks across the eurozone might have to be closed to prevent a run on the single currency as investors speculated about which country might be next. A new wave of bank nationalisations would be likely to follow as lenders counted their losses on now worthless Greek debt.

Capital controls would have to be imposed and borders shut to stop money flooding out of Greece. Portugal, Italy and Spain would come under intense pressure from investors wary about the risk of another victim. Banks everywhere, already reluctant to lend, would cut back hard, nervous about their exposure to the bonds of all Europe’s crisis-hit states.

And the financial crisis in Europe is going to continue to spread well beyond Greece.  Moody’s Investors Service just downgraded the credit ratings of six European nations.  The following is how Bloomberg described the downgrades….

Spain was downgraded to A3 from A1 with a negative outlook, Italy was downgraded to A3 from A2 with a negative outlook and Portugal was downgraded to Ba3 from Ba2 with a negative outlook, Moody’s said. It also reduced the ratings of Slovakia, Slovenia and Malta.

Countries such as Italy, Spain, Portugal, Ireland and Hungary are heading down the exact same road that Greece has gone.  Greece was the first one to experience a full-blown depression, but soon Greece will have a lot of company.

Greece is most definitely a warning sign for the world.  If you keep recklessly piling up debt, eventually a day of reckoning comes.  It is inevitable.

But Barack Obama does not seem to understand this.  He continues to pile another 150 million dollars on to our national debt every single hour.  He knows that cutting spending significantly right now would hurt the economy and that would significantly hurt his chances for another term.

Needless to say, Barack Obama is not likely to do anything that is going to significantly hurt his chances for another four years in the White House.

So we continue to roll on toward disaster.

The U.S. financial system is like a car with no brakes that is heading straight toward a 5,000 foot drop at 100 miles an hour.

It is all going to seem like fun and games to some people until we hit the canyon floor.

Once that happens, nobody will be laughing.

Bad Financial News Keeps Pouring In: 14 Facts That Just Might Scare The Living Daylights Out Of You

Will the bad financial news ever stop?  A lot of people in the financial world were hoping for a much better fourth quarter after an absolutely disastrous third quarter.  Well, if Monday was any indication, October could end up being a really rough month for global financial markets.  So much bad financial news keeps pouring in that it really is a challenge to try to keep track of it all.  Greece seems to get closer to defaulting on their debts with each passing day, and it appears that Germany is not going to contribute any more bailout money beyond what they have already committed to.  Major banks on both sides of the Atlantic are on the verge of collapse, and investors all over the world are afraid that we may have another “Lehman Brothers moment” soon.  Shares of American Airlines dropped a staggering 33 percent on Monday as rumors that they will soon be entering bankruptcy swirled.  Yes, things certainly are getting interesting.  Back in 2008, the governments of the western world saved the financial system with gigantic bailouts that were absolutely unprecedented.  If the financial system crashes again at some point in the coming weeks or months, will the political will for more bank bailouts be there?  If not, what is going to happen to the banking system?

On both sides of the Atlantic, the big banks are highly leveraged, they have taken on a ton of risk and they are very deeply exposed to derivatives.  It is as if virtually nobody learned any lessons during the financial crisis of 2008.  Once again we are facing a situation where if a couple of financial dominoes fall it could send dozens of others tumbling to the ground.

Some very significant things happened on Monday.  But the media has gotten so used to reporting on tremendous financial instability that Monday’s events mostly got brushed to the side.  Instead, Amanda Knox captured most of the headlines.

But the reality is that some really, really monumental stuff has been going down.

The following are 14 facts that just might scare the living daylights out of you….

#1 On Monday, the Dow was down 258 points.  Lately it seems as though the Dow has been going up or down by several hundred points almost every single day, and that much volatility is not a good sign for the health of the financial system.

#2 Shares of Wall Street banking giant Morgan Stanley fell by another 8 percent on Monday.  Overall, shares of Morgan Stanley have declined by more than 50 percent since February.

#3 Bank of America stock dropped down to $5.53 a share on Monday.  Just a few years ago, it was trading for more than $50 a share.

#4 There are reports that Goldman Sachs may actually show a loss for the third quarter of 2011 and that yearly bonuses for employees may be slashed to next to nothing.  Yes, not too many people are going to have sympathy for Goldman Sachs, but this just shows how bad things are getting out there for the big Wall Street banks.

#5 Normally Goldman Sachs is quite upbeat, but lately they have been coming out with some really frightening reports.  For example, a new report from Goldman Sachs declares that there is a 40 percent chance that we are entering a “Great Stagnation“.

#6 Shares of European banking giant Dexia plunged by about 10 percent on Monday on rumors that it will soon need a significant bailout.  The stocks of major banks all across Europe have been getting absolutely hammered for weeks.

#7 Shares of American Airlines fell by 33 percent on Monday on rumors that the airline is about to enter bankruptcy.  Amazingly, trading in the stock was stopped 7 different times on Monday.

#8 It is being reported that approximately 240 pilots for American Airlines have retired in the last two months alone.  All of those pilots are retiring so that they can shield their pensions from the upcoming bankruptcy filing.

#9 Nearly the entire airline industry got hit really hard on Monday.  Shares of United Continental, U.S. Airways and Delta were all down more than 10 percent.

#10 Overall, U.S. stocks fell by 14 percent during the third quarter of 2011, and now the fourth quarter is off to a very rocky start.

#11 The incoming head of the European Central Bank, Mario Draghi, has publicly admitted that major European banks are having “funding problems“.  Just like back in 2008, we are rapidly heading for a giant “credit crunch”.

#12 A shocking new Bloomberg survey has found that approximately one out of every three international investors expects a “global economic meltdown” within the next 12 months, and 70 percent of them believe that the global economy is “deteriorating”.  Perhaps they have been reading The Economic Collapse Blog too much.

#13 Financial markets in Europe were rocked on Monday when it was revealed that Greece is not going to hit the deficit reduction targets set for it either this year or next year despite all of the severe austerity measures that have already been implemented.  Needless to say, a lot of financial authorities in Europe were very displeased by this news.

#14 German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble is publicly declaring that Germany will not contribute any more money to the European bailout fund.

The truth is that the political will for more bailouts has totally dried up in Germany.

The recent vote by the Bundestag to approve money for the European rescue fund should not be misinterpreted.

That vote simply approved money that was part of a deal that was agreed to over two months ago.

What is more important is what many major German politicians said after the vote.  Essentially, the overwhelming consensus is that Germany is done contributing money.  Once the money is gone from the current bailout pool (which is not anywhere close to what is really needed), there will be no more money from Germany.

That means that the era of the bailouts in Europe is drawing to a close.

In a recent editorial, Ambrose Evans-Pritchard described the situation in Germany in this manner….

The furious debate over the erosion of German fiscal sovereignty and democracy – as well as the escalating costs of the EU rescue machinery – has made it absolutely clear that the Bundestag will not prop up the ruins of monetary union for much longer.

Horst Seehofer, the leader of Bavaria’s Social Christians, said his party would go “this far, and no further”.

Let that last phrase sink in.

Basically, what politicians all over Germany are saying is that Germany has now done all that it is going to do.

The implications of this are huge.

Ambrose Evans-Pritchard recognized this in his editorial.  In fact, the usually reserved journalist actually used all caps for six straight sentences and broke out some very strong language that is very uncharacteristic for him….

Repeat after me:

THERE WILL BE NO FISCAL UNION.

THERE WILL BE NO EUROBONDS.

THERE WILL BE NO DEBT POOL.

THERE WILL BE NO EU TREASURY.

THERE WILL BE NO FISCAL TRANSFERS IN PERPETUITY.

THERE WILL BE A STABILITY UNION – OR NO MONETARY UNION.

Get used to it. This is the political reality of Europe, since nothing of importance can be done without Germany. All else is wishful thinking, clutching at straws, and evasion. If this means the euro will shed some members or blow apart – as it almost certainly does – then the rest of the world must prepare for the day.

Basically, this is his way of saying that “the sky is falling” and that the financial system of Europe is doomed.

If you have followed the writing of Ambrose Evans-Pritchard for any length of time, then you know that he is one of the most respected financial journalists in the world and that he is not prone to indulge in much “doom and gloom”.  For him to say what he did is very significant.

But even if there were no financial problems in Europe, the United States would probably be slipping into another recession anyway.

Right now our economy is a total mess, and all kinds of people are coming out of the woodwork and are trying to take credit for “calling” the upcoming recession.

Some of the pronouncements are so bold that you would think that some half-crazed blogger wrote them.  For example, just check out the following quote from a report recently put out by the Economic Cycle Research Institute….

“Here’s what ECRI’s recession call really says: If you think this is a bad economy, you haven’t seen anything yet.”

But do the American people really need some experts to tell them that we are going into another recession?

The American people know what is going on.

According to one recent poll, 90 percent of the American people believe that economic conditions in the United States are “poor”.  According to another recent poll, 80 percent of the American people believe that we are actually in a recession right now.

So perhaps the American people are actually ahead of most of the so-called “experts”.

In any event, economic conditions in the United States continue to get worse.  The average American family is having a harder and harder time getting to the end of each month.  According to a Harris Interactive survey taken near the end of last year, 77 percent of all Americans are now living paycheck to paycheck.  In 2007, the same survey found that only 43 percent of Americans were living paycheck to paycheck.

At least Barack Obama is not talking so much about an “economic recovery” these days.  When asked recently if Americans are better off today than they were four years ago, Obama said the following….

“Well, I don’t think they’re better off than they were four years ago.”

Finally, something that we can all agree with Barack Obama about.

Sadly, things are about to get even worse.

Pay close attention to all of the bad financial news that keeps pouring in.

Just like in 2008, something really big is happening.

When the current bailout fund in Europe runs out in a few months, things could really start to unravel.

If Greece (or any other eurozone nation for that matter) defaults, it could set off a chain of financial events so catastrophic that it just might scare the living daylights out of all of us.

Let us hope for the best, but let us also prepare for the worst.

Tremendous fear and panic has gripped the financial world, and the underlying problems causing this crisis are not going to be solved any time soon.

We are about to enter unprecedented territory.

Hold on tight.

Too Big To Fail?: 10 Banks Own 77 Percent Of All U.S. Banking Assets

Back during the financial crisis of 2008, the American people were told that the largest banks in the United States were “too big to fail” and that was why it was necessary for the federal government to step in and bail them out.  The idea was that if several of our biggest banks collapsed at the same time the financial system would not be strong enough to keep things going and economic activity all across America would simply come to a standstill.  Congress was told that if the “too big to fail” banks did not receive bailouts that there would be chaos in the streets and this country would plunge into another Great Depression.  Since that time, however, essentially no efforts have been made to decentralize the U.S. banking system.  Instead, the “too big to fail” banks just keep getting larger and larger and larger.  Back in 2002, the top 10 banks controlled 55 percent of all U.S. banking assets.  Today, the top 10 banks control 77 percent of all U.S. banking assets.  Unfortunately, these giant banks are also colossal mountains of risk, debt and leverage.  They are incredibly unstable and they could start coming apart again at any time.  None of the major problems that caused the crash of 2008 have been fixed.  In fact, the U.S. banking system is more centralized and more vulnerable today than it ever has been before.

It really is difficult for ordinary Americans to get a handle on just how large these financial institutions are.  For example, the “big six” U.S. banks (Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, Bank of America, and Wells Fargo) now possess assets equivalent to approximately 60 percent of America’s gross national product.

These huge banks are giant financial vacuum cleaners.  Over the past couple of decades we have witnessed a financial consolidation in this country that is absolutely unprecedented.

This trend accelerated during the recent financial crisis.  While the big boys were receiving massive bailouts, the hundreds of small banks that were failing were either allowed to collapse or they were told that they should find a big bank that was willing to buy them.

As a group, Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America and Wells Fargo held approximately 22 percent of all banking deposits in FDIC-insured institutions back in 2000.

By the middle of 2009 that figure was up to 39 percent.

That is not just a trend – that is a landslide.

Sadly, smaller banks continue to fail in large numbers and the big banks just keep growing and getting more power.

Today, there are more than 1,000 U.S. banks that are on the “unofficial list” of problem banking institutions.

In the absence of fundamental changes, the consolidation of the banking industry is going to continue.

Meanwhile, the “too big to fail” banks are flush with cash and they are getting serious about expanding.  The Federal Reserve has been extremely good to the big boys and they are eager to grow.

For example, Citigroup is becoming extremely aggressive about expanding….

Citigroup has been hiring dozens of investment bankers, dialing up advertising and drawing up plans to add several hundred branches worldwide, including more than 200 in major cities across the United States.

Hopefully the big banks will start lending again.  The whole idea behind the bailouts and all of the “quantitative easing” that the Federal Reserve did was to get money into the hands of the big banks so that they would lend it out to ordinary Americans and get the economy rolling again.

Well, a funny thing happened.  The big banks just sat on a lot of that money.

In particular, what they did was they deposited much of it at the Fed and drew interest on it.

Since 2008, excess reserves parked at the Fed have grown by nearly 1.7 trillion dollars.  Just check out the chart posted below….

The American people were promised that TARP and all of the other bailouts would enable the big banks to lend out lots of money which would help get the economy going for ordinary Americans again.

Well, it turns out that in 2009 (the first full year after Congress passed the bailout legislation) U.S. banks posted their sharpest decline in lending since 1942.

Lending has never fully recovered since the crash of 2008.  The big financial institutions like Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and JPMorgan Chase have been able to get all the cash that they need, but they have not passed that generosity along to ordinary Americans.

In fact, the biggest U.S. banks have actually reduced small business lending by about 50 percent since the crash of 2008.

That doesn’t sound like what we were promised.

These “too big to fail” banks have been able to borrow gigantic amounts of money from the Fed for next to nothing and yet they still refuse to let credit flow to local communities.  Instead, the big banks have found other purposes for all of the super cheap money that they have been getting from the Fed as Ellen Brown recently explained….

It can be very profitable indeed for the big Wall Street banks, but the purpose of the near-zero interest rates was supposed to be to get banks to lend again. Instead, they are, indeed, paying “outrageous bonuses to their top executives;” using the money to engage in the same sort of unregulated speculation that nearly brought down the economy in 2008; buying up smaller banks; or investing this virtually interest-free money in risk-free government bonds, on which taxpayers are paying 2.5 percent interest (more for longer-term securities).

What makes things even worse is that these big banks often pay next to nothing in taxes.

For example, between 2008 and 2010, Wells Fargo made a total profit of 49.37 billion dollars.

Over that same time period, their tax bill was negative 681 million dollars.

Do you understand what that means?  Over that 3 year time period, Wells Fargo actually got 681 million dollars back from the U.S. government.

Isn’t that just peachy?

Meanwhile, the big financial giants have not learned their lessons and they continue to do business pretty much as they did it prior to 2008.

The big banks continue to roll up massive amounts of risk, debt and leverage.

Today, Wall Street has become one giant financial casino.  More money is made on Wall Street by making side bets (commonly referred to as “derivatives“) than on the investments themselves.

If the bets pay off for the big financial institutions, mind blowing profits can be made.  But if the bets go against the big financial institutions (as we saw in 2008), firms can collapse almost overnight.

In fact, it was derivatives that almost brought down AIG.  The biggest insurance company in the world almost folded in 2008 because of a whole bunch of really bad bets.

The danger from derivatives is so great that Warren Buffet once called them “financial weapons of mass destruction”.  It has been estimated that the notional value of the worldwide derivatives market is somewhere in the neighborhood of a quadrillion dollars.

The largest banks have tens of trillions of dollars of exposure to derivatives.  When the next great financial collapse happens, derivatives will almost certainly be at the center of it once again.  These side bets do not create anything real for the economy – they just make and lose huge amounts of money.  We never know when the next great derivatives crisis will strike.  Derivatives are essentially like a “sword of Damocles” that perpetually hangs over the U.S. financial system.

When I start talking about derivatives I get a lot of people in the financial community mad at me.  On Wall Street today you can bet on just about anything you can imagine.  Almost everyone in the financial world has gotten so used to making wild bets that they couldn’t even imagine a world without them.  If anyone even tried to put significant limits on futures, options and swaps it would cause Wall Street to throw a hissy fit.

But someday the dominoes are going to start to fall and the house of cards is going to come crashing down.  It is an open secret that our financial system is fundamentally unsound.  Even a lot of people working on Wall Street will admit that.  It is just that people are so busy making such big piles of money that nobody wants the party to stop.

It is only a matter of time until some of these big banks get into a huge amount of trouble again.  When that happens, we might really find out whether they are “too big to fail” or whether we could get along just fine without them.

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