Shaken: 10 Economic Disasters Which Threaten To Rip World Financial Markets To Shreds

2011 has already been the most memorable year in ages and we haven’t even reached April yet.  Revolutions have swept the Middle East, an unprecedented earthquake and tsunami have hit Japan, civil war has erupted in Libya, the price of oil has been soaring and the entire globe is teetering on the brink of economic collapse.  It seems like almost everything that can be shaken is being shaken.  Unfortunately, it does not appear that things are going to settle down any time soon.  The Japanese economy has been dealt a critical blow, the European sovereign debt crisis could flare up again at any moment and the U.S. economy could potentially plunge into another recession by the end of the year.  The global economy and world financial markets were really struggling to recover even when things were relatively stable.  If all of this global instability gets even worse it could literally rip world financial markets apart.

Yes, things really are that bad.  The mainstream media has been really busy downplaying the economic impact of the disaster in Japan and the chaos in the Middle East, but the truth is that these events have huge implications for the global economy.  Today our world is more interconnected than ever, so economic pain in one area of the planet is going to have a significant effect on other areas of the globe.

The following are 10 economic disasters which could potentially rip world financial markets to shreds….

#1 War In Libya

Do you think that the “international community” would be intervening in Libya if they did not have a lot of oil?  If you actually believe that, you might want to review the last few decades of African history.  Millions upon millions of Africans have been slaughtered by incredibly repressive regimes and the “international community” did next to nothing about it.

But Libya is different.

Libya is the largest producer of oil in Africa.

Apparently the revolution in Libya was not going the way it was supposed to, so the U.S. and Europe are stepping in.

Moammar Gadhafi is vowing that this will be a “long war”, but the truth is that his forces don’t stand a chance against NATO.

Initially we were told that NATO would just be setting up a “no fly zone”, but there have already been reports of Libyan tank columns being assaulted and there has even been an air strike on Moammar Gadhafi’s personal compound in Tripoli.

So since when did a “no fly zone” include an attempt to kill a foreign head of state?

Let there be no mistake – the moment that the first Tomahawk cruise missiles were launched the United States declared war on Libya.

Already the Arab League, India, China and Russia have all objected to how this operation is being carried out and they are alarmed about the reports of civilian casualties.

Tensions around the globe are rising once again, and that is not a good thing for the world economy.

On a side note, does anyone recall anyone in the Obama administration even stopping for a moment to consider whether or not they should consult the U.S. Congress before starting another war?

The U.S. Constitution specifically requires the approval of the Congress before we go to war.

But very few people seem to care too much about what the U.S. Constitution says these days.

In any event, the flow of oil out of Libya is likely to be reduced for an extended period of time now, and that is not going to be good for a deeply struggling global economy.

#2 Revolutions In The Middle East

Protests just seem to keep spreading to more countries in the Middle East.  On Friday, five Syrian protesters were killed by government forces in the city of Daraa.  Subsequently, over the weekend thousands of protesters reportedly stormed government buildings in that city and set them on fire.

Things in the region just seem to get wilder and wilder.

Even in countries where the revolutions are supposed to be “over” there is still a lot of chaos.

Have you seen what has been going on in Egypt lately?

The truth is that all of North Africa and nearly the entire Middle East is aflame with revolutionary fervor.

About the only place where revolution has not broken out is in Saudi Arabia.  Of course it probably helps that the United States and Europe don’t really want a revolution in Saudi Arabia and the Saudis have a brutally effective secret police force.

In any event, as long as the chaos in the Middle East continues the price of oil is likely to remain very high, and that is not good news for the world economy.

#3 The Japanese Earthquake And Tsunami

Japan is the third largest economy in the world.  When a major disaster happens in that nation it has global implications.

The tsunami that just hit Japan was absolutely unprecedented.  Vast stretches of Japan have been more thoroughly destroyed than if they had been bombed by a foreign military power.  It really was a nation changing event.

The Japanese economy is going to be crippled for an extended period of time.  But it is not just Japan’s economy that has been deeply affected by this tragedy.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the recent disaster in Japan has caused supply chain disruptions all over the globe….

A shortage of Japanese-built electronic parts will force GM to close a plant in Zaragoza, Spain, on Monday and cancel shifts at a factory in Eisenach, Germany, on Monday and Tuesday, the company said Friday.

Not only that, GM has also suspended all “nonessential” spending globally as it evaluates the impact of this crisis.

The truth is that there are a whole host of industries that rely on parts from Japan.  Supply chains all over the world are going to have to be changed as a result of this crisis.  There are going to be some shortages of certain classes of products.

Japan is a nation that imports and exports tremendous quantities of goods.  At least for a while both imports and exports will be significantly down, and that is not good news for a world economy that was already having a really hard time recovering from the recent economic downturn.

#4 The Japan Nuclear Crisis

Even if the worst case scenario does not play out, the reality is that the crisis at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant is going to have a long lasting impact on the global economy.

Already, nuclear power projects all over the world are being rethought.  The nuclear power industry was really starting to gain some momentum in many areas of the globe, but now that has totally changed.

But of much greater concern is the potential effect that all of this radiation will have on the Japanese people.  Radiation from the disaster at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant is now showing up in food and tap water in Japan as an article on the website of USA Today recently described….

The government halted shipments of spinach from one area and raw milk from another near the nuclear plant after tests found iodine exceeded safety limits. But the contamination spread to spinach in three other prefectures and to more vegetables — canola and chrysanthemum greens. Tokyo’s tap water, where iodine turned up Friday, now has cesium.

Hopefully the authorities in Japan will be able to get this situation under control before Tokyo is affected too much.  The truth is that Tokyo is one of the most economically important cities on the planet.

But right now there is a lot of uncertainty surrounding Tokyo.  For example, one very large German real estate fund says that their holdings in Tokyo are now “impossible to value” and they have suspended all customer withdrawals from the fund.

Once again, let us hope that a worst case scenario does not happen.  But if we do get to the point where most of the population had to be evacuated from Tokyo for an extended period of time it would be absolutely devastating for the global economy.

#5 The Price Of Oil

Most people believe that the U.S. dollar is the currency of the world, but really it is oil.  Without oil, the global economy that we have constructed simply could not function.

That is why it was so alarming when the price of oil went above $100 a barrel earlier this year for the first time since 2008.  Virtually everyone agrees that if the price of oil stays high for an extended period of time it will have a highly negative impact on the world economy.

In particular, the U.S. economy is highly, highly dependent on cheap oil.  This country is really spread out and we transport goods and services over vast distances.  That is why the following facts are so alarming….

*The average price of a gallon of gasoline in the United States is now 75 cents higher than it was a year ago.

*In San Francisco, California, the average price of a gallon of gasoline is now $3.97.

*According to the Oil Price Information Service, U.S. drivers spent an average of $347 on gasoline during the month of February, which was 30 percent more than a year earlier.

*According to the U.S. Energy Department, the average U.S. household will spend approximately $700 more on gasoline in 2011 than it did during 2010.

#6 Food Inflation

Many people believe that the rapidly rising price of food has been a major factor in sparking the revolutions that we have seen in Africa and the Middle East.  When people cannot feed themselves or their families they tend to lose it.

According to the United Nations, the global price of food hit a new all-time high earlier this year, and the UN is expecting the price of food to continue to go up throughout the rest of this year.  Food supplies were already tight around the globe and this is certainly not going to help things.

The price of food has also been going up rapidly inside the United States.  Last month the price of food in the United States rose at the fastest rate in 36 years.

American families are really starting to feel their budgets stretched.  According to the U.S. Labor Department, the cost of living in the United States hit a brand new all-time record high in the month of February.

What this means is that U.S. families are going to have less discretionary income to spend at the stores and that is bad news for the world economy.

#7 The European Sovereign Debt Crisis

Several European governments have had their debt downgraded in the past several months.  Portugal, Spain, Greece and Ireland are all in big time trouble.  Several other European nations are not far behind them.

Right now Germany seems content to bail the “weak sisters” in Europe out, but if that changes at some point it is going to be an absolute nightmare for world financial markets.

#8 The Dying U.S. Dollar

Right now there is a lot of anxiety about the U.S. dollar.  Prior to the tsunami, Japan was one of the primary purchasers of U.S. government debt.  In fact, Japan was the second-largest foreign buyer of U.S. Treasuries last year.

But now as Japan rebuilds from this nightmare it is not going to have capital to invest overseas.  Someone else is going to have to step in and buy up all of the debt that the Japanese were buying.

Not only that, but big bond funds such as PIMCO have announced that they are stepping away from U.S. Treasuries at least for now.

So if Japan is not buying U.S. Treasuries and bond funds such as PIMCO are not buying U.S. Treasuries, then who is going to be buying them?

The U.S. government needs to borrow trillions of dollars this year alone to roll over existing debt and to finance new debt.  All of that borrowing has got to come from somewhere.

#9 The U.S. Housing Market

The U.S. housing market could potentially be on the verge of another major crisis.  Just consider the following facts….

*In February, U.S. housing starts experienced their largest decline in 27 years.

*Deutsche Bank is projecting that 48 percent of all U.S. mortgages could have negative equity by the end of 2011.

*Two years ago, the average U.S. homeowner that was being foreclosed upon had not made a mortgage payment in 11 months.  Today, the average U.S. homeowner that is being foreclosed upon has not made a mortgage payment in 17 months.

*In September 2008, 33 percent of Americans knew someone who had been foreclosed upon or who was facing the threat of foreclosure.  Today that number has risen to 48 percent.

#10 The Derivatives Bubble

Most Americans do not even understand what derivatives are, but the truth is that they are one of the biggest threats to our financial system.  Some experts estimate that the worldwide derivatives bubble is somewhere in the neighborhood of a quadrillion dollars.  This bubble could burst at any time.  Right now we are watching the greatest financial casino in the history of the globe spin around and around and around and everyone is hoping that at some point it doesn’t stop.  Today, most money on Wall Street is not made by investing in good business ideas.  Rather, most money on Wall Street is now made by making shrewd bets.  Unfortunately, at some point the casino is going to come crashing down and the game will be over.

Most people simply do not realize how fragile the global economy is at this point.

The financial crash of 2008 was a devastating blow.  The next wave of the economic crisis could be even worse.

So what will the rest of 2011 bring?

Well, nobody knows for sure, but a lot of experts are not optimistic.

David Rosenberg, the chief economist at Gluskin Sheff and Associates, is warning that the second half of the year could be very rough for the global economy….

“A sharp slowing in global GDP in the second half of the year cannot be ruled out.”

Let us hope that the world economy can hold together and that we can get through the rest of 2011 okay.  The last thing we need is a repeat of 2008.  The world could use some peace and some time to recover.

But unfortunately, we live in a world that is becoming increasingly unstable.  With the way that the world has been lately, perhaps we should all just start to expect the unexpected.

But world financial markets do not respond well to instability and unpredictability.  In fact, investors tend to start fleeing to safety at the first signs of danger these days.

Most Americans simply have no idea how vulnerable the world financial system is at this point.  Nothing really got “fixed” after 2008.  If anything, global financial markets are even more fragile than they were back then.

So what do all of you think about the state of the global economy?  Please feel free to leave a comment with your opinion below….

Recession 2010?

If you watch any mainstream news program these days, it is almost a certainty that someone will mention the word “recession” before a half hour passes.  In fact, it seems like almost everyone is either predicting that we are going into a recession, or they are warning of the need to avoid a recession or they are proclaiming that we are still in a recession.  So will the U.S. economy once again be in recession in 2010?  When you consider all the signs that are pointing that way, the evidence is compelling.  The truth is that there is bad economic news wherever you turn.  There is bad news in the housing industry.  There is bad news in the financial markets.  There is bad news in the banking system.  There is bad news coming out of Europe.  There are even signs that the bubble in China may be about to burst.  Plus, the economic impact of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill could end up being the straw (or the gigantic concrete slab) that really breaks the camel’s back.  So there are certainly a lot of pieces of news that “gloom and doom” economists can hang their hats on these days.  There is a very dark mood in world financial markets right now, and it seems like almost everyone is waiting for the other shoe to drop.  But does all of this really mean that we are looking at the start of another recession before the end of 2010?   

The truth is that nobody really knows.  Things certainly look very ominous out there.  The dark clouds are gathering and the economic winds are starting to blow in a bad direction.  The following are 24 pieces of evidence that do seem to indicate that very difficult economic times are imminent….

-U.S. Treasury yields have dropped to stunning new lows.  So why are they so low?  Well, it is because so many investors are anticipating that we are headed into a deflationary period.  In fact, many economists are warning that the fact that Treasury yields are so low is one of the clearest signs that economic trouble is ahead.

-The Conference Board’s Consumer Confidence Index declined sharply to 52.9 in June.  Most economists had expected that the figure for June would be somewhere around 62.  If consumers aren’t confident they won’t be spending money.  If American consumers don’t start spending money soon a lot of American retailers are going to go belly up.

-The M3 money supply plunged at a 9.6 percent annual rate during the first quarter of 2010.  If the M3 keeps declining at that kind of a rate it is going to put extreme deflationary pressure on the U.S. economy.

-Many economists are now warning that the “China investment bubble” is about to burst.  In fact, Kenneth Rogoff, Harvard University professor and former chief economist of the International Monetary Fund, claims that China’s property market is beginning a “collapse” that will send a shockwave across the globe.  One prominent economist that specializes in China is even forecasting that property prices in major Chinese cities are likely to soon experience a drop of up to 30 percent.

-Nouriel Roubini is warning that Europe’s economy could stop growing as soon as this year.  Back in 2007 and 2008, the U.S. was the epicenter of the financial crisis, but many analysts believe that it will be Europe this time around.

-Vacancies and lease rates at U.S. shopping centers continued to get worse during the second quarter of 2010.  If things don’t pick up soon will we see half empty shopping malls by the time Christmas rolls around?

-CBS News is reporting that the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is hurting businesses “from coast to coast”.  The longer this oil spill goes on the bigger of an impact it is going to have.  The cost to the American economy from this disaster could ultimately be in the trillions.

-Some analysts are warning that if BP goes under as a result of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill that it could cause the total collapse of the worldwide derivatives market and unleash a liquidity crisis unlike anything the world financial system has ever seen.

-The state of Illinois has stopped paying most of its bills and yet the flood of red ink continues to get even worse.  Illinois now ranks eighth in the world in possible bond-holder default.  That is even worse than California.

-Speaking of California, the Schwarzenegger administration has won an appellate court ruling saying it has the authority to impose the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour on more than 200,000 state workers as California wrestles with its latest budget crisis.

-Things are so bad at the state level in the U.S. that economist Mark Zandi is projecting that up to 400,000 workers could lose their jobs in the next year as states, counties and cities struggle with lower tax revenues and significantly reduced federal funding.

-Two Federal Reserve officials recently said that U.S. unemployment is likely to stay high for a long time.  Normally Fed officials are some of the biggest cheerleaders for the economy.  If they are not optimistic about the employment situation that is a very bad sign.

-Analysts are warning that the “death cross” is coming.  The Standard & Poor’s 500 50-day moving average is about to cross beneath the 200-day moving average, and many economists say that this is a very strong indication that a new recession is about to begin.

-One prominent trader says that the Dow Jones Industrial Average is repeating a pattern that appeared just before financial markets collapsed during the Great Depression.

-Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, one of the most respected financial columnists in the world, really raised eyebrows recently when he declared that this “really is starting to feel like 1932”.

-In the month of May, sales of new homes in the United States dropped to the lowest level on record.

-The National Association of Realtors recently announced that its seasonally adjusted index of sales agreements for previously occupied homes dropped 30 percent in May.

-It is being reported that sales of foreclosed homes in Florida made up nearly 40 percent of all home purchases in the state during the first part of 2010.

-Politicians across Europe have pledged to dramatically cut their national budgets, and many economists are warning that such a dramatic pullback in public sector spending could cause a very significant slowdown of the European economy.

-Banks in the U.K. are being instructed to hoard cash in preparation for the next financial crisis.

-One recent poll found that 76 percent of Americans believe that the U.S. economy is actually still in a recession.

-The average duration of unemployment in the United States has risen to an all-time high.  Millions of unemployed Americans are fighting off deep despair and depression as they find it nearly impossible to find a decent job.

-Small and mid-size banks across the United States are failing at a rapidly accelerating pace.  The truth is that the entire U.S. banking system is teetering on the brink of disaster.

-At this point just about everyone can see the writing on the wall.  Literally dozens of top economists and world leaders are declaring that we are likely to enter the second leg of a “double-dip recession” at some point over the next twelve months.

So yes, things are really, really bad.

Those who want to forecast a coming recession don’t have to look too far for data that will back them up. 

But wait.

There is actually one prominent economist who says that it is virtually impossible that the United States will experience a recession in the next six months.

Goldman Sachs economist Andrew Tilton says that there is “no way in hell” that the U.S. economy is going into a recession.  To be more precise, Tilton says that there is a 1.6% chance that the U.S. economy will be in a recession six months from now.

So according to Tilton, there is a 98.4% chance (and he has computer models that supposedly back him up) that the U.S. economy will be growing when we reach the end of the year.

So what is actually going to happen?

Who knows.

The truth is that so many of these economists are so caught up in what is happening in the short-term that they are missing the bigger picture.

The bigger picture is that the U.S. economy is more over-leveraged than it ever has been before, and we are caught in a debt spiral that is basically impossible to unwind.

So in the final analysis it really doesn’t matter if we are “officially” in a recession by the end of 2010 or not.  The truth is that the United States is headed for a devastating long-term economic collapse and there isn’t much that anyone can do to change that reality at this point.

25 Signs That Almost Everyone Is Expecting An Economic Collapse In 2010

At times like these, it is hardly going out on a limb to say that we are headed for hard economic times.  In fact, it seems like almost everyone in the financial world is either declaring that a recession is coming or is busy preparing for one.  The truth is that bad economic signs are everywhere.  Consumer confidence is plummeting, big banks are hoarding cash, top financial experts are issuing recession warnings and it seems like almost everyone is trying to accumulate as much gold as possible.  Now that the G20 nations have all pledged to dramatically cut government spending in an effort to get debt under control, worries about a double-dip recession have reached a fever pitch.  So will we see the full-fledged economic collapse that so many analysts are warning of before the end of 2010?  Of course it is possible, but it seems much more likely that  we will just see the beginning of another recession that could certainly deepen into a depression as we head into 2011 and 2012.  There are so many variables and so many moving parts that it is always difficult to predict exactly how things will play out.  What does seem virtually certain, however, is that we are heading into a time of extreme economic stress.

The following are 25 signs that almost everyone in the financial world is expecting an economic downturn during the second half of 2010….

#1) The Conference Board’s Consumer Confidence Index declined sharply to 52.9 in June.  Most economists had expected that the figure for June would be somewhere around 62.  To get an idea of how bad this is, the index was at 100 back during the baseline year of 1985.

#2) Major banks are being instructed to hoard cash in preparation for the next financial crisis.

#3) French bank Societe Generale is forecasting that gold could reach $1,430 an ounce in the third quarter of this year due to fears of a double-dip recession.

#4) Paul Krugman of the New York Times declared in a recent column that we are about to enter “the third depression”.

#5) According to one recent poll, about eight out of every 10 Americans expect the Gulf of Mexico oil spill to damage the U.S. economy and drive up the cost of gas and food.

#6) Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody’s Analytics, is not optimistic about the chances of avoiding another recession….

“There’s an uncomfortably high probability that we slip back into recession.”

#7) The U.S. Department of Agriculture is forecasting that the number of Americans on food stamps will increase to 43 million in 2011.

#8) George Soros claims that a European recession in the coming months is “almost inevitable”.

#9) Kevin Giddis, the Managing Director of Fixed Income at Morgan Keegan says that a lot of people are making some really large financial bets that a recession is on the way….

“There is big money making big bets that at a minimum we we’ll have a recession if not a depression that could last for years.”

#10) The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities recently said that U.S. states in fiscal 2011 could be facing the worst budget situation that they have experienced since the economic downturn began in 2007.

#11) Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke is publicly saying that the U.S. unemployment rate is quite likely to remain “high for a while”.

#12) The National League of Cities is warning that large numbers of cities across the U.S. will be facing horrible economic conditions over the next couple of years….

“City budget shortfalls will become more severe over the next two years as tax collections catch up with economic conditions.  These will inevitably result in new rounds of layoffs, service cuts, and canceled projects and contracts.”

#13) According to the Wall Street Journal, debates have already begun inside the Federal Reserve about what to do in the event of a “double-dip” recession.

#14) In May, sales of new homes in the United States dropped to the lowest level ever recorded.  The truth is that the American people know economic hard times are coming and so they aren’t running out and buying expensive new homes that they can’t afford.

#15) Mike Whitney says that without more “stimulus” from the federal government a recession by the end of 2010 is extremely likely….

“Without another boost of stimulus, the economy will lapse back into recession sometime by the end of 2010.”

#16) One recent poll found that 76 percent of Americans believe that the U.S. economy is still in a recession.

#17) Richard Russell, the famous author of the Dow Theory Letters, is not mincing words about what he believes is headed our way….

“Do your friends a favor. Tell them to “batten down the hatches” because there’s a HARD RAIN coming. Tell them to get out of debt and sell anything they can sell (and don’t need) in order to get liquid. Tell them that Richard Russell says that by the end of this year they won’t recognize the country. They’ll retort, “How the dickens does Russell know — who told him?” Tell them the stock market told him.”

#18) The Bank of International Settlements said in its annual report that major banks on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean continue to remain “highly leveraged and still appear to be on life support”.

#19) Mish Shedlock recently raised eyebrows by openly proclaiming that “an economic depression is here”.

#20) Bob Chapman of the International Forecaster is very pessimistic about the state of the world economy as we head into the second half of 2010….

“There is still no question in our minds that Greece was a setup to lead to a deflationary collapse later and the Greek people refused to listen. As a result it is now apparent that Greece is even worse off than the elitists imagined. We do not see European bailouts going any further. The result is the US and UK will follow. Financial Europe is history. You should all keep in mind that this is child’s play. Wait until England and the US go down, perhaps before the end of the year.”

#21) An article on Bloomberg’s website says that 46 U.S. states are facing a “Greek style” financial crisis.

#22) Charles Cooper at Oriel Securities says that worries about the global economy right now are actually very good for the price of gold….

“Debt on government balance sheets and worries that the world could be heading towards a double-dip recession are driving the gold price higher.”

#23) Richard Suttmeier recently wrote an article for Forbes magazine in which he predicted that we are headed for another dramatic decline in housing prices….

Home prices will decline again with risk of another 50% down to get house prices back to levels of 1999 / 2000.

#24) University of Maryland professor Peter Morici is warning that the decision by European governments to slash their budgets makes the prospect of another recession much more likely….

“Europeans cutting their budgets now could thrust the global economy into a double-dip recession.”

#25) John P. Hussman, fund manager of Hussman Strategic Total Return and Hussman Strategic Growth, has issued a full-fledged recession warning: “Based on evidence that has always and only been observed during or immediately prior to U.S. recessions, the U.S. economy appears headed into a second leg of an unusually challenging downturn.”

So in light of all this, what should we all do?

We should all start preparing for difficult times.

Now is a great time to get out of debt, to reduce expenses, to develop additional streams of income and to start storing up food and supplies for when things really fall apart.

After all, you don’t start preparing once the storm has already arrived.  You start preparing the moment that you see the first signs of trouble on the horizon.

There is no excuse for not getting yourself prepared.  The signs that we are headed towards an economic nightmare are all around us.

Do what you have to do for yourself and for your family.

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