Trump Rallies Reveal Increased Tensions Among Americans As This Nation Plunges Toward Civil Unrest

Anti-Trump Protesters In Chicago - Photo by nathanmac87America is coming apart at the seams, and Trump rallies have become the latest flashpoint for the rising tide of civil unrest that is sweeping the nation.  For years, I have been writing about the increasing levels of anger and frustration in this country, but now they are reaching a fever pitch.  And rather than channeling all of our anger and frustration into solving our problems, we have allowed ourselves to become deeply divided and many Americans seem to be taking glee in fighting with one another.  Instead of learning to hate one another, we should be learning how to love one another.  Unfortunately, America has chosen another path, and 2016 is very rapidly starting to look very much like the chaotic political year of 1968.  No matter how the rest of this election season plays out, it appears that we have entered a time of violence, chaos, civil unrest and greatly increased tension among Americans.

On Friday, thousands of radical leftists showed up at a planned Trump rally at the University of Illinois at Chicago with the express purpose of disrupting it.  Fortunately Donald Trump cancelled the rally, because there was a very real possibility that mass violence could have erupted.  The following description of what happened comes from Wikipedia

On March 11, 2016, the Donald Trump presidential campaign canceled a planned rally at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), in Chicago, Illinois, citing “growing safety concerns” due to the presence of thousands of protesters in and outside of his rally[3]. Thousands of anti-Trump demonstrators responding to civic leaders’ and social media calls to shut the rally down had gathered outside the arena, and several hundred more filled seating areas within the UIC Pavilion, where the rally was to take place. When the Trump campaign announced that the rally would not take place, there was a great deal of shouting and a few small scuffles between Trump supporters and anti-Trump protestors.

The Daily Caller has identified three groups that were heavily involved in organizing the planned disruption of the Trump rally in Chicago.  Those three groups are ANSWER (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism) Chicago, the Illinois Coalition of Immigrant and Rights Reform, and La Raza Chicago.

In addition, MoveOn.org also appears to have been involved in what took place in Chicago.  The following comes from Infowars

“Mr. Trump and the Republican leaders who support him and his hate-filled rhetoric should be on notice after tonight’s events,” the George Soros funded MoveOn web page states. “To all of those who took to the streets of Chicago, we say thank you for standing up and saying enough is enough. To Donald Trump, and the GOP, we say, welcome to the general election.”

Following the cancelled rally in Chicago, a radical leftist protester named Thomas Dimassimo attempted to storm the stage while Trump was speaking at an event in Dayton, Ohio.  This YouTube video contains footage of that chilling moment…

Thomas Dimassimo has been identified as a Bernie Sanders supporter, and even though his Twitter account has now been erased, this screenshot was taken while it was still up…

Marlon Bando Tweet

There was also another tweet where he said that his goal was “martrydom“.  I have seen some news reports that link Dimassimo to ISIS, but those reports are being disputed.  Either way, the fact that the Secret Service had to intervene to protect Trump from this lunatic is more than just a little bit alarming.

Following the incident in Dayton, a Trump rally in Kansas City was disrupted more than a dozen times by political agitators.  At one point, police actually used pepper spray on some of the protesters.

Scenes such as these are starting to cause many people to make direct comparisons between 2016 and 1968.

And if the chaos is this bad already, what will things look like during the general election?

Candidates on all sides should be calling for peace and calm, but instead they are pointing fingers at one another.

For example, Hillary Clinton is putting the full blame for the unrest on Donald Trump

Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton said this weekend that Trump is guilty of “political arson,” adding that “the ugly, divisive rhetoric we are hearing from Donald Trump and the encouragement of violence and aggression is wrong, and it’s dangerous,” The New York Times reported.

And Donald Trump is placing the blame at the feet of Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton

“You had professional disruptors, thousands of them, from Sanders and to a smaller extent, Hillary (Clinton),” he said of a Friday night event in Chicago that Trump canceled after chaos broke out there.

Unfortunately, most Americans have absolutely no idea where all of this is leading.

A house that is divided will fall, and America is now more divided than at any other time in my entire lifetime.

If there was a single set of values or principles that united us, it would be possible for us to come together as a nation and solve our problems.  But there isn’t.  We have rejected the values and the principles of our founders, and these days Americans are being pulled in dozens of different directions.  In fact, if you ask 100 different Americans what we need to do to get our country back on the right track you are probably going to get 100 different answers.

The chaos and violence around our political process is going to get a lot worse than this.  And we are going to see more communities erupt just like Ferguson and Baltimore did.

In the end, Americans are going to kill Americans, our cities are going to burn, and we are going to experience a period of governmental shaking unlike anything that we have ever seen before.

All of this could have been avoided if we could have simply learned to love one another.  But instead, we have allowed ourselves to be divided in just about every way imaginable, and the mainstream media is constantly tossing more fuel on the fire.

This isn’t about Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton or any other politician.  Rather, this is about a once great country that is deeply, deeply divided and that is coming apart at the seams right before our very eyes.

May God have mercy on the late, great United States of America.

Thanks To The Republican Civil War, Every Scenario Ends With Hillary Clinton Winning The Election

Hillary Clinton_Testimony_to_House_Select_Committee_on_Benghazi - Public DomainWhat is the worst possible outcome for the presidential election of 2016?  Assuming that an election will actually take place, that is an easy question to answer – Hillary Rodham Clinton as the next president of the United States.  She is truly evil in every sense of the word, and the implications of what four (or eight) years of Hillary would mean for our nation are almost too terrible to imagine.  That is why it is so depressing watching what is happening to the Republican Party right now.  The civil war in the Republican Party is ripping it to shreds, and as a result of all this warfare every plausible scenario for what will happen the rest of the way ends with Hillary Clinton winning the 2016 election.

According to the Associated Press, here is how the Republican delegate count stands as of right now…

Donald Trump: 384

Ted Cruz: 300

Marco Rubio: 151

John Kasich: 37

Ted Cruz looks like he is within shooting distance of Trump, but that is an illusion.  The early part of the schedule was full of states where Cruz was expected to do well, but now the map is going to work very much against him.

At this point, the only candidate that looks like he may be able to accumulate 1,237 delegates before the convention is Trump, and that is far from guaranteed.  So far, Trump has won approximately 44 percent of the delegates during the caucuses and primaries.  By the time it is all said and done, he will need to have slightly more than 60 percent of all the delegates awarded during the caucuses and primaries to guarantee himself the nomination before the Republican convention.  That is because there are hundreds of delegates that are not awarded during the caucuses and the primaries, and almost all of those delegates are members of the Republican establishment.

Trump can still get there by racking up large delegate totals in winner-take-all states such as California, but it will be a challenge.  The entire Republican Party establishment, Fox News, Glenn Beck and a significant number of other prominent conservative voices have all declared war on Trump.  In fact, there are super PACs that are going to spend tens of millions of dollars doing nothing but trying to destroy Trump.

If the Republican Party actually wanted to beat Hillary Clinton in November, they should be rallying around Trump and trying to help him, because he would definitely need a lot of help to win the general election.

According to Real Clear Politics, the latest three polls all have Trump losing to Clinton by at least 5 points.  In key states such as Michigan, the numbers are quite a bit more dismal.  Over the next few months, those numbers are likely to get even worse as Trump is savagely assaulted by the Republican establishment and relentlessly bombarded by tens of millions of dollars of negative attack ads.  Meanwhile, Clinton is cruising along virtually unscathed.

Of course in a just world Hillary Clinton would have already been arrested and put in prison.  There is no possible way that she should be running for president of the United States.  Unfortunately, we live in a deeply corrupt society, and this is the way that things work.

If by some miracle he does survive to become the nominee, a significantly weakened Trump would then have to face the full power of the Clinton political machine.  It is estimated that a billion dollars could be spent on the Democratic side this time around, and Trump does not have the resources to match that.  Normally big Republican donors rally around the nominee, but in this case the big money is fighting like crazy to defeat Trump.  In a general election matchup, it really would be David vs. Goliath, and Trump would not be Goliath.

If Donald Trump does not accumulate 1,237 delegates before the convention, then we would be headed for what is known as a “brokered convention“.  The rules are very complicated, but the key thing to remember is that the delegates are only bound for the first vote.  After that, they can vote for whoever they want.

And it is very important to note that the campaigns don’t pick their delegates.  Becoming a delegate is a long and tedious process in most states, and most of them are party loyalists.

In the end, a “brokered convention” would almost certainly result in an establishment candidate being chosen as the nominee.  Needless to say, the names “Trump” and “Cruz” would not be on that list.

Have you noticed that Mitt Romney has started to put himself out there lately?  His verbal attacks on Trump have been absolutely scathing, and he told Fox News that he would not say no if he was “drafted” to become the nominee at the Republican convention…

Romney, a former Massachusetts governor and the Republicans’ 2012 presidential nominee, repeated remarks from last week, telling “Fox News Sunday” that he wouldn’t launch an eleventh-hour campaign for president. But he declined to reject being “drafted” at the GOP convention in July to be the party’s general election candidate.

It would be absurd to say that if I were drafted I’d say no,” Romney said.

Behind the scenes, much more is going on.  In fact, CNN is reporting that Romney’s team is actively working on a plan to steal the nomination from Trump at the convention…

Mitt Romney has instructed his closest advisers to explore the possibility of stopping Donald Trump at the Republican National Convention, a source close to Romney’s inner circle says.

The 2012 GOP nominee’s advisers are examining what a fight at the convention might look like and what rules might need revising.

It sounds like the plan is to lock the convention,” said the source.

If Romney does emerge as the nominee, does anyone actually believe that he will defeat Clinton?

Of course not.  Trump’s millions of supporters will be absolutely infuriated, and many of them would absolutely refuse to cast a vote for Romney in the general election.

In the end, it would be the same result – a victory for Hillary Clinton.

The next few weeks are going to be very interesting.  If Trump wins Florida and Ohio, there is going to be a lot of pressure on Marco Rubio and John Kasich to get out of the race, and the path to 1,237 delegates would appear to be clear.

However, Mitt Romney could attempt to derail the Trump bandwagon by jumping in the race after March 15th.  Romney’s goal would be to capture enough delegates in winner-take-all states such as California to keep Trump from getting to the magic number of 1,237.  If Romney could do that, he knows that he would likely come out of a brokered convention as the nominee.

But no matter what happens on the Republican side from this point forward, it is going to take a miracle of epic proportions to keep Hillary Clinton from winning the presidency.  Every plausible scenario ends with her in the White House, and that is a truly horrible thing to imagine.

2016 Market Meltdown: We Have Never Seen A Year Start Quite Like This…

Time Abstract - Public DomainWe are about three weeks into 2016, and we are witnessing things that we have never seen before.  There were two emergency market shutdowns in China within the first four trading days of this year, the Dow Jones Industrial Average has never lost this many points within the first three weeks, and just yesterday we learned that global stocks had officially entered bear market territory.  Overall, more than 15 trillion dollars of global stock market wealth has been wiped out since last June.  And of course the markets are simply playing catch up with global economic reality.  The Baltic Dry Index just hit another new all-time record low today, Wal-Mart has announced that they are shutting down 269 stores, and initial jobless claims in the U.S. just surged to their highest level in six months.  So if things are this bad already, what will the rest of 2016 bring?

The Dow was up just a little bit on Thursday thankfully, but even with that gain we are still in unprecedented territory.  According to CNBC, we have never seen a tougher start to the year for the Dow than we have in 2016…

The Dow Jones industrial average, which was created in 1896, has never begun a year with 12 worse trading days. Through Wednesday’s close, the Dow has fallen 9.5 percent. Even including the 1.3 percent gains as of noon Thursday, the Dow is still down nearly 8 percent in 2016.

But even with the carnage that we have seen so far, stocks are still wildly overpriced compared to historical averages.  In order for stocks to no longer be in a “bubble”, they will still need to decline by about another one-third.  The following comes from MarketWatch

Data from the U.S. Federal Reserve, meanwhile, say U.S. nonfinancial corporate stocks are now valued at about 90% of the replacement cost of company assets, a metric known as “Tobin’s Q.” But the historic average, going back a century, is in the region of 60% of replacement costs. By this measure, stocks could fall by another third, taking the Dow all the way down toward 10,000. (On Wednesday it closed at 15,767.) Similar calculations could be reached by comparing share prices to average per-share earnings, a measure known as the cyclically adjusted price-to-earnings ratio, commonly known as CAPE, after Yale finance professor Robert Shiller, who made it famous.

Of course the mainstream media doesn’t seem to understand any of this.  They seem to be under the impression that the bubble should have lasted forever, and this latest meltdown has taken them totally by surprise.

Ultimately, what is happening should not be a surprise to any of us.  The financial markets always catch up with economic reality eventually, and right now evidence continues to mount that economic activity is significantly slowing down.  Here is some analysis from Brandon Smith

Trucking freight in the U.S. is in steep decline, with freight companies pointing to a “glut in inventories” and a fall in demand as the culprit.

Morgan Stanley’s freight transportation update indicates a collapse in freight demand worse than that seen during 2009.

The Baltic Dry Index, a measure of global freight rates and thus a measure of global demand for shipping of raw materials, has collapsed to even more dismal historic lows. Hucksters in the mainstream continue to push the lie that the fall in the BDI is due to an “overabundance of new ships.” However, the CEO of A.P. Moeller-Maersk, the world’s largest shipping line, put that nonsense to rest when he admitted in November that “global growth is slowing down” and “[t]rade is currently significantly weaker than it normally would be under the growth forecasts we see.”

In addition, another very troubling sign is the fact that initial jobless claims are starting to surge once again

The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits in mid-January reached seven-month highs, perhaps a sign that the rate of layoffs in the U.S. has risen slightly from record lows.

Initial jobless claims climbed a seasonally adjusted 10,000 to 293,000 in the seven days stretching from Jan. 10 to Jan 16, the government said Thursday. That’s the highest level since last July.

Since the last recession, the primary engine for the creation of good jobs in this country has been the energy industry.

Unfortunately, the “oil boomtowns” are now going bust, and workers are being laid off in droves.  As I mentioned the other day42 North American oil companies have filed for bankruptcy and 130,000 good paying energy jobs have been lost in this country since the start of 2015.  And as long as the price of oil stays in this neighborhood, the worse things are going to get.

A lot of people out there still seem to think that this is just going to be a temporary downturn.  Many are convinced that we will just go through another tough recession and then we will come out okay on the other side.  What they don’t realize is that a number of long-term trends are now reaching a crescendo.

For decades, we have been living wildly beyond our means.  The federal government, state and local governments, corporations and consumers have all been going into debt far faster than our economy has been growing.  Of course this was never going to be sustainable in the long run, but we had been doing it for so long that many of us had come to believe that our exceedingly reckless debt-fueled prosperity was somehow “normal”.

Unfortunately, the truth is that you can’t consume far more than you produce forever.  Eventually reality catches up with you.  This is a point that Simon Black made extremely well in one of his recent articles…

Economics isn’t complicated. The Universal Law of Prosperity is very simple: produce more than you consume.

Governments, corporations, and individuals all have to abide by it. Those who do will thrive. Those who don’t will fail, sooner or later.

When the entire financial system ignores this fundamental rule, it puts us all at risk.

And if you can understand that, you can take simple, sensible steps to prevent the consequences.

Sadly, the time for avoiding the consequences of our actions is now past.

We are now starting to pay the price for decades of incredibly bone-headed decisions, and anyone that is looking to Barack Obama, the Federal Reserve or anyone else in Washington D.C. to be our savior is going to be bitterly disappointed.

And as bad as things have been so far, just wait until you see what happens next.

2016 is the year when everything changes.

The Oil Crash Of 2016 Has The Big Banks Running Scared

Running Scared - Public DomainLast time around it was subprime mortgages, but this time it is oil that is playing a starring role in a global financial crisis.  Since the start of 2015, 42 North American oil companies have filed for bankruptcy, 130,000 good paying energy jobs have been lost in the United States, and at this point 50 percent of all energy junk bonds are “distressed” according to Standard & Poor’s.  As you will see below, some of the big banks have a tremendous amount of loan exposure to the energy industry, and now they are bracing for big losses.  And the longer the price of oil stays this low, the worse the carnage is going to get.

Today, the price of oil has been hovering around 29 dollars a barrel, and over the past 18 months the price of oil has fallen by more than 70 percent.  This is something that has many U.S. consumers very excited.  The average price of a gallon of gasoline nationally is just $1.89 at the moment, and on Monday it was selling for as low as 46 cents a gallon at one station in Michigan.

But this oil crash is nothing to cheer about as far as the big banks are concerned.  During the boom years, those banks gave out billions upon billions of dollars in loans to fund exceedingly expensive drilling projects all over the world.

Now those firms are dropping like flies, and the big banks could potentially be facing absolutely catastrophic losses.  The following examples come from CNN

For instance, Wells Fargo (WFC) is sitting on more than $17 billion in loans to the oil and gas sector. The bank is setting aside $1.2 billion in reserves to cover losses because of the “continued deterioration within the energy sector.”

JPMorgan Chase (JPM) is setting aside an extra $124 million to cover potential losses in its oil and gas loans. It warned that figure could rise to $750 million if oil prices unexpectedly stay at their current $30 level for the next 18 months.

Citigroup is another bank that also has a tremendous amount of exposure

Citigroup (C) built up loan loss reserves in the energy space by $300 million. The bank said the move reflects its view that “oil prices are likely to remain low for a longer period of time.”

If oil stays around $30 a barrel, Citi is bracing for about $600 million of energy credit losses in the first half of 2016. Citi said that figure could double to $1.2 billion if oil dropped to $25 a barrel and stayed there.

For the moment, these big banks are telling the public that the damage can be contained.

But didn’t they tell us the same thing about subprime mortgages in 2008?

We are already seeing bank stocks start to slide precipitously.  People are beginning to realize that these banks are dangerously exposed to a lot of really bad deals.

If the price of oil were to shoot back up above 50 dollars in very short order, the damage would probably be manageable.  Unfortunately, that does not appear likely to happen.  In fact, now that sanctions have been lifted on Iran, the Iranians are planning to flood the world with massive amounts of oil that they have been storing in tankers at sea

Iran has been carefully planning for its return from the economic penalty box by hoarding tons of oil in tankers at sea.

Now that the U.S. and European Union have lifted some sanctions on Iran, the OPEC country can begin selling its massive stockpile of oil.

The sale of this seaborne oil will allow Iran to get an immediate financial boost before it ramps up production. The onslaught of Iranian oil is coming at a terrible time for the global oil markets, which are already drowning in an epic supply glut.

Just the other day, I explained that some of the biggest banks in the world are now projecting that the price of oil could soon fall much, much lower.

Morgan Stanley says that it could go as low as 20 dollars a barrel, the Royal Bank of Scotland says that it could go as low as 16 dollars a barrel, and Standard Chartered says that it could go as low as 10 dollars a barrel.

But the truth is that the price of oil does not need to go down one penny more to have a catastrophic impact on global financial markets.  If it just stays right here, we will see an endless parade of layoffs, energy company bankruptcies  and debt defaults.  Without any change, junk bonds will continue to crash and financial institutions will continue to go down like dominoes.

We are already experiencing a major disaster.  Things are already so bad that some forms of low quality crude oil are literally selling for next to nothing.  The following comes from Bloomberg

Oil is so plentiful and cheap in the U.S. that at least one buyer says it would pay almost nothing to take a certain type of low-quality crude.

Flint Hills Resources LLC, the refining arm of billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch’s industrial empire, said it offered to pay $1.50 a barrel Friday for North Dakota Sour, a high-sulfur grade of crude, according to a corrected list of prices posted on its website Monday. It had previously posted a price of -$0.50. The crude is down from $13.50 a barrel a year ago and $47.60 in January 2014.

While the near-zero price is due to the lack of pipeline capacity for a particular variety of ultra low quality crude, it underscores how dire things are in the U.S. oil patch.

A chart that I saw posted on Zero Hedge earlier today can help put all of this into perspective.  Whenever the price of oil falls really low relative to the price of gold, there is a major global crisis.  Right now an ounce of gold will purchase more oil than ever before, and many believe that this indicates that a new great crisis is upon us…

The number of barrels of oil that a single ounce of gold can buy has never, ever been higher.

Barrels Of Oil Per Ounce Of Gold

All over the planet, big banks are absolutely teeming with bad loans.  And to be honest, the big banks in the U.S. are probably in better shape than some of the major banks in Europe and Asia.  But once the dominoes start to fall, very few financial institutions are going to escape unscathed.

In the coming days I would expect to see more headlines like we just got out of Italy.  Apparently, Italian banks are nearing full meltdown mode, and short selling has been temporarily banned.  To me, it appears that we are just inches away from full-blown financial panic in Europe.

However, just like with the last financial crisis, you never quite know where the next “explosion” is going to happen next.

But one thing is for sure – the financial crisis that began during the second half of 2015 is raging out of control, and the pain that we have seen so far is just the beginning.

The Financial Apocalypse Accelerates As Middle East Stocks Crash To Begin The Week

Apocalyptic - Public DomainIt looks like it is going to be another chaotic week for global financial markets.  On Sunday, news that Iran plans to dramatically ramp up oil production sent stocks plunging all across the Middle East.  Stocks in Kuwait were down 3.1 percent, stocks in Saudi Arabia plummeted 5.4 percent, and stocks in Qatar experienced a mammoth 7 percent decline.  And of course all of this comes in the context of a much larger long-term decline for Middle Eastern stocks.  At this point, Saudi Arabian stocks are down more than 50 percent from their 2014 highs.  Needless to say, a lot of very wealthy people in Saudi Arabia are getting very nervous.  Could you imagine waking up someday and realizing that more than half of your fortune had been wiped out?  Things aren’t that bad in the U.S. quite yet, but it looks like another rough week could be ahead.  The Dow, the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq are all down at least 12 percent from their 52-week highs, and the Russell 2000 is already in bear market territory.  Hopefully this week will not be as bad as last week, but events are starting to move very rapidly now.

Much of the chaos around the globe is being driven by the price of oil.  At the end of last week the price of oil dipped below 30 dollars a barrel, and now Iran has announced plans “to add 1 million barrels to its daily crude production”

Iran could get more than five times as much cash from oil sales by year-end as the lifting of economic sanctions frees the OPEC member to boost crude exports and attract foreign investment needed to rebuild its energy industry.

The Persian Gulf nation will be able to access all of its revenue from crude sales after the U.S. and five other global powers removed sanctions on Saturday in return for Iran’s curbing its nuclear program. The fifth-biggest producer in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries had been receiving only $700 million of each month’s oil earnings under an interim agreement, with the rest blocked in foreign bank accounts. Iran is striving to add 1 million barrels to its daily crude production and exports this year amid a global supply glut that has pushed prices 22 percent lower this month.

It doesn’t take a genius to figure out what this is going to do to the price of oil.

The price of oil has already fallen more than 20 percent so far in 2016, and overall it has declined by more than 70 percent since late 2014.

When the price of oil first started to fall, a lot of people out there were proclaiming that it would be really good for the U.S. economy.  But I said just the opposite.  And of course since that time we have seen an endless parade of debt downgrades, bankruptcies and job losses.  130,000 good paying energy jobs were lost in the United States in 2015 alone because of this collapse, and things just continue to get even worse.  At this point, some are even calling for the federal government to intervene.  For example, the following is an excerpt from a CNN article that was just posted entitled “Is it time to bail out the U.S. oil industry?“…

America’s once-booming oil industry is suddenly in deep financial trouble.

The epic crash in oil prices has wiped out tens of thousands of jobs, caused dozens of bankruptcies and spooked global financial markets.

The fallout is already being felt in oil-rich states like Texas, Oklahoma and North Dakota, where home foreclosure rates are spiking and economic growth is slowing.

Now there are calls in at least some corners for the federal government to come to the rescue.

Is it just me, or is all of this really starting to sound a lot like 2008?

And of course it isn’t just the U.S. that is facing troubles.  The global financial crisis that began during the second half of 2015 is rapidly accelerating, and chaos is erupting all over the planet.  The following summary of what we have been seeing in recent days comes from Doug Noland

The world has changed significantly – perhaps profoundly – over recent weeks. The Shanghai Composite has dropped 17.4% over the past month (Shenzhen down 21%). Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index was down 8.2% over the past month, with Hang Seng Financials sinking 11.9%. WTI crude is down 26% since December 15th. Over this period, the GSCI Commodities Index sank 12.2%. The Mexican peso has declined almost 7% in a month, the Russian ruble 10% and the South African rand 12%. A Friday headline from the Financial Times: “Emerging market stocks retreat to lowest since 09.”

Trouble at the “Periphery” has definitely taken a troubling turn for the worse. Hope that things were on an uptrend has confronted the reality that things are rapidly getting much worse. This week saw the Shanghai Composite sink 9.0%. Major equities indexes were hit 8.0% in Russia and 5.0% in Brazil (Petrobras down 9%). Financial stocks and levered corporations have been under pressure round the globe. The Russian ruble sank 4.0% this week, increasing y-t-d losses versus the dollar to 7.1%. The Mexican peso declined another 1.8% this week. The Polish zloty slid 2.8% on an S&P downgrade (“Tumbles Most Since 2011”). The South African rand declined 3.0% (down 7.9% y-t-d). The yen added 0.2% this week, increasing 2016 gains to 3.0%. With the yen up almost 4% versus the dollar over the past month, so-called yen “carry trades” are turning increasingly problematic.

Closer to home, the crisis in Puerto Rico continues to spiral out of control.  The following is an excerpt from a letter that Treasury Secretary Jack Lew sent to Congress on Friday

Although there are many ways this crisis could escalate further, it is clear that Puerto Rico is already in the midst of an economic collapse

Puerto Rico is already in default. It is shifting funds from one creditor to pay another and has stopped payment altogether on several of its debts. As predicted, creditors are filing lawsuits. The Government Development Bank, which provides critical banking and fiscal services to the central government, only avoided depleting its liquidity by halting lending activity and sweeping in additional deposits from other Puerto Rico governmental entities. A large debt payment of $400 million is due on May 1, and a broader set of payments are due at the end of June.

It isn’t Michael Snyder from The Economic Collapse Blog that is saying that Puerto Rico is “in the midst of an economic collapse”.

That is the Secretary of the U.S. Treasury that is saying it.

Those that have been eagerly anticipating a financial apocalypse are going to get what they have been waiting for.

Right now we are about halfway through January, and this is the worst start to a year for stocks ever.  The Dow is down a total of 1,437 points since the beginning of 2016, and more than 15 trillion dollars of stock market wealth has been wiped out globally since last June.

Unfortunately, there are still a lot of people out there that are in denial.

There are a lot of people that still believe that this is just a temporary bump in the road and that things will return to “normal” very soon.

They don’t understand that this is just the beginning.  What we have seen so far is just the warm up act, and much, much worse is yet to come.

Welcome To The New Normal: The Dow Crashes Another 390 Points And Wal-Mart Closes 269 Stores

Welcome to the new normalDid you know that 15 trillion dollars of global stock market wealth has been wiped out since last June?  The worldwide financial crisis that began in the middle of last year is starting to spin wildly out of control.  On Friday, the Dow plunged another 390 points, and it is now down a total of 1,437 points since the beginning of this calendar year.  Never before in U.S. history have stocks ever started a year this badly.  The same thing can be said in Europe, where stocks have now officially entered bear market territory.  As I discussed yesterday, the economic slowdown and financial unraveling that we are witnessing are truly global in scope.  Banks are failing all over the continent, and I expect major European banks to start making some huge headlines not too long from now.  And of course let us not forget about China.  On Friday the Shanghai Composite declined another 3.6 percent, and overall it is now down more than 20 percent from its December high.  Much of this chaos has been driven by the continuing crash of the price of oil.  As I write this article, it has dipped below 30 dollars a barrel, and many of the big banks are projecting that it still has much farther to fall.

The other night, Barack Obama got up in front of the American people and proclaimed that anyone that was saying that the economy was not recovering was peddling fiction.  Well, if the U.S. economy is doing so great, then why in the world has Wal-Mart decided to shut down 269 stores?…

Walmart (WMT) will close 269 stores around the world in a strategic move to focus more on its supercenters and e-commerce business, the company said Friday.

The closures include 154 U.S. locations, encompassing Walmart’s entire fleet of 102 ‘Express’ format stores, its smallest stores that have been in pilot testing since 2011. Some supercenters, Sam’s Club locations and Neighborhood Markets will also close, plus 115 stores in Latin American markets. The closures were decided based on financial performance and how well the locations fit with Walmart’s broader strategy, says Greg Hitt, a company spokesman.

We have grown accustomed to other major retailers shutting down stores, but this is Wal-Mart.

Wal-Mart doesn’t retreat.  For decades, Wal-Mart has been on a relentless march forward.  They have been an unstoppable juggernaut that has expanded extremely aggressively and that has ruthlessly crushed the competition.

I was absolutely stunned when I saw that they were going to close down 269 stores.  If you want to know if your local store is in danger, you can view the full list right here.

Overall, 10,000 Wal-Mart employees will be affected.  I could understand closing down a few underperforming stores, but if the U.S. economy truly is in great shape then it wouldn’t make any sense at all to shut down hundreds of stores.

What in the name of Sam Walton is going on out there?

The truth, of course, is that the U.S. economy is in great danger.  We have now entered the next great crisis, but most communities around the country never even recovered from the last one.  In fact, the Wall Street Journal is reporting that a whopping 93 percent of all counties in the United States “have failed to fully recover” from the last recession…

More than six years after the economic expansion began, 93% of counties in the U.S. have failed to fully recover from the blow they suffered during the recession.

Nationwide, 214 counties, or 7% of 3,069, had recovered last year to prerecession levels on four indicators: total employment, the unemployment rate, size of the economy and home values, a study from the National Association of Counties released Tuesday found.

The next few weeks are going to be very interesting to watch.  The economic fundamentals continue to deteriorate, and the financial markets are finally starting to catch up with economic reality.

As the collapse on Wall Street accelerates, we are going to increasingly see panic selling and forced liquidations.  In the past, it was mostly humans that had their hands on the controls during market crashes, but today the machines are making more of the decisions than ever before.  The following comes from CNBC

The new market age is decidedly different: Rather than that seething cacophony, aggressive corrections like the current ones are directed by a faceless metronome of computer-generated orders, triggering irresistible momentum and trillions in losses.

Amid it all, market veterans are left to ponder when the script will flip and market direction will turn not by newfound optimism among traders in the pits, but rather by algorithms that generate “buy” rather than “sell” signals.

It feels like sell program after sell program,” said Michael Cohn, chief market strategist at Atlantis Asset Management, a boutique firm in New York. “It seems to happen first thing in the morning, and then however the market transpires during the day is how they close it. If it looks like it’s coming back, they’ll take it at the end. If if looks like it’s heading lower, they’ll slam it at the end of the day.”

Earlier today, an article authored by Michael Pento entitled “A recession worse than 2008 is coming” was posted on CNBC.  Here is a short excerpt…

But a recession has occurred in the U.S. about every five years, on average, since the end of WWII; and it has been seven years since the last one — we are overdue.

Most importantly, the average market drop during the peak to trough of the last 6 recessions has been 37 percent. That would take the S&P 500 down to 1,300; if this next recession were to be just of the average variety.

But this one will be worse.

If stocks do drop a total of 37 percent, that would just bring them back to levels that would be considered “normal” or “average” by historical standards.  There is certainly the possibility that they could fall much farther than that.

And of course the markets are so incredibly fragile at this point that any sort of a “trigger event” could cause a collapse of epic proportions.

All it is going to take is a major disaster or emergency of some sort.

Do you have a feeling that something really bad is about to happen?  This is something that I have been hearing from people that I respect, and I would like to know if it is a phenomenon that is more widespread.  If you have been feeling something like this, please feel free to share it with us by posting a comment below…

The Dow Falls Another 364 Points And We Are Now Down 2200 Points From The Peak Of The Market

Falling - Public DomainIt was another day of utter carnage on Wall Street.  The Dow was down another 364 points, the S&P 500 broke below 1900, and the Nasdaq had a much larger percentage loss than either of them.  The Russell 2000 has now fallen 22 percent from the peak, and it has officially entered bear market territory.  After 13 days, this remains the worst start to a year for stocks ever, and trillions of dollars of stock market wealth has already been wiped out globally.  Meanwhile, junk bonds continue their collapse.  JNK got hammered all the way down to 33.06 as bond investors race for the exits.  In case you were wondering, this is exactly what a financial crisis look like.

Many of the “experts” had been proclaiming that “things are different this time” and that stocks could defy gravity forever.

Now we seeing that was not true at all.

So how far could stocks ultimately fall?

I have been telling my readers that stocks still need to fall about another 30 percent just to get to a level that is considered to be “normal” be historical standards, but the truth is that they could eventually fall much farther than that.

Just this week, Societe Generale economist Albert Edwards made headlines all over the world with his prediction that we could see the S&P 500 drop by a total of 75 percent…

If I am right and we have just seen a cyclical bull market within a secular bear market, then the next recession will spell real trouble for investors ill-prepared for equity valuations to fall to new lows. To bottom on a Shiller PE of 7x would see the S&P falling to around 550.

I will repeat that: If I am right, the S&P would fall to 550, a 75% decline from the recent 2100 peak. That obviously will be a catastrophe for the economy via the wealth effect and all the Fed’s QE hard work will turn dust.

That is why I believe the Fed will fight the next bear market with every weapon available including deeply negative Fed Funds rates in addition to more QE. Indeed, negative policy rates will become ubiquitous.

Most believe a 75% equity bear market to be impossible. But those same people said something similar prior to the 2008 Global Financial Crisis. They, including the Fed, failed to predict the vulnerability of the US economy that would fall into deep recession, well before Lehman’s went bust in September 2008.

Other than stocks, there are three key areas that I want my readers to keep an eye on during the weeks ahead…

1. The Price Of Oil – The price of oil doesn’t have to go one penny lower to continue causing catastrophic damage in the financial world.  If we hover around 30 dollars a barrel, we will see more bankruptcies, more defaults, more layoffs and more carnage for energy stocks.  But of course it is quite conceivable that the price of oil could easily slide a lot farther.  Just check out some of the predictions that some of the biggest banks in the entire world are now making

Just this week Morgan Stanley warned that the super-strong U.S. dollar could drive crude oil to $20 a barrel. Not to be outdone, Royal Bank of Scotland said $16 is on the horizon, comparing the current market mood to the days before the implosion of Lehman Brothers in 2008.

Standard Chartered doesn’t think those dire predictions are dark enough. The British bank said in a new research report that oil prices could collapse to as low as $10 a barrel — a level unseen since November 2001.

2. Junk Bonds – This is something that I have written about repeatedly.  Right now, we are witnessing an epic collapse of the junk bond market, just like we did just prior to the great stock market crash of 2008.  As I mentioned above, Wednesday was a particularly brutal day for junk bonds, and Jeffrey Gundlach seems convinced that the worst is still yet to come…

He seemed to leave his most dire predictions for junk bonds, a part of the market he’s been bearish on for years. Gundlach believes hedge funds investing in risky debts face major liquidity risks if they are forced to exit positions amid investor redemptions. “We could be looking at a real ugly situation in the first quarter of 2016,” Gundlach said on a Tuesday call with investors, when referring to redemptions.

Because many hedge funds operate with leverage, he raised an alarming prospect that those who don’t redeem could be left with losses far more severe than their marks indicate. As the Federal Reserve raises rates, redemptions combined with tightening credit conditions could create major pricing dislocations.

3. Emerging Markets – We have not seen money being pulled out of emerging markets at this kind of rate in decades.  We are seeing a repeat of the conditions that caused the Latin American debt crisis of the 1980s and the Asian financial crisis of the 1990s.  Only this time what we are witnessing is truly global in scope, and central bankers are beginning to panic.  The following comes from Wolf Richter

Last year was a terrible year, probably worse than 2009,” the head of Mexico’s central bank told a conference of central bankers in Paris on Tuesday. It was the first year since 1988 that emerging markets saw net capital outflows, according to the Institute of International Finance, a Washington-based association of global banks and finance houses.

In December more than $3.1 billion fled emerging market funds. If anything, the New Year has been worse.

“I don’t have any data yet for the first week of 2016 but it’s probably going to be very, very, very bad,” Carstens said. If conditions do not improve, he warned, central banks in emerging markets may have little choice but to adopt a more “radical” approach to monetary policy, including intervening in domestic bonds and securities markets.

In addition to everything that I just shared with you, we got several other very troubling pieces of news on Wednesday…

-Canadian stocks continued their dramatic plunge and have now officially entered a bear market.

-PC sales just hit an eight year low.

-GoPro just announced that it is getting rid of 7 percent of its total workforce.

The bad news is coming fast and furious now.  The snowball that started rolling downhill about halfway last year has set off an avalanche, and panic has gripped the financial marketplace.

But my readers knew all of this was coming in advance.  What we are witnessing right now is simply the logical extension of trends that have been building for months.  The global financial crisis that started during the second half of 2015 is now bludgeoning Wall Street mercilessly, and investors are in panic mode.

So what comes next?

We have never seen a year start like this, so it is hard to say.  And if there is some sort of a major “trigger event” in our near future, we could see some single day crashes that make history.

Either way, the hounds have now been released, and it is going to be exceedingly difficult to get them back into the barn.

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