I Can’t Take It Anymore! When Will The Government Quit Putting Out Fraudulent Employment Statistics?

On Friday, the entire financial world celebrated when it was announced that the unemployment rate in the United States had fallen to 8.3 percent. That is the lowest it has been since February 2009, and it came as an unexpected surprise for financial markets that are hungry for some good news.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, nonfarm payrolls jumped by 243,000 during the month of January.  You can read the full employment report right here.  Based on this news, pundits all over the world were declaring that the U.S. economy is back.  Stocks continued to rise on Friday and the Dow is hovering near a 4 year high.  So does this mean that our economic problems are over?  Of course not.  A closer look at the numbers reveals just how fraudulent these employment statistics really are.  Between December 2011 and January 2012, the number of Americans “not in the labor force” increased by a whopping 1.2 million.  That was the largest increase ever in that category for a single month.  That is how the federal government is getting the unemployment rate to go down.  The government is simply pretending that huge numbers of unemployed Americans don’t want to be part of the labor force anymore.  As you will see below, the employment situation in America is not improving.  Yet everyone in the mainstream media is dancing around as if the economic crisis has been cancelled.  I can’t take it anymore!  It is beyond ridiculous that so many intelligent people continue to buy in to such fraudulent numbers.

The truth is that the labor force participation rate declined dramatically in January.  For those unfamiliar with this statistic, the labor force participation rate is the percentage of working age Americans that are either employed or that are unemployed and considered to be looking for a job.

As you can see from the chart posted below, the labor force participation rate rose steadily between 1970 and 2000.  That happened because large numbers of women were entering the labor force for the first time.

The labor force participation rate peaked at a little more then 67 percent in the late 90s.  Between 2000 and the start of the recent recession, it declined slightly to about 66 percent.

Since then, it has been dropping like a rock.  The chart below does not even include the latest data.  In January, the labor force participation rate was only 63.7 percent.  That is the lowest that is has been since May 1983.  So keep that in mind as you view the chart.

In reality, the percentage of men and women in the United States that would like to have jobs is almost certainly about the same as it was back in 2007 or 2008.  There has been no major social change that would cause large numbers of men or women to want to give up their careers.  So there is something very, very fishy with this chart….

The federal government has been pretending that millions of unemployed Americans have decided that they simply do not want jobs anymore.

This does not make sense at all.

The truth is that unemployment is not really declining at all.  The percentage of Americans that are working is not increasing.  The civilian employment-population ratio dropped like a rock during 2008 and 2009 and it has held very steady since that time.

In January, the civilian employment-population ratio once again held steady at 58.5 percent.  This is about where it has been for most of the last two years….

Does that chart look like an “economic recovery” to you?

Of course not.

If the percentage of people that are employed is about the same as it was two years ago, does that represent an improvement?

Of course not.

If the employment situation in America was getting better, the civilian employment-population ratio would be bouncing back.

We should be thankful that our economy is not free falling like it was during 2008 and 2009, but we also need to understand why things have stabilized.

The federal government is spending money like there is no tomorrow.  During 2011, the Obama administration stole an average of about 150 million dollars an hour from our children and our grandchildren and pumped it into the economy.  Even though the Obama administration spent that money on a lot of frivolous things, it still got into the pockets of average Americans who in turn went out and spent it on food, gas, clothes and other things.

Without all of this reckless government spending, we would not be able to continue to live way above our means and our economic problems would be a lot worse.

But even with the federal government borrowing and spending unprecedented amount of money, and even with interest rates at record lows, our economy is still deeply struggling.  Just consider the following facts….

-New home sales in the United States hit a brand new all-time record low during 2011.

-The average duration of unemployment in America is close to an all-time record high.

-The percentage of Americans living in “extreme poverty” is at an all-time high.

-The number of Americans on food stamps recently hit a new all-time high.

-According to the Census Bureau, an all-time record 49 percent of all Americans live in a home that gets direct monetary benefits from the federal government.  Back in 1983, less than a third of all Americans lived in a home that received direct monetary benefits from the federal government.

So let’s not get too excited about the economy.

Yes, things have somewhat stabilized.  The percentage of Americans that have jobs is about the same as it was two years ago.  Considering how rapidly jobs are being shipped out of the United States, that is a good thing.

Enjoy this false bubble of hope while you can.  Things are about to get a lot worse.

Do you remember how rapidly things fell apart after the financial crisis of 2008?

Well, another major financial crisis is on the way.  This time it is going to be centered in Europe initially, but it is going to spread all around the globe just like the last one did.

As the charts above show, we have never even come close to recovering from the last recession, and another one is on the way.

So how bad are things going to get after the next wave of the financial crisis hits us?

That is something that we should all be thinking about.

A 634 Point Stock Market Crash And 8 More Reasons Why You Should Be Deeply Concerned That The U.S. Government Has Lost Its AAA Credit Rating

Are you ready for part two of the global financial collapse?  Many now fear that we may be on the verge of a repeat of 2008 after the events of the last several days.  On Friday, Standard & Poor’s stripped the U.S. government of its AAA credit rating for the first time in history.  World financial markets had been anticipating a potential downgrade, but that still didn’t stop panic from ensuing as this week began.  On Monday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 634.76 points, which represented a 5.5 percent plunge.  It was the largest one day point decline and the largest one day percentage decline since December 1, 2008.  Overall, stocks have fallen by about 15 percent over the past two weeks.  When Standard & Poor’s downgraded long-term U.S. government debt from AAA to AA+, it was just one more indication that faith in the U.S. financial system is faltering.  Previously, U.S. government debt had a AAA rating from S&P continuously since 1941, but now that streak is over.   Nobody is quite sure what comes next.  We truly are in unprecedented territory.  But one thing is for sure – there is a lot of fear in the air right now.

So exactly what caused S&P to downgrade U.S. government debt?

Well, it was the debt ceiling deal that broke the camel’s back.

According to S&P, the debt ceiling deal “falls short of what, in our view, would be necessary to stabilize the government’s medium-term debt dynamics.”

As I have written about previously, the debt ceiling deal was a complete and total joke, and S&P realized this.

Forget all of the huge figures that the mainstream media has been throwing at you concerning this debt ceiling deal.  The only numbers that matter are for what happens before the next election.

The only way that the current debt ceiling deal will last beyond the 2012 election is if Obama is still president, the Democrats still control the Senate and the Republicans still control the House.  If any of those things change, this deal ceiling deal is dead as soon as the election is over.

Even if all of those things remain the same, there is still a very good chance that we would see dramatic changes to the deal after the next election.

So in evaluating this “deal”, the important thing is to look at what is going to happen prior to the 2012 election.

When we examine this “deal” that way, what does it look like?

Well, Barack Obama and the Democrats get the debt ceiling raised by over 2 trillion dollars and will not have to worry about it again until after the 2012 election.

The Republicans get 25 billion dollars in “savings” from spending increases that will be cancelled.

The “Super Congress” that is supposed to be coming up with the second phase of the plan may propose some additional “spending cuts” that would go into effect before the 2012 election, but that seems unlikely.

So in the final analysis, the Democrats won the debt ceiling battle by a landslide.

25 billion dollars is not even 1 percent of the federal budget.  The U.S. national debt continues to spiral wildly out of control, and our politicians could not even cut the budget by one percent.

Somehow our politicians believed that the rest of the world would be convinced that they were serious about cutting the budget, but it turns out that global financial markets are tired of getting fooled.

It has gotten to the point where now even the big credit rating agencies are being forced to do something.  Not that they really have much credibility left.  Everyone still remembers all of those AAA-rated mortgage-backed securities that imploded during the last financial crisis.  The reality is that the big credit rating agencies are a bad joke at this point.

Several smaller credit rating agencies have already significantly slashed the credit rating of the U.S. government.  But a lot of pressure had been put on the “big three” to keep them in line.

But now things have gotten so ridiculous that S&P felt forced to make a move.

Sadly, our politicians are still trying to maintain the charade that everything is okay.  Barack Obama says that financial markets “still believe our credit is AAA and the world’s investors agree”.

Once again, Barack Obama is dead wrong.

The truth is that the credit rating for the U.S. government should have been slashed significantly a long time ago.  This move by S&P was way, way overdue.

Moody’s might be the next one to issue a downgrade.  At the moment, Moody’s says that it will not be downgrading U.S. debt for now, but Moody’s also says that it has serious doubts about the enforceability of the “budget cuts” in the debt ceiling deal.

This crisis is just beginning.  It is going to play out over time, and it is going to be very messy.

The following are 8 more reasons why you should be deeply concerned that the U.S. government has lost its AAA credit rating….

#1 The U.S. dollar and U.S. government debt are at the very heart of the global financial system.  This credit rating downgrade just doesn’t affect the United States – it literally shakes the financial foundations of the entire world.

#2 As the stock market crashes, investors are flocking to U.S. Treasuries right now.  However, once the current panic is over the U.S. could be faced with increased borrowing costs.  The credit rating downgrade is a signal to investors that they should be receiving a higher rate of return for investing in U.S. government debt.  If interest rates on U.S. government debt do end up going up, that is going to make it more expensive for the U.S. government to borrow money.  The higher interest on the national debt goes, the more difficult it is going to become to balance the budget.

#3 We could literally see hundreds of other credit rating downgrades now that long-term U.S. government debt has been downgraded.  For example, S&P has already slashed the credit ratings of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac from AAA to AA+.  S&P has also already begun to downgrade the credit ratings of states and municipalities.  Nobody is quite sure when we are going to see the dominoes stop falling, and this is not going to be a good thing for the U.S. economy.

#4 10-year U.S. Treasuries are the basis for a whole lot of other interest rates throughout our economy.  If we see the rate for 10-year U.S. Treasuries go up significantly, it will suddenly become a lot more expensive to get a car loan or a home loan.

#5 The current financial panic caused by this downgrade is hitting financial stocks really hard.  The big banks led the decline back in 2008, and it looks like it might be happening again.  Just check out what CNN says happened to financial stocks on Monday….

Financial stocks were among the hardest hit, with Bank of America (BAC, Fortune 500) plunging 20%, and Citigroup (C, Fortune 500) and Morgan Stanley (MS, Fortune 500) dropped roughly 15%.

#6 China is freaking out. China’s official news agency says that China “has every right now to demand the United States to address its structural debt problems and ensure the safety of China’s dollar assets”.  If China starts dumping U.S. government debt that would make things a lot worse.

#7 There are already calls for the Federal Reserve to step in and do something.  If the U.S. economy drops into another recession, will we see more quantitative easing?  It seems like we have reached a point where the Fed is constantly in “emergency mode”.

#8 The U.S. national debt continues to get worse by the day.  Just check out what economics professor Laurence J. Kotlikoff recently told NPR….

“If you add up all the promises that have been made for spending obligations, including defense expenditures, and you subtract all the taxes that we expect to collect, the difference is $211 trillion. That’s the fiscal gap”

Dick Cheney once said that “deficits don’t matter”, but the truth is that all of the debt we have been piling up for decades is now catching up with us.

The United States is in such a huge amount of financial trouble that it is hard to put into words.  The days of easy borrowing for the U.S government are starting to come to an end.  We have been living in the greatest debt bubble in the history of the world, and it has fueled a tremendous amount of “prosperity”, but now the party is ending.

A whole lot of financial pain is on the horizon.  Please prepare for the hard times that are coming.

18 Signs That Global Financial Markets Smell Blood In The Water

Can you smell it?  There is blood in the water.  Global financial markets are in turmoil.  Banking stocks are getting slaughtered right now.  European bond yields are absolutely soaring.  Major corporations are announcing huge layoffs.  The entire global financial system appears to be racing toward another major crisis.  So could we potentially see a repeat of 2008?  Sadly, when the next big financial crisis happens it might be worse than 2008.  Back in the middle of 2008, the U.S. national debt was less than 10 trillion dollars.  Today it is over 14 trillion dollars. Back in 2008, none of the countries in the EU were on the verge of financial collapse.  Today, several of them are.  This time if the global financial system starts falling apart the big governments around the world are not going to be able to do nearly as much to support it.  That is why what is happening right now is so alarming.  As signs of weakness spread, the short sellers and the speculators are starting to circle.  They can smell the money.

Back in 2008, bank stocks led the decline.  Today, that appears to be happening again.  The “too big to fail” banks are getting absolutely pummeled right now.  Most people don’t have much sympathy for the banksters, but if we do see a repeat of 2008 they are going to be cutting off credit and begging for massive bailouts once again, and that would not be good news for the economy.

In Europe, the EU sovereign debt crisis just seems to get worse by the day.  Bond yields for the PIIGS are going haywire.  The higher the yields go, the worse the crisis is going to get.

Meanwhile, as I have written about previously, a bad mood has descended on world financial markets. Pessimism is everywhere and fear is spreading.  The short sellers and the speculators are eager to jump on any sign of weakness.  Investors all over the globe are extremely nervous right now.

So what happens next?

Well, nobody knows for sure.

But things certainly do not look good.

The following are 18 signs that global financial markets smell blood in the water….

#1 Banks stocks are absolutely getting hammered right now.  Bank of America hit a 52 week low on Monday.  Bank of America shares declined 4 percent to $9.61.

#2 So far this year, Bank of America stock is down about 27 percent.

#3 Bloomberg is reporting that Bank of America may be forced to increase its capital cushion by 50 billion dollars.

#4 Shares of Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley are near two year lows.

#5 Shares in Citigroup fell 2.5 percent on Monday.

#6 Moody’s recently warned that it may be forced to downgrade the debt ratings of Bank of America, Citigroup and Wells Fargo.

#7 Barclays Capital, Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase and Morgan Stanley are all either considering staff cuts or are already laying workers off.

#8 The deputy European director of the International Monetary Fund says that the Greek debt crisis is “on a knife’s edge“.

#9 Moody’s has slashed Ireland’s bond rating all the way to junk status.

#10 The yield on 2 year Portuguese bonds is now over 20 percent, the yield on 2 year Irish bonds is now over 23 percent and the yield on 2 year Greek bonds is now over 35 percent.

#11 Shares of Italy’s largest bank dropped by a whopping 6.4% on Monday.

#12 On Monday, the yield on 10 year Italian bonds was the highest it has been since the euro was adopted.

#13 On Monday, the yield on 10 year Spanish bonds was also the highest it has been since the euro was adopted.

#14 Shares of Germany’s largest bank fell by a staggering 7% on Monday and are down a total of 22% so far this month.

#15 Citigroup’s chief economist, William Buiter, says that without direct intervention by the ECB there is going to be a wave of sovereign defaults across Europe….

“Nothing stands in the way of multiple sovereign defaults except the ECB: they are the only game in town, there is nothing else”

#16 Cisco has announced plans to axe 16 percent of its workers.

#17 Borders Group has announced that it will be liquidating all remaining assets.  That means that 399 stores will be closed and 10,700 workers will lose their jobs.

#18 During times of great crisis, many investors seek safe havens for their money.  On Monday, the price of gold shot past $1600 an ounce.

These are not normal financial times.  The worldwide debt bubble is starting to burst and nobody is quite sure what is going to happen next.  Certainly we are going to continue to see financial authorities all over the world do their best to keep the system going.  But as we saw in 2008, things can spiral out of control very quickly.

Just remember, back at the beginning of 2008 very few people would have ever imagined that the biggest financial institutions in America would be begging for hundreds of billions of dollars in bailouts by the end of that year.

When confidence disappears, the game can change very quickly.  To the vast majority of economists it would have been unimaginable that the yield on 2 year Greek bonds would be over 35 percent in mid-2011.

But here we are.

The entire global financial system is a house of cards built on a foundation of sand.  It is more vulnerable today than it has been at any other time since World War II.  When a couple of major dominoes fall, it is likely to set off a massive chain reaction.

The global financial system of today was not designed with safety and security in mind.  It was designed for greedy people to be able to make as much money as possible as quickly as possible.  The banksters don’t care about the greater good of mankind.  What they care about is making huge piles of cash.

There is way too much risk, way too much debt and way too much leverage in the global financial marketplace.  You would have thought that 2008 should have been a major wake up call for financial authorities around the world, but very few significant changes have been made since that time.

The financial news is just going to keep getting worse.  This financial system is simply unsustainable.  It is fundamentally unsound.  The reality is that financial bubbles cannot keep expanding forever.  Eventually they must burst.

Over the next few weeks, keep a close eye on banking stocks and keep a close eye on European bond yields.

Hopefully things will stabilize.

Hopefully the next wave of the financial collapse is not about to hit us.

Hopefully the entire global financial system is not on the verge of a major implosion.

But you might want to get prepared just in case.

A Bad Mood Has Descended On World Financial Markets

Have you noticed that a really bad mood seems to have descended on world financial markets?  Fear and pessimism are everywhere.  The global economy never truly recovered from the financial crisis of 2008, and right now everyone is keeping their eyes open for the next “Lehman Brothers moment” that will send world financial markets into another tailspin.  Investors have been very nervous for quite some time now, but this week things seem to be going to a whole new level.  Fears about the spread of the debt crisis in Europe and about the failure of debt ceiling talks in the United States have really hammered global financial markets.  On Monday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 151 points.  Italian stocks fared even worse.  The stock market in Italy fell more than 3 percent on Monday.  The stock markets in Germany and France fell more than 2 percent each.  On top of everything else, the fact that protesters have stormed the U.S. embassy in Syria is causing tensions to rise significantly in the Middle East.  Everywhere you turn there seems to be more bad news and large numbers of investors are getting closer to hitting the panic button.  Hopefully things will cool down soon, because if not we could soon have another full-blown financial crisis on our hands.

Even many of those that have always tried to reassure us suddenly seem to be in a really bad mood.

For example, U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner admitted to “Meet the Press” that the U.S. economy is really struggling and that for many Americans “it’s going to feel very hard, harder than anything they’ve experienced in their lifetime now, for a long time to come.”

Does Geithner know something that we don’t?

To say that what Americans are facing will be “harder than anything they’ve experienced in their lifetime now, for a long time to come” is very, very strong language.

It almost sounds like Timothy Geithner could be writing for The Economic Collapse blog.

It certainly is not helping things that the Democrats and the Republicans still have not agreed on a deal to raise the debt ceiling.  It is mid-July and Barack Obama and John Boehner continue to point fingers at each other.

Of course if they do reach a “deal” it will likely be a complete and total joke just like their last “deal” was.

But for now they are playing politics and trying to position themselves well for the 2012 election season.

Meanwhile, world financial markets are starting to get a little nervous about this situation.  The newly elected head of the IMF, Christine Lagarde, has stated that she “can’t imagine for a second” that we are going to see the U.S. default on any debt.  Most investors seem to agree with Lagarde for now, but if we get to August 2nd without a deal being reached things could change very quickly.

But it isn’t just the debt ceiling crisis that is causing apprehension in the United States.  The truth is that there are a host of indications that the U.S. economy is continuing to struggle.

Even big Wall Street banks are laying people off.  A recent Reuters article described the bad mood that has descended on Wall Street right now….

Goldman Sachs Group Inc (GS.N), Morgan Stanley (MS.N) and some other large U.S. investment banks are not just laying off weak performers and back-office employees. They are also cutting the pay of those they are keeping, scrutinizing expense reports and expecting even the most profitable workers to bring in more business for the same amount of compensation.

That is not a good sign for the U.S. economy.

If the corrupt Wall Street banks are even struggling, what does that mean for the rest of us?

But the big trouble recently has been in Europe.  The sovereign debt crisis continues to get worse and worse.

As I wrote about yesterday, the emerging financial crisis in Italy has EU officials in a bit of a tizzy.  If Italy requires a bailout it is going to be an unmitigated disaster.

One of the most respected financial journalists in Europe, Ambrose Evans Pritchard, says that financial tensions in the EU are rising to dangerous levels….

If the ECB’s Jean-Claude Trichet is right in claiming that Europe was on the brink of a 1930s financial cataclysm a year ago – and I think he is – it is hard see how the threat is any less serious right now.

Fall-out from Greece flattened Portugal and Ireland last week. It is engulfing Spain and Italy, countries with €6.3 trillion of public and private debt between them.

Last year it was just small countries like Greece and Ireland that were causing all the trouble.

Now Italy (the fourth largest economy in the EU) and Spain (the fifth largest economy in the EU) are making headlines.

Up to this point, the EU has had all kinds of nightmares just trying to bail countries like Greece out.

What is going to happen if Italy or Spain goes under?

At this point things with Greece have gone so badly that some EU officials are actually suggesting that Greece should just default on some of the debt.

Yes, you read the correctly.

There are news reports coming out of Europe that say that EU leaders are actually considering allowing the Greek government to default on some of their bonds.  According to The Telegraph, “the move would be part of a new bail-out plan for Greece that would put the country’s overall debt levels on a sustainable footing.”

All of this chaos is causing bond yields in Europe to go soaring.

Earlier today, The Calculated Risk blog detailed some of the stunning bond yields that we are now seeing in Europe….

The Greek 2 year yield is up to a record 31.1%.

The Portuguese 2 year yield is up to a record 18.3%.

The Irish 2 year yield is up to a record 18.1%.

And the big jump … the Italian 2 year yield is up to a record 4.1%. Still much lower than Greece, Portugal and Ireland, but rising.

Could you imagine paying 31.1% interest on your credit cards?

Well, imagine what officials in the Greek government must be feeling right about now.

If these bond yields do not go down, we are going to have a full-blown financial crisis on our hands in Europe.  If these bond yields keep rising, we are going to have a complete and total financial nightmare in Europe.

The only way that any of these nations that are drowning in debt can keep going is if they can borrow more money at low interest rates.  There are very few nations on earth that would be able to survive very high interest rates on government debt for an extended period of time.

Pay attention to what is happening in Europe, because it will eventually happen in the United States.  Right now we are only paying a little more than $400 billion in interest on the national debt each year because of the super low interest rates we are able to get.

When that changes, our interest costs are going to absolutely skyrocket.

Not that the United States needs any more economic problems.

Right now Americans are more pessimistic about the economy than they have been in ages.

In a recent article entitled “16 Reasons To Feel Really Depressed About The Direction That The Economy Is Headed” I noted a number of the recent surveys that seem to indicate that the American people are in a real bad mood about the economy right now….

*One of the key measures of consumer confidence in the United States has hit a seven-month low.

*According to Gallup, the percentage of Americans that lack confidence in U.S. banks is now at an all-time high of 36%.

*According to one recent poll, 39 percent of Americans believe that the U.S. economy has now entered a “permanent decline”.

*Another recent survey found that 48 percent of Americans believe that it is likely that another great Depression will begin within the next 12 months.

The American people are in a really bad mood and investors around the world are in a really bad mood.  More bad financial news seems to come out every single day now.  Everyone seems to be waiting for that one “moment” that is going to set off another financial panic.

Hopefully we can get through the rest of this summer without world financial markets falling apart.  But the truth is that the global economy is even more vulnerable today than it was back in 2008.  None of the things that caused the financial crash of 2008 have been fixed.

We will eventually have a repeat of 2008.  In fact, next time things could be even worse.

The entire world financial system is a house of cards sitting on a foundation of sand.  Eventually another storm is going to come and the crash is going to be great.

Stock Prices Have Fallen For Six Weeks In A Row

Well, it’s official.  U.S. stock prices have fallen for six weeks in a row.  So will next week make it seven?  The last time stocks declined for seven weeks in a row was back in May 2001 when the “dot-com” bubble was bursting.  At this point, the Dow has declined by approximately 5 percent since the beginning of June.  Things don’t look good.  So exactly what is going on here?  Well, it is undeniable that the recent mini-bubble in stocks has been too good to be true.  The S&P 500 had surged nearly 30 percent since last September.  Much of this has been fueled by the Federal Reserve’s latest round of quantitative easing, but now that is coming to an end in a few weeks and investors are a bit spooked.  Meanwhile, wars and revolutions are sweeping the Middle East, Japan is dealing with the damage caused by the tsunami and by Fukushima, Europe is trying to figure out how to bail out Greece again and the U.S. debt crisis is continually getting worse.  In addition, wave after wave of bad economic news is certainly not helping the mood on Wall Street.  In many ways, a “perfect storm” is developing and many are now extremely concerned about what the rest of 2011 is going to bring for Wall Street.

QE2 is slated to conclude at the end of June, and many investors are deeply disappointed that it does not appear that we are not going to see QE3 right away.  Many fear that the end of quantitative easing will pop the current mini-bubble in stocks and commodities.  At the moment, financial markets are more jittery than they have been in a long time.

Frank Davis, director of sales and trading with LEK Securities, says that there is a lot of pessimism on Wall Street right now….

“There’s a lot of emotion in this market at the moment, and the conversations among traders are nearly all leaning toward the bear side”

So what are some of the signs that this downturn on Wall Street may turn into a full-blown crash?

Well, according to the Wall Street Journal, junk bonds are being sold off at an alarming rate right now.  Does the following quote from the Journal remind anyone of 2008 at least a little bit?….

A steep decline in prices of bonds backed by subprime mortgages has spread through the riskiest segments of the credit markets, ending rallies in high-yield corporate bonds and commercial real-estate debt.

Also, many of the big Wall Street banks are already laying off workers.  In a previous article I wrote about the potential for Wall Street to go into “panic mode“, I noted that Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase and Morgan Stanley are all laying people off or are considering staff cuts.

The truth is that the big banks on Wall Street are not nearly as stable as most people think that they are.  Moody’s recently warned that it may downgrade the debt ratings of Bank of America, Citigroup and Wells Fargo.

Another major story on Wall Street right now is oil.  OPEC recently announced that oil production levels will not be raised, even though the price of oil has been hovering around $100 a barrel.

World oil supplies are very tight right now.  In fact, the globe actually consumed 5 million barrels per day more oil than it produced during 2010.  This was possible because the difference was apparently made up by drawing down reserves.

But if oil supplies are this tight already, what is going to happen if a major war (as opposed to all of the minor wars that are already happening) erupts in the Middle East?

The world is sitting on the edge of a financial disaster.

It is important to keep in mind that Europe is also in far worse financial condition than it was just prior to the financial collapse of 2008.

It is being reported that German finance minister Wolfgang Schaeuble is convinced that a “full-blown” financial meltdown by Greece is a very real possibility. The cost of insuring Greek debt has soared to a brand new record high, and officials all over Europe are in panic mode.

But financial problems are not just happening in Greece.  The largest bank in France has just cut in half the amount of cash that customers can withdraw from ATMs each week.

Most Americans don’t spend much time thinking about the financial condition of Europe, but the truth is that what happens in Europe is going to play a major role in the months and years ahead.

Of course most Americans already know that the U.S. government is a financial mess.

As the “debt ceiling deadline” of August 2nd draws closer, the U.S. government has been raiding retirement funds in order to stay under the debt limit.

Many investors are quite nervous about what may happen if the U.S. government actually does start defaulting on debt on August 2nd.

Others claim that the U.S. government is already in default.

The only Chinese agency that gives credit ratings on sovereign debt says that the U.S. government “has already been defaulting” and the Chinese government has been repeatedly warning that the U.S. needs to get its finances in order.

In any event, this debt ceiling drama will get resolved one way or another.

The bigger question is this….

How is the U.S. government going to respond when the next financial crash happens?

Back in 2008, the Federal Reserve and the U.S. government took unprecedented steps to prop up Wall Street.

But can they really do that again if we see another major crash in 2011 or 2012?

Many believe that things will be totally different this time around.  Just check out what Jim Rogers recently told CNBC….

“The debts that are in this country are skyrocketing,” he said. “In the last three years the government has spent staggering amounts of money and the Federal Reserve is taking on staggering amounts of debt.

“When the problems arise  next time…what are they going to do? They can’t quadruple the debt again. They cannot print that much more money. It’s gonna be worse the next time around.”

Jim Rogers is right about that.

The next time we see a collapse on the scale of 2008 it is going to be a much bigger mess.

Global financial markets are extremely vulnerable right now and there are a whole host of potential “tipping points” which could push them over the edge.

The Federal Reserve and the U.S. government more or less used up all of their ammunition on the 2008 crisis.

If we see another collapse in 2011 or 2012 there is not going to be much of a safety net available.

The entire world financial system is simply swamped with way too much debt.  The world has never seen anything even remotely close to the gigantic mountains of debt that have been accumulated around the world today.

The current global financial system is not sustainable.  More crashes are inevitable.  A lot of people are going to get steamrolled.

Hopefully you will not be one of them.

8 Theories For Why The Stock Market Plunged Almost 1000 Points In A Matter Of Minutes On May 6th

In one of the most dizzying half-hours in stock market history, the Dow plunged nearly 1,000 points on Thursday, May 6th before bouncing back to close down 347.80 points.  This represented the biggest intraday decline since 1987.  But what made this crash so absolutely shocking is that it happened in the course of less than an hour.  Between 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. the Dow lost over 700 points before dramatically bouncing back about 600 points.  Two of the 30 stocks in the Dow, Procter & Gamble and 3M, plunged more than 30% in just 15 minutes.  Accenture went from trading at around 40 dollars a share all the way down to one cent before bouncing back.  Traders and investors were left completely stunned and wondering what in the world had just happened.

So what did happen?

The following are some of the most common theories being put forward to explain what happened….

#1) A Bad Trade

It has been widely suggested that a “fat finger trade” was responsible for triggering the panic.  According to CNBC, “sources” have told that network that a trader (possibly at Citigroup) entered a “b” for billion instead of an “m” for million in a trade involving Procter & Gamble.

However, Citigroup has already announced that it has found “no evidence” that it was involved in any erroneous trades.  In fact, a statement was released in which Citigroup spokesman Stephen Cohen said this….

“At this point, we have no evidence that Citi was involved in any erroneous transaction.”

#2) A Computer Glitch

New York Stock Exchange spokesman Rich Adamonis says that “there were a number of erroneous trades” on May 6th, and that these could have been caused by computer error.

And the truth is that trading in the financial markets is more automated and more reliant on computers than it ever has been before.  Trading literally moves at lightning speed now, and a number of analysts are warning that the pace of the market is so fast at this point that it is really easy for things to spin out of control very quickly.

But if this was really primarily caused by a “computer glitch”, how are investors supposed to have any confidence at all in the market?  After all, if a computer error can wipe out half your account in less than an hour, why invest at all?

#3) Cascading Stop Losses

Once the market hits certain technical levels, it is going to automatically start triggering stop loss orders.  Once those stop loss orders are triggered, it will push the market down further thus triggering more stop loss orders.

While there have been some protections implemented to guard against this kind of thing, the reality is that it does still happen.

#4) Hackers

Hackers have become more sophisticated and more cunning than ever before.  In fact, the bigger a target is, the more enjoyment most hackers get out of taking them down.  Is it a possible that someone could have hacked in to the New York Stock Exchange?

#5) Cyberterrorism

Rogue nations and terrorist organizations have been developing their “cyber warfare” capabilities for some time now.  We have been repeatedly warned that someday we will see an “Internet 9/11”.  Could this stock market plunge be a preview of that?

#6) Fear Of The European Debt Crisis Spreading

There are mounting concerns in the financial markets about Greece’s financial condition and that the European debt crisis could spread around the globe.

In fact, the Dow has lost 631 points, or more than 5%, in just the last three days amidst worries about the situation in Greece.  This represents the biggest three day drop since March 2009.

#7) Stop Hunting

Anyone who has spent much time in the Forex market knows what this is all about.  The truth is that some of the big financial sharks in the marketplace seem to really enjoy blowing out stop losses.

So could have this have been a situation where a stop loss hunting expedition spun wildly out of control?

#8) A Real Panic

There is also the possibility that this was a real financial panic.  There are huge concerns about what is going on in Europe and the currency markets are fluctuating wildly.  The Dow was already down several hundred points even before the massive plunge took place.  The reality is that there is a lot of fear in the financial markets right now.

But if it was a real panic, then why did the Dow bounce back so quickly?  Well, it is the job of the “plunge protection team” to keep the stock market from declining too rapidly.  So did the “plunge protection team” swing into action today?  Well, the truth is that we will probably never know because the general public is not supposed to know when they intervene.

In any event, the next couple of days should hopefully make all of this a lot clearer.  The trading during the afternoon of May 6th at the big firms will be gone over with a fine-toothed comb, and the exchanges will be closely analyzing their systems for any glitches.

It has already been announced that some of the most erroneous trades will be cancelled.  The Nasdaq and NYSE’s ARCA trading unit have both said that they will cancel trades executed between 2:40 p.m. and 3 p.m. on May 6th where a stock price rose or fell more than 60 percent from the last trade in that security at 2:40 p.m.

But this episode shows just how vulnerable our financial markets really are.  After witnessing what we saw today, it is going to be really hard to have confidence in the system.

In fact, even if this was just one “bad trade” or a “simple computer glitch”, the reality is that this episode is going to inject even more fear into a marketplace that is already filled with tension.

When fear grips a market things can go south very, very quickly.  The truth is that markets tend to fall more quickly than they rise, and if a wave of panic starts sweeping over the financial markets we could see things get quite messy in the coming days.

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