The Dow Falls Another 138 Points As Geopolitical Shaking Forces Investors To Race For The Exits

Stock prices just keep on falling, and many analysts are now wondering if a full-blown stock market crash is in our near future.  On Thursday, the S&P 500 and the Dow both closed at 2 month lows after Donald Trump dropped “the mother of all bombs” in Afghanistan.  It was the first time that one of these bombs has ever been used in live combat, and it is being reported that each of these bombs weighs 22,000 pounds and costs 16 million dollars to make.  Of course Trump was trying to send a very clear message to the rest of the world by dropping this bomb, and investors interpreted it as a sign that we are getting even closer to war.

The financial markets will be closed on Friday for the long holiday weekend, and with so much uncertainty about what may happen in Syria and in North Korea, many investors wanted to get their money out of the market while they still could.  The historic losing streak for S&P 500 tech stocks extended to 10 days in a row on Thursday, and all of the major stock indexes are now below their 50 day moving averages for the first time since the election.

And the VIX closed above 16 to close the week, which many analysts saw as a sign that more market volatility is on the way

The fear index on Thursday hit 16.22, its highest since Nov. 10, after closing above its 200-day moving average on Monday for the first time since Nov. 8.

“The VIX confirmed a breakout above its 200-day moving average [Tuesday], supporting a pickup in volatility in the days ahead,” BTIG’s chief technical strategist, Katie Stockton, said in a Wednesday note.

On Tuesday, I wrote about how geopolitical instability is causing many investors to seek out safe havens such as gold and silver, and that trend continued on Thursday.  As I write this, the price of gold is sitting at $1289.20, and the price of silver is up to $18.50.  Of course if the French election goes badly for the globalists or we see a full-blown shooting war erupt in either Syria or North Korea, those prices will go far, far higher.

For quite a while I have been very strongly warning that these ridiculously inflated stock prices were not sustainable.  It was inevitable that they would start to decline, because the underlying economic numbers simply did not support them.

And just today we got some more bad news.  According to Zero Hedge, the mortgage business at one of America’s biggest banks has been absolutely crashing…

When we reported Wells Fargo’s Q4 earnings back in January, we drew readers’ attention to one specific line of business, the one we dubbed the bank’s “bread and butter“, namely mortgage lending, and which as we then reported was “the biggest alarm” because “as a result of rising rates, Wells’ residential mortgage applications and pipelines both tumbled, specifically in Q4 Wells’ mortgage applications plunged by $25bn from the prior quarter to $75bn, while the mortgage origination pipeline plunged by nearly half to just $30 billion, and just shy of all time lows recorded in late 2013 and 2014.”

Fast forward one quarter when what was already a troubling situation, just got as bad as it has been since the financial crisis for America’s largest mortgage lender, because buried deep in its presentation accompanying otherwise unremarkable Q1 results (EPS small beat, revenue small miss), Wells just reported that its ‘bread and butter’ is virtually gone, and in Q1 the amount of all-important Mortgage Applications has tumbled by a whopping 23% to just $59 billion, below the lows hit in early 2014, and at fresh lows since the financial crisis.

Unfortunately, what is going on at Wells Fargo is just part of an enormous “loan collapse” that we are witnessing all over the nation.

This is exactly what we would expect to see if a new recession was beginning.  When economic conditions show down, banks and other lending institutions begin to get tighter with their money, and a tightening of credit causes economic activity to slow down even further.

It can be exceedingly difficult to break out of such a cycle once it starts.

But the mainstream media doesn’t seem to understand these things.  Instead, they are pointing the blame at other sources for the emerging economic slowdown.  For example, consider the following excerpt from a CNN article entitled “Americans have become lazy and it’s hurting the economy”

Americans have become lazy, argues economist Tyler Cowen.

They don’t start businesses as much as they once did. They don’t move as often as they used to. And they live in neighborhoods that are about as segregated as they were in the 1960s.

All of this is causing the U.S. to stagnate economically and politically, Cowen says in his new book: “The Complacent Class: The Self-Defeating Quest for the American Dream.” Growth is far slower than it was in the 1960s, 70s and 80s and productivity growth is way down, despite everyone claiming they are working so hard.

No, our economic problems are not the result of Americans being too lazy.

Rather, the truth is that we have accumulated way too much debt as a society, we have been way too greedy, and there has been way too much manipulation by the Federal Reserve and other central banks.

For decades we have been living way above our means.  We have been able to do this by stealing trillions upon trillions of dollars from future generations of Americans, and now a day of reckoning is rapidly approaching.

Unfortunately for Donald Trump, he just happens to be the president at this moment in history, and so much of the blame for what is about to happen will be pinned on him.  The following comes from a recent interview with Peter Schiff

Trump doesn’t want to preside over a major decline in our standard of living, but ultimately that has to happen. Because this is the consequence of all this excess consumption that went on before he was president. You know, we sacrificed our future to indulge our past. The future is now the present. We’re here, and it’s time to pay the piper.

Schiff is precisely correct.

For decades we have just kept sacrificing the future in order to inflate our current standard of living.

But the funny thing about the future is that it always arrives at some point, and now we are going to pay an enormously high price for being so exceedingly reckless all these years.

Tech Stocks Experience Their Longest Losing Streak In 5 Years As Panic Begins To Grip The Market

S&P 500 tech stocks have now fallen for 9 days in a row.  The last time tech stocks declined for so many days in a row was in 2012, and that was the only other time in history when we have seen such a long losing streak.  As I have stated before, the post-election “Trump rally” is officially done, and the market is starting to roll over as investors begin to realize that all of the buying momentum has completely evaporated.  Tech stocks tend to be particularly volatile, and so the fact that they are starting to lead the way down should definitely be alarming to many in the investing community.

Of course it isn’t just tech stocks that are falling.  The Dow was down another 59 points on Wednesday, and the S&P 500 has closed beneath its 50 day moving average for the very first time since the election.  For those that have been waiting for a key technical signal before getting out of the market, there is one for you.

The price of gold was up again, and that is definitely not surprising in this geopolitical environment.  The closer we get to war the higher gold and silver prices will go, and if we actually get into a major conflict we will see them blast into the stratosphere.

Another key indicator that I am watching very closely is the VIX.  On Wednesday it shot up above 16 for the very first time since the day after Trump’s election victory, and many believe that it could soon go much higher.  The following is an excerpt from a CNBC report

The VIX measures the size of the S&P 500’s expected moves over the next 30 days, and consequently tends to run just a bit hotter than volatility over the past 30 days. Yet one-month realized volatility is just 6.7, meaning the VIX is at a roughly 9-point premium, which Chintawongvanich calls “highly unusual.”

That said, he notes that implied volatility was also at a large premium preceding the U.K. referendum to leave the EU and the U.S. presidential election. The obvious conclusion is that the market is now similarly preparing itself for the French presidential election, which is set to be held on April 23. Some fear that a populist candidate could prevail, which may cause more problems for the European Union and thus for economic stability.

As noted in that excerpt, the upcoming French election is absolutely huge.  If the election goes “the wrong way” according to the globalists, it could literally mean the end of the European Union as it is configured today.

And of course of even greater concern is the global march toward war.  It is being reported that North Korea is on the verge of a major nuclear weapons test, and such an act of defiance could be enough to push Donald Trump into conducting a major military strike.

But if Trump does hit North Korea, it is quite likely that North Korea will hit back.  The North Koreans are promising to use nuclear weapons in any conflict with the United States, and if Trump bungles this thing we could easily be looking at a scenario in which millions of people end up dead.

Things also continue to get more tense in the Middle East.  The Russians and the Iranians are promising to respond to any additional U.S. strikes “with force”, and on Wednesday Trump declared that our relationship with Russia “may be at an all-time low”.

Of course this came shortly after Secretary of State Rex Tillerson used similar language following his face to face meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Russian President Vladimir Putin held more than two hours of “very frank” talks Wednesday in the Kremlin amid tensions over a U.S. airstrike against a Syria air base blamed for last week’s deadly chemical attack.

In remarks to reporters after the meeting, Tillerson said he told the Russian leader that current relations between the two countries are at a “low point.”

If the Trump administration conducts any more strikes on Syria, it is quite likely that the Russians and Iranians will make good on their threats and will start firing back.

And once U.S. aircraft or U.S. naval vessels come under fire, the calls for war in Washington will become absolutely deafening.

Unfortunately, Trump is not likely to back down any time soon because the recent missile strike in Syria has dramatically boosted his popularity.  According to every recent survey, the American people overwhelmingly approve of what Trump did…

A Morning Consult/Politico poll released Wednesday found that 57% of Americans supported airstrikes in Syria, 58% supported establishing a no-fly zone over parts of Syria including strikes against Syria’s air-defense systems, and 63% of Americans thought the US should do more to end the Syrian conflict. Even more, 66% of respondents said they supported the Trump administration’s strike last week specifically.

This mirrored results of another recent poll from CBS News in which 57% of Americans said they approved of the US strike. A Pew Research Center survey from this week showed a similar level of support, with 58% of Americans approving of the strike.

Sadly, this is a time when the majority is dead wrong.  Many of those that are supporting military action against Syria now were vehemently against it when Barack Obama was considering it.

Even Donald Trump spoke out very strongly against military intervention in Syria in 2013, and he was quite right to do so, and so what has suddenly changed that now makes it okay?

There is nothing to be gained in Syria, but we could very easily end up in a direct military conflict with Russia, Iran and Hezbollah which could ultimately prove to be the spark that sets off World War III.

And of course a military strike on North Korea could also potentially spark a global war.  The first Korean War resulted in a direct military conflict between the United States and China, and the second Korean War could easily result in the exact same thing happening again.

Do the American people really want war with both Russia and China at the same time?

It has been said that you should be careful what you wish for, because you just might get it.

The Price Of Gold Spikes As Investors Get Spooked By Talk Of World War III And Nuclear Conflict

Whenever the world starts going crazy, investors instinctively begin flocking to precious metals.  So it wasn’t exactly a surprise when gold and silver prices started to move upward aggressively as global leaders continued to talk about the possibility of World War III and nuclear conflict.  The price of gold spiked to a five month high on Tuesday, and as I write this article gold is currently sitting at $1277.10 an ounce.  Right now silver is at $18.35 an ounce, and many analysts believe that it is poised for a dramatic jump in the weeks and months to come as global tensions continue to rise.  Google searches for the phrase “going to war” are the highest that they have been at any point in recent years, and many people out there are starting to understand that the U.S. could soon be facing military conflicts in Syria and in North Korea simultaneously.

In response to persistent threats from the Trump administration, the North Koreans are promising that they will not hesitate to use nuclear weapons if they are attacked by the U.S. military.

In particular, an article that was just published in North Korea’s official state newspaper says that U.S bases in South Korea and the Pacific operation theater but also in the U.S. mainland would be targeted.

Most analysts do not believe that North Korea has any missiles that can reach the U.S. mainland, so that is probably an empty threat, but they can definitely hit Seoul, Tokyo and all U.S. military bases in South Korea and Japan.

And even if the U.S. was able to locate and take out all North Korean nukes in an overwhelming first strike, the North Koreans would still have thousands of artillery guns and rockets aimed at Seoul.  Military analysts in the western world have estimated that North Korea could fire off up to half a million rounds within one hour of being attacked, and the devastation that such a barrage would cause in Seoul would be beyond anything that we have ever seen in the modern world.

Personally, I have come to the conclusion that it is going to be nearly impossible to conduct a conventional military assault on North Korea that does not result in an absolutely catastrophic death toll.

Unfortunately, Donald Trump appears determined to do something anyway.  A couple of days ago we learned that he “has ordered his military advisers to be ready with a list of options to smash North Korea’s nuclear threat”, and on Tuesday he told the world that the U.S would “solve the problem” whether China helps or not…

Trump, who has urged China to do more to rein in its impoverished ally and neighbor, said in a tweet that North Korea was “looking for trouble” and the United States would “solve the problem” with or without Beijing’s help.

Just like he did with Syria, Trump’s words have now committed us to taking military action in North Korea.

Let us hope that any military action is delayed for as long as possible, but it is definitely alarming that Trump boasted to the Fox Business Network about the “very powerful” naval armada that is sailing toward North Korea right now

“We are sending an armada. Very powerful,” Trump told Fox Business Network. “We have submarines. Very powerful. Far more powerful than the aircraft carrier. That I can tell you.”

Meanwhile, it is being reported that the Chinese have deployed 150,000 troops to their border with North Korea as they continue to warn both sides against taking military action.

Over in the Middle East, things continue to get even more tense as well.

Russia and Iran have pledged to “respond with force” to any additional U.S. attacks, but the Trump administration is not showing any signs of backing down.  In fact, White House press secretary Sean Spicer has substantially lowered the threshold for more military conflict by suggesting that the use of “barrel bombs” may be enough to justify another attack.  Considering the fact that everyone in the Syrian civil war has been regularly using barrel bombs for many years and that approximately 13,000 were used in 2016 alone, it is very alarming for Spicer to say such a thing.

On Tuesday, Trump told the American people that “we’re not going into Syria”, but what happens if he orders another missile strike and the Russians and Iranians respond by shooting down some U.S. aircraft or by sinking an entire aircraft carrier?

I can guarantee you that members of Congress from both parties will be absolutely screaming for war if CNN starts endlessly playing footage of a U.S. aircraft carrier sinking after it has been struck by the Russians or by the Iranians.

We are so close to World War III erupting in the Middle East, and there was no need for the U.S. to get involved in the first place.  According to former CIA officer Philip Giraldi, evidence continues to mount that Assad had absolutely nothing to do with the chemical attack that Trump got so upset about…

Philip Giraldi, former CIA officer and director of the Council for the National Interest, stated on the Scott Horton show that “military and intelligence personnel” in the Middle East, who are “intimately familiar” with the intelligence, call the allegation that Assad or Russia carried out the attack a “sham.”

Giraldi said the intelligence confirms the Russian account, “which is that they [attacking aircraft] hit a warehouse where al-Qaeda rebels were storing chemicals of their own and it basically caused an explosion that resulted in the casualties.” Moreover, Giraldi noted, “Assad had no motive for doing this.”

Investors that can see the writing on the wall are already getting out of stocks and into precious metals while there is still time to do so.

Because if we get into a direct military conflict with Russia and Iran in Syria, global financial markets will crash and gold and silver will soar into the stratosphere.

And of course a similar scenario would play out if we attack North Korea and the North Koreans respond by firing off nuclear or chemical warheads at targets in South Korea and Japan.

I did not expect that we would be on the verge of World War III less than three months into the Trump administration, but here we are.

These are perilous times, and those that are wise are moving their money and are making key preparations before things spiral completely out of control.

Is It Just A Coincidence That The Dow Has Hit 20,000 At The Same Time The National Debt Is Reaching $20 Trillion?

Dow Fueled By DebtThe Dow Jones Industrial Average provides us with some pretty strong evidence that our “stock market boom” has been fueled by debt.  On Wednesday, the Dow crossed the 20,000 mark for the first time ever, and this comes at a time when the U.S. national debt is right on the verge of hitting 20 trillion dollars.  Is this just a coincidence?  As you will see, there has been a very close correlation between the national debt and the Dow Jones Industrial Average for a very long time.

For example, when Ronald Reagan took office in 1991, the U.S. national debt had just hit 994 billion dollars and the Dow was sitting at 951.  And as you can see from this chart by Matterhorn.gold via David Stockman, roughly that same ratio has held true throughout subsequent presidential administrations…

Dow Fueled By Debt

During the Clinton years the Dow raced out ahead of the national debt, but an “adjustment” during the Bush years brought things back into line.

The cold hard truth is that we have been living way above our means for decades.  Our “prosperity” has been fueled by the greatest debt binge in the history of the world, and we are greatly fooling ourselves if we think otherwise.

We would never have gotten to 20,000 on the Dow if Barack Obama and Congress had not gotten us into an extra 9.3 trillion dollars of debt over the past eight years.

Unfortunately, most people do not understand this, and the mainstream media is treating “Dow 20,000” as if it is some sort of great historical achievement

The average began tracking the most powerful corporate stocks in 1896, and has served as a broad measure of the market’s health through 22 presidents, 22 recessions, a Great Depression, at least two crashes and innumerable rallies, corrections, bull and bear markets. The blue chip reading finally cracked the 20,000 benchmark for the first time early Wednesday.

During the current bull market, the second longest in history, the Dow has more than tripled since March 2009.

Since Donald Trump’s surprise election victory, the Dow has now climbed by approximately 2150 points.

And it took just 64 calendar days for the Dow to go from 19,000 to 20,000.  That is an astounding pace, and financial markets around the rest of the planet are doing very well right now too.  In fact, global stocks rose to a 19 month high on Wednesday.

So where do we go from here?

Well, if Donald Trump wants to see Dow 30,000 during his presidency, then history tells us that he needs to take us to 30 trillion dollars in debt.

Of course that would be absolute insanity even if it was somehow possible.  Each additional dollar of debt destroys the future of our country just a little bit more, and at some point this colossal bubble is going to burst.

But you can’t tell most of the “financial experts” these things.  Most of them simply believe that the “market always goes higher over time”

The “market always goes higher over time,” Todd Morgan, chairman of Bel Air Investment Advisors. “The lesson here is that through wars, recessions, elections, impeachments, financial crises, and on and on, investing for the long term in high-quality stocks is the key to building wealth. … We are telling our clients that you can’t time the market. Think long term. Stay the course. We expect the market to see Dow 30,000 in my lifetime, and for my grandchildren to see Dow 50,000 in their lifetime.”

My hope is that the market will continue to go up.  But nobody can deny that valuations are already at absurdly high levels, and the only way that this party can keep going is to continue to fuel it with more and more debt.

But for the moment, there is a tremendous amount of optimism out there, and most experts expect the Dow to continue to set new highs.  In fact, CNBC says that whenever the Dow crosses a new threshold like this it usually means good things for investors…

CNBC looked at market data from the past 30 years and zeroed in on the times when the Dow has crossed levels like 2,000, 3,000, 4,000 … all the way up to the 19,000 level it hit in November. At those times, investors can typically expect traders to push it up even higher, according to data from Kensho. Not only does the Dow go up, but it outperforms the S&P 500 index along the way.

But as USA Today has explained, not all Americans are benefiting from this stock market rally…

The breakthrough came just four trading days into Trump’s presidency, a whirlwind in which the billionaire has reaffirmed his commitment to strengthen the U.S. economy and create more jobs and higher wages for workers. Still, nearly half of Americans have not benefited from the so-called “Trump Rally,” which has generated more than $2.2 trillion in paper gains for the Wilshire 5000 Total Stock Index since Election Day. The reason: only 52% of Americans polled by Gallup last April said they “have money invested in stocks” — the lowest stock ownership rate in the 19 years Gallup has tracked the data and down sharply from 65% in 2007 before the financial crisis.

Hopefully the good times will continue to roll for as long as possible.

But there is no possible way that they can keep going indefinitely.

For decades, our debt has been growing much faster than our GDP has.  By definition, this is an unsustainable situation.  At some point we will have accumulated so much debt that our financial system will no longer be able to hold up under the strain.

Many were convinced that we would reach that point before the U.S. national debt hit 20 trillion dollars, and yet here we are.

So how much higher can we go before the bubble bursts?

That is a very good question, and I don’t know if anyone has the right answer.

But for President Trump, this is going to present him with quite a dilemma.

Either he can keep the debt party going for as long as possible, or he can try to get us to take some tough financial medicine right now.

If an attempt is made to deal with our debt problems now, we will experience severe economic pain almost immediately.

But if the can keeps being kicked down the road, our long-term prognosis is just going to keep getting worse and worse.

And if we try to delay the inevitable indefinitely, at some point the laws of economics are going to make our hard choices for us.

So let us celebrate “Dow 20,000”, but let us also understand that it is far more likely that we will see “Dow 10,000” again before we ever see “Dow 30,000”.

Are We Being Set Up For A Crash? Stocks Hit A Level Only Seen During The Bubbles Of 1929, 2000 And 2007

stock-market-overvalued-public-domainWill the financial bubble that has been rapidly growing ever since Donald Trump won the election suddenly be popped once he takes office?  Could it be possible that we are being set up for a horrible financial crash that he will ultimately be blamed for?  Yesterday, I shared my thoughts on the incredible euphoria that we have seen since Donald Trump’s surprise victory on November 8th.  The U.S. dollar has been surging, companies are announcing that they are bringing jobs back to the U.S., and we are witnessing perhaps the greatest post-election stock market rally in Wall Street history.  In fact, the Dow, the Nasdaq and the S&P 500 all set new all-time record highs again on Thursday.  What we are seeing is absolutely unprecedented, and many believe that the good times will continue to roll as we head into 2017.

What has been most surprising to me is how well the stocks of the big Wall Street banks have been doing.  It is no secret that those banks poured a tremendous amount of money into Hillary Clinton’s campaign, and Donald Trump had some tough things to say about them leading up to election day.

So you wouldn’t think that it would be particularly good news for those banks that Trump won the election.  However, we seem to be living in “Bizarro World” at the moment, and in so many ways things are happening exactly the opposite of what we would expect.  Since Trump’s victory, all of the big banking stocks have been skyrocketing

Financial stocks in particular have been on fire. Citigroup (C) and JPMorgan Chase (JPM) are up about 20% since Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton — and that makes them laggards!

Morgan Stanley (MS) has gained more than 25%. So has troubled Wells Fargo (WFC), despite the lingering fallout from its fake account scandal. Bank of America (BAC) is up more than 30%.

And so is Goldman Sachs (GS) — the former employer of both Treasury Secretary nominee Steven Mnuchin and Trump chief strategist Steve Bannon.

But are these stock prices justified by the fundamentals?

Of course not, but during times of euphoria the fundamentals never seem to matter much.  Stocks were incredibly overvalued before the election, and now they are ridiculously overvalued.

Earlier today, a CNBC article pointed out that the cyclically-adjusted price to earnings ratio has only been higher than it is today at three points in our history…

“The cyclically adjusted P/E (CAPE), a valuation measure created by economist Robert Shiller now stands over 27 and has been exceeded only in the 1929 mania, the 2000 tech mania and the 2007 housing and stock bubble,” Alan Newman wrote in his Stock Market Crosscurrents letter at the end of November.

Newman said even if the market’s earnings increase by 10 percent under Trump’s policies “we’re still dealing with the same picture, overvaluation on a very grand scale.”

And of course a historic stock market crash immediately followed each of those three bubbles.

So are we being set up for a huge crash in early 2017?

There are some out there that believe that this is purposely being orchestrated.  For example, Mike Adams of Natural News believes that the markets “will be deliberately and destructively imploded under President Trump”

Right now, the U.S. stock market is surging, with the Dow leaping toward 20,000, a number rooted in fiscal insanity and delusional expectations. There are no fundamentals that support a 20,000 Dow, but fundamentals have long since ceased to matter in a financial world hyperventilating on debt fumes while hallucinating about utopian economic models that will soon prove to generate fools instead of real wealth.

Today I’m going on the record with a prediction that I’ll offer with near absolute certainty: The rigged markets that now seem to defy gravity will be deliberately and destructively imploded under President Trump for all the obvious reasons. There will be financial chaos like we’ve never seen before: Investors leaping off tall buildings, banks declaring extended “holidays” that freeze transactions, and California pensioners slitting their wrists after they discover their promised pension funds were just vaporized by incompetent bureaucrats.

On the other hand, there are others that believe that Trump is just walking into a very bad situation and that a crash would be inevitable no matter who was president.

History tells us that there is no possible way that stock prices can stay at this irrational level indefinitely.  But for now a wave of optimism is sweeping the nation, and many of those that are caught up in it will get seriously angry with you if you try to inject a dose of reality into the conversation.

But like I said yesterday, let’s hope that the optimists are correct.  A survey that was just taken of 600 business executives found that 62 percent of them were optimistic about the U.S. economy over the next 12 months.

Incredibly, that number was sitting at just 38 percent the previous quarter.

For the moment, business leaders seem to be quite thrilled that we have a business executive in the White House.

Hopefully Donald Trump’s business experience will translate well to his new position.  And it is certainly my hope that he is as successful as possible.

But even during the campaign Trump talked about how stocks were in a giant bubble, and the euphoria that we have seen since his election victory has just made that bubble even larger.

Throughout U.S. history, every giant financial bubble has always ended very badly, and this time around will not be any exception.

Trump may get the blame for it when it bursts, but the truth is that the conditions for the coming crisis have been building for a very, very long time.

Warren Buffett: Derivatives Are Still Weapons Of Mass Destruction And ‘Are Likely To Cause Big Trouble’

Nuclear War - Public DomainAfter all these years, the most famous investor in the world still believes that derivatives are financial weapons of mass destruction.  And you know what?  He is exactly right.  The next great global financial collapse that so many are warning about is nearly upon us, and when it arrives derivatives are going to play a starring role.  When many people hear the word “derivatives”, they tend to tune out because it is a word that sounds very complicated.  And without a doubt, derivatives can be enormously complex.  But what I try to do is to take complex subjects and break them down into simple terms.  At their core, derivatives represent nothing more than a legalized form of gambling.  A derivative is essentially a bet that something either will or will not happen in the future.  Ultimately, someone will win money and someone will lose money.  There are hundreds of trillions of dollars worth of these bets floating around out there, and one of these days this gigantic time bomb is going to go off and absolutely cripple the entire global financial system.

Back in 2002, legendary investor Warren Buffett shared the following thoughts about derivatives with shareholders of Berkshire Hathaway

The derivatives genie is now well out of the bottle, and these instruments will almost certainly multiply in variety and number until some event makes their toxicity clear. Central banks and governments have so
far found no effective way to control, or even monitor, the risks posed by these contracts. In my view, derivatives are financial weapons of mass destruction, carrying dangers that, while now latent, are potentially lethal.

Those words turned out to be quite prophetic.  Derivatives have definitely multiplied in variety and number since that time, and it has become abundantly clear how toxic they are.  Derivatives played a substantial role in the financial meltdown of 2008, but we still haven’t learned our lessons.  Today, the derivatives bubble is even larger than it was just before the last financial crisis, and it could absolutely devastate the global financial system at any time.

During one recent interview, Buffett was asked if he is still convinced that derivatives are “weapons of mass destruction”.  He told the interviewer that he believes that they are, and that “at some point they are likely to cause big trouble”

Thirteen years after describing derivatives as “weapons of mass destruction” Warren Buffett has reaffirmed his view that they pose a threat to the global economy and financial markets.

In an interview with Chanticleer this week, Buffett said that “at some point they are likely to cause big trouble“.

“Derivatives, lend themselves to huge amounts of speculation,” he said.

Most of the time, the big banks that do most of the trading in these derivatives do very well.  They use extremely sophisticated computer algorithms that help them come out on the winning end of these bets most of the time.

But when there is some sort of unforeseen event that suddenly causes a massive shift in the marketplace, that can cause tremendous problems.  This is something that Buffett discussed during his recent interview

“The problem arises when there is a discontinuity in the market for some reason or another.

“When the markets closed like it was for a few days after 9/11 or in World War I the market was closed for four or five months – anything that disrupts the continuity of the market when you have trillions of dollars of nominal amounts outstanding and no ability to settle up and who knows what happens when the market reopens,” he said.

So if the markets behave fairly calmly and predictably, the derivatives bubble probably will not burst.

But no balancing act of this nature ever lasts forever.  Just remember what happened in 2008.  Lehman Brothers collapsed and then the financial system virtually froze up.  According to Forbes, at that time almost everyone was afraid to deal with the big banks because nobody was quite sure how much exposure they had to these risky derivatives…

Fast forward to the financial meltdown of 2008 and what do we see? America again was celebrating. The economy was booming. Everyone seemed to be getting wealthier, even though the warning signs were everywhere: too much borrowing, foolish investments, greedy banks, regulators asleep at the wheel, politicians eager to promote home-ownership for those who couldn’t afford it, and distinguished analysts openly predicting this could only end badly. And then, when Lehman Bros fell, the financial system froze and world economy almost collapsed. Why?

The root cause wasn’t just the reckless lending and the excessive risk taking. The problem at the core was a lack of transparency. After Lehman’s collapse, no one could understand any particular bank’s risks from derivative trading and so no bank wanted to lend to or trade with any other bank. Because all the big banks’ had been involved to an unknown degree in risky derivative trading, no one could tell whether any particular financial institution might suddenly implode.

After the crisis, we were promised that something would be done about the “too big to fail” problem.

But instead, the problem of “too big to fail” is now larger than ever.

Since the last financial crisis, the four largest banks in the country have gotten approximately 40 percent larger.  Today, the five largest banks account for approximately 42 percent of all loans in the United States, and the six largest banks account for approximately 67 percent of all assets in our financial system.  Without those banks, we would not have much of an economy left at all.

Meanwhile, smaller banks have been going out of business or have been swallowed up by the big banks at a staggering rate.  Incredibly, there are 1,400 fewer small banks in operation today than there were when the last financial crisis erupted.

So we cannot afford for these “too big to fail” banks to actually fail.  Even the failure of a single one would cause a national financial nightmare.  The “too big to fail” banks that I am talking about are JPMorgan Chase, Citibank, Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, Morgan Stanley and Wells Fargo.  When you total up the exposure to derivatives that all of them currently have, it comes to a grand total of more than 278 trillion dollars.  But when you total up all of the assets of all six banks combined, it only comes to a grand total of about 9.8 trillion dollars.  In other words, the “too big to fail” banks have exposure to derivatives that is more than 28 times the size of their total assets.

I have shared the following numbers with my readers before, but it is absolutely crucial that we all understand how exceedingly vulnerable our financial system really is.  These numbers come directly from the OCC’s most recent quarterly report (see Table 2), and they reveal a recklessness that is almost beyond words…

JPMorgan Chase

Total Assets: $2,573,126,000,000 (about 2.6 trillion dollars)

Total Exposure To Derivatives: $63,600,246,000,000 (more than 63 trillion dollars)

Citibank

Total Assets: $1,842,530,000,000 (more than 1.8 trillion dollars)

Total Exposure To Derivatives: $59,951,603,000,000 (more than 59 trillion dollars)

Goldman Sachs

Total Assets: $856,301,000,000 (less than a trillion dollars)

Total Exposure To Derivatives: $57,312,558,000,000 (more than 57 trillion dollars)

Bank Of America

Total Assets: $2,106,796,000,000 (a little bit more than 2.1 trillion dollars)

Total Exposure To Derivatives: $54,224,084,000,000 (more than 54 trillion dollars)

Morgan Stanley

Total Assets: $801,382,000,000 (less than a trillion dollars)

Total Exposure To Derivatives: $38,546,879,000,000 (more than 38 trillion dollars)

Wells Fargo

Total Assets: $1,687,155,000,000 (about 1.7 trillion dollars)

Total Exposure To Derivatives: $5,302,422,000,000 (more than 5 trillion dollars)

Since the United States was first established, the U.S. government has run up a total debt of a bit more than 18 trillion dollars.  It is the biggest mountain of debt in the history of the planet, and it has grown so large that it is literally impossible for us to pay it off at this point.

But the top five banks in the list above each have exposure to derivatives that is more than twice the size of the national debt, and several of them have exposure to derivatives that is more than three times the size of the national debt.

That is why I keep saying that there will not be enough money in the entire world to bail everyone out when this derivatives bubble finally implodes.

Warren Buffett is entirely correct about derivatives – they truly are weapons of mass destruction that could destroy the entire global financial system at any time.

So as we move into the second half of this year and beyond, you will want to watch for terms like “derivatives crisis” or “derivatives crash” in news reports.  When derivatives start making front page news, that will be a really, really bad sign.

Our financial system has been transformed into the largest casino in the history of the planet.  For the moment, the roulette wheels are still spinning and everyone is happy.  But sooner or later, a “black swan event” will happen that nobody expected, and then all hell will break loose.

The Central Banks Are Losing Control Of The Financial Markets

Dollars And Euros - Public DomainEvery great con game eventually comes to an end.  For years, global central banks have been manipulating the financial marketplace with their monetary voodoo.  Somehow, they have convinced investors around the world to invest tens of trillions of dollars into bonds that provide a return that is way under the real rate of inflation.  For quite a long time I have been insisting that this is highly irrational.  Why would any rational investor want to put money into investments that will make them poorer on a purchasing power basis in the long run?  And when any central bank initiates a policy of “quantitative easing”, any rational investor should immediately start demanding a higher rate of return on the bonds of that nation.  Creating money out of thin air and pumping into the financial system devalues all existing money and creates inflation.  Therefore, rational investors should respond by driving interest rates up.  Instead, central banks told everyone that interest rates would be forced down, and that is precisely what happened.  But now things have shifted.  Investors are starting to behave more rationally and the central banks are starting to lose control of the financial markets, and that is a very bad sign for the rest of 2015.

And of course it isn’t just bond yields that are out of control.  No matter how hard they try, financial authorities in Europe can’t seem to fix the problems in Greece, and the problems in Italy, Spain, Portugal and France just continue to escalate as well.  This week, Greece became the very first nation to miss a payment to the IMF since the 1980s.  We’ll discuss that some more in a moment.

Over in Asia, stocks are fluctuating very wildly.  The Shanghai Composite Index plunged by 5.4 percent on Thursday before regaining all of those losses and actually closing with a gain of 0.8 percent.  When we see this kind of extreme volatility, it is a very bad sign.  It is during times of extreme volatility that markets crash.

Remember, stocks generally tend to go up during calm markets, and they generally tend to go down during choppy markets.  So most investors do not want to see lots of volatility.  Unfortunately, that is precisely what we are witnessing all over the world right now.  The following comes from the Wall Street Journal

Volatility over the last days has been breathtaking, especially in bond markets,” said Wouter Sturkenboom, senior investment strategist at Russell Investments. He said that it rippled through equity and currency markets, which overreacted.

The yield on the benchmark German 10-year bond touched 0.99%, its highest level since September, before erasing the day’s rise and falling back to 0.84%. The 10-year U.S. Treasury yield, which hit a fresh 2015 high of 2.42% earlier Thursday, recently fell back to 2.33%. Yields rise as prices fall.

Sometimes when bond yields go up, it is because investors are taking money out of bonds and putting it into stocks because they are feeling really good about where the stock market is heading.  This is not one of those times.  As Peter Tchir has noted, the huge moves in the bond market that we are now seeing are the result of “sheer panic in the market”

In a morning note before the open, Brean Capital’s Peter Tchir wrote: “It is time to reduce US equity holdings for the near term and look for a 3% to 5% move lower. The Treasury weakness is NOT a ‘risk on’ trade it is a ‘risk off’ trade, where low yields are viewed as a risk asset and not a safe haven.” And Tom di Galoma, head of fixed-income rates and credit at ED&F Man Capital Markets, told Bloomberg, “This is sheer panic in the market from the standpoint of what’s been happening in Europe … Most of Wall Street is guarded here as far as taking on new positions.”

But this wasn’t supposed to happen.

After watching the Federal Reserve be able to successfully use quantitative easing to drive down interest rates, the European Central Bank decided to try the same thing.  Unfortunately for them, investors are starting to behave more rationally.  The central banks are starting to lose control of the financial markets, and bond yields are soaring.  I think that Peter Boockvar summarized where we are currently at very well when he stated the following…

I’ve said this before but I’m sorry, I need to say it again. What we are witnessing in global markets is the inherent contradiction writ large that is modern day monetary policy where dangerously ZIRP, NIRP and QE are considered conventional policies. The contradiction is simply this: the desire for higher inflation if fulfilled will result in higher interest rates that central banks are trying so hard and desperately to suppress.

Outside of the short end of the curve, markets will always win for better or worse and that is clearly evident now. The ECB is getting their first taste of the market talking back and in quite the violent way. In the US, the bond market is watching the Fed drag its feet (its never-ending) with wanting to raise interest rates and finally said enough is enough. The US Treasury market is tightening for them. Since mid April, the 5 yr note yield is higher by 40 bps, the 10 yr is up by 55 bps and the 30 yr yield is up by 65 bps.

And if global investors continue to move in a rational direction, this is just the beginning.  Bond yields all over the planet should be much, much higher than they are right now.  What that means is that bond prices potentially have a tremendous amount of room to go down.

One thing that could accelerate the global bond crash is the crisis in Greece. Negotiations between the Greeks and their creditors have been dragging on for four months, and no agreement has been reached.  Now, Greece has missed the loan payment that was due to the IMF on June 5th, and it is asking the IMF to bundle all of the payments that are due this month into one giant payment at the end of June

Greece has asked to bundle its four debt payments to the International Monetary Fund that fall due in June so that it can pay them in one batch at the end of the month, Greek newspaper Kathimerini reported on Thursday.

The request is expected to be approved by the IMF, the newspaper said. That would mean Greece does not have to pay the first tranche of 300 million euros that falls due on Friday.

Greece faces a total bill of 1.5 billion euros owed to the IMF over four installments this month.

Of course that payment will not be made either if a deal does not happen by then.  And with each passing day, a deal seems less and less likely.  At this point, the package of “economic reforms” that the creditors are demanding from Greece is completely unacceptable to Syriza.  The following comes from an article in the Guardian

Fresh from talks in Brussels, Tsipras faced outrage on Thursday from highly skeptical members of his own Syriza party. A five-page ultimatum from creditors, presented by the European commission president, Jean-Claude Juncker, was variously described as shocking, provocative, disgraceful and dishonourable.

It will never pass,” said Greece’s deputy social security minister, Dimitris Stratoulis. “If they don’t back down, the country won’t be lost … there are alternatives that would cost less than our signing a disgraceful and dishonourable agreement.”

Ultimately, I don’t believe that we are going to see an agreement.

Why?

Well, I tend to agree with this bit of analysis from Andrew Lilico

The Eurozone does not want to make any compromise with the current Greek government because (a) they don’t believe they need to because Greek threats to leave the euro are empty both because internal polling suggests Greeks don’t want to leave and because if they did leave that doesn’t really constitute any threat to the euro; (b) because they (particularly perhaps Angela Merkel) believe that under enough pressure the Greek government might collapse and be replaced by a more cooperative government, as has happened repeatedly before in the Eurozone crisis including in Italy and Greece itself; and (c) because any deal with Greece that is seen to involve or be presentable as any victory for the Greek government would threaten the political positions of governments in several Eurozone states including Spain, Portugal, Italy, Finland and perhaps even the Netherlands and Germany.

Furthermore, it’s not clear to me that the Eurozone creditors at this stage would have much interest in any deal based upon promises, regardless of how much the Greek had verbally surrendered.  Things have gone too far now for mere words to work.  They would need to see the Greeks deliver actions — tangible economic reforms and tangible, credible primary surplus targets and a sustainable change in the long-term political mood within Greece that meant other Eurozone states might eventually get their money back.  That is almost certainly not doable at all with the current Greek government.  The only deal possible would be with some replacement Greek government that had come in precisely on the basis that it did want to do a deal and did want to pay the creditors back.

On the Syriza side, I see no more appetite for a deal.  They believe that austerity has been ruinous for the lives of Greeks and that decades more austerity would mean decades more Greek economic misery.  From their point of view, default or even exit from the euro, even if economically painful in the short term, would be better than continuing with austerity now.

You can read the rest of his excellent article right here.

Without a deal, the value of the euro is going to absolutely plummet and bond yields over in Europe will go through the roof.  I am fully convinced that this is the beginning of the end for the eurozone as it is currently constituted, and that we stand on the verge of a great European financial crisis.

And of course the financial crisis that is coming won’t just be in Europe.  The global financial system is more interconnected than ever, and there are tens of trillions of dollars in derivatives that are tied to foreign exchange rates and 505 trillion dollars in derivatives that are tied to interest rates.  When this giant house of cards collapses, the central banks won’t be able to stop it.

In the end, could we eventually see the entire central banking system itself totally collapse?

That is what Phoenix Capital Research believes is about to happen…

Last year (2014) will likely go down in history as the “beginning of the end” for the current global Central Banking system.

What will follow will be a gradual unfolding of the next crisis and very likely the collapse of the Central Banking system as we know it.

However, this process will not be fast by any means.

Central Banks and the political elite will fight tooth and nail to maintain the status quo, even if this means breaking the law (freezing bank accounts or funds to stop withdrawals) or closing down the markets (the Dow was closed for four and a half months during World War 1).

There will be Crashes and sharp drops in asset prices (20%-30%) here and there. However, history has shown us that when a financial system goes down, the overall process takes take several years, if not longer.

We stand at the precipice of the greatest economic transition that any of us have ever seen.

Even though things may seem very “normal” to most people right now, the truth is that the global financial system is fundamentally flawed, and cracks in the system are starting to appear all over the place.

When this system does collapse, it will take most people entirely by surprise.

But it shouldn’t.

All con games eventually fall apart in the end, and we are about to learn that lesson the hard way.

Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!