Not So Fast On That Whole Economic Recovery Thing

Not so fast.  Those that are publicly declaring that an economic recovery has arrived are ignoring a whole host of numbers that indicate that the U.S. economy is in absolutely horrendous shape.  The truth is that the health of an economy should not be measured by how well the stock market is doing.  Rather, the truth health of an economy should be evaluated by looking at numbers for things like jobs, housing, poverty and debt.  Some of the latest economic statistics indicate that unemployment is getting a little bit worse, that the housing market continues to deteriorate, that poverty in America continues to soar and that our debt problem is worse than ever.  If we were truly experiencing the kind of economic recovery that the United States has experienced after every other post-World War II recession we would see a sharp improvement across the board in most of our economic statistics.  But that simply is not happening.  Sadly, this is about as much of an “economic recovery” as we are going to get because soon the economy will be getting much worse.  So enjoy this period of relative stability while you can.

The Obama administration would have us believe that unemployment in the United States has declined, but the truth is that the percentage of working age Americans that are employed has stayed very, very flat for more than two years and now there are some measures of unemployment that are actually getting worse.

For example, according to Gallup the unemployment rate in the United States has risen from 8.5% in December to 8.6% in January to 9.1% in February.  The Obama administration would have us believe that it is actually going the other direction.

Initial unemployment claims are rising again.  For the week ending March 3rd, they increased by 8,000 over the previous week to 362,000.  This is not the kind of good news that people were hoping for.

What the U.S. economy could really use are millions of good jobs.  But those are being shipped out of the country at a staggering pace.

Right now there are millions of Americans in their prime working years that are sitting at home wondering what to do with their lives.  The average duration of unemployment in the United States continues to hover near a record high, and if we were truly experiencing an economic recovery it should have been falling by now.

But a lot of Americans have bought into the propaganda about an economic recovery and they are out running up huge amounts of debt once again.  In January, consumer credit increased by much more than expected.  The following is from a recent Reuters report….

Nonrevolving credit, which includes auto loans as well as student loans made by the government, rose $20.723 billion during the month. That was the biggest increase in dollar terms since November 2001, when credit was surging in the wake of the September 11 attacks in New York and Washington.

Don’t fall into the trap of debt slavery.  During the last recession millions of Americans lost their homes and most of what they owned because they got overextended.

Don’t do it.

The U.S. housing market continues to deeply struggle as well.  If we were really in an economic recovery housing would be bouncing back.  But that is not happening.  Just consider the following facts….

*The number of new homes sold in the United States continues to hover near a record low.

*U.S. home prices in the 4th quarter of 2011 were four percent lower than they were during the 4th quarter of 2010.

*According to CoreLogic, 22.8 percent of all homes with a mortgage in the United States were in negative equity as of the end of the 4th quarter of 2011.  That was an increase from 22.1 percent in the third quarter.

Why are things still getting worse for the U.S housing market?

That is a really good question.

We should have seen some improvement by now.

But it isn’t happening.

Also, poverty in America continues to explode.

For example, the number of Americans on food stamps has increased to 46.5 million – a brand new all-time record.

If we really were in an economic recovery, wouldn’t that number be going down?

We should be thankful that the U.S. economy is not declining as rapidly as it was during 2008 and 2009.  But what we are experiencing right now is not an economic recovery.  It is simply just a bubble of false hope.

The big problem is that our nation is covered in an ocean of constantly expanding debt.

U.S. consumers are drowning in debt, U.S. businesses have pushed debt levels to the red line, and the U.S. financial system is massively overleveraged.

Of course government debt is our biggest debt problem of all.

All over the nation, state and local governments are on the verge of financial ruin.

If we were in the middle of an economic recovery, so many states would not be in crisis mode.  A recent article in the Los Angeles Times declared that “California could run out of cash in March“.  As the economy continues to crumble we are going to hear a lot more of this kind of thing.

A lot of local governments around the nation are on the verge of total financial collapse.  Stockton, California has announced that they will be defaulting on some debt payments, and Suffolk County in New York recently declared a fiscal emergency after discovering that it would rack up more than 500 million dollars of debt between 2011 and 2013.

Keep your eyes open for more news items like this in the months ahead.

Of course the biggest problem of all is the U.S. national debt and it continues to rapidly get worse.

According to the Congressional Budget Office, the U.S. government had a budget deficit of 229 billion dollars in the month of February.  That is the worst one month budget deficit in the history of the United States.

The Congressional Budget Office also says that the U.S. government is now borrowing 42 cents of every single dollar that it spends.

Ouch.

The U.S. national debt has gotten more than 59 times larger since 1950.

The U.S. national debt is now more than 22 times larger than it was when Jimmy Carter became president.

Are there any words in the English language that are strong enough to describe how foolish we have been?

Of course we won’t be able to accumulate so much debt indefinitely.  At some point the trillion dollar deficits will stop and our false prosperity will disappear.

If you want to get an idea of what happens then, just take a look at Greece.

But Barack Obama and most members of the U.S. Congress don’t really care about what they are doing to our future.

What they care about is winning the next election so that they can continue living their fabulous lives.

Barack Obama is supposed to be taking care of the American people, but instead he has been very busy taking care of the people who helped him get elected.  Politics in America is all about money.  Just check out the following very short excerpt from a recent article in the Washington Post….

More than half of Obama’s 47 biggest fundraisers, those who collected at least $500,000 for his campaign, have been given administration jobs. Nine more have been appointed to presidential boards and committees.

At least 24 Obama bundlers were given posts as foreign ambassadors, including in Finland, Australia, Portugal and Luxembourg. Among them is Don Beyer, a former Virginia lieutenant governor who serves as ambassador to Switzerland and Liechtenstein.

Washington D.C. is deeply corrupt and if you are waiting for our politicians to fix our problems you are going to be deeply disappointed.

The federal government is not going to save you.

Our politicians are not going to save you.

You better figure out how you are going to take care of yourself and your family in the years ahead because this is about as good as things are going to get.

This “economic recovery” is about to end and more pain is about to begin.

LOL – This Stock Market Rally Is For Suckers

Hey, have you heard?  The stock market is absolutely soaring right now.  The Dow was up 330 points on Monday, and overall the Dow has risen by more than 10 percent since October 3rd.  So should we all be throwing our money into the stock market in order to take advantage of this tremendous rally?  Well, if you actually believe that the sovereign debt crisis has passed and that we are no longer on the verge of a massive worldwide financial crisis then I have a bridge that I would like to sell you.  The stock market may be soaring, but absolutely nothing has been solved.  The truth is that this stock market rally is for suckers.  The primary reason why stocks rose today was because German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy promised that they would reveal a “comprehensive response” to the European debt crisis by the end of this month.  When pressed for specifics, Sarkozy stated that “now is not the moment to go into the details.”  So do global financial markets really have a legitimate reason to be giddy about the super secret plan cooked up by Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy, or are Merkel and Sarkozy just blowing a bunch of smoke?

Merkel and Sarkozy have made bold promises in the past, but nothing ever got fixed.

So why should we believe them this time?

If they have real solutions, why don’t they just reveal them now?

Why keep us in suspense?

By making these vague promises, Merkel and Sarkozy certainly did give a boost to global financial markets, but they also seriously raised expectations.

Now many in the financial world are expecting something truly significant from Merkel and Sarkozy.  For example, CNN has quoted economist Scott Brown as saying the following about the announcement by Merkel and Sarkozy….

“The Europe debt crisis cloud has been hanging over the market for a year-and-a-half now,” said Scott Brown, chief economist at Raymond James. “The risks and worries have been intensifying over the last couple of weeks, but after this weekend, the market is expecting something big and concrete that will put the crisis behind us.”

So can Merkel and Sarkozy deliver something big?

Of course not.

Merkel has already gotten all of the bailout money that she is going to get out of the Germans.  The political will for more bailouts is totally gone in Germany, and many of Germany’s top leaders have expressed this in no uncertain terms.

For example, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble is publicly admitting that Germany will not be able to contribute any more money to the European bailout fund.

Also, the leader of Bavaria’s Social Christians, Horst Seehofer, said after the recent vote on the Greek bailout package that his party would go “this far, and no further“.

Recent opinion polls in Germany make it abundantly clear that the German people are overwhelmingly opposed to more bailouts.  Squeezing more money out of Germany simply is not going to happen, and that means that squeezing more money out of the rest of Europe is simply not going to happen.

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

Repeat after me:

THERE WILL BE NO FISCAL UNION.

THERE WILL BE NO EUROBONDS.

THERE WILL BE NO DEBT POOL.

THERE WILL BE NO EU TREASURY.

THERE WILL BE NO FISCAL TRANSFERS IN PERPETUITY.

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

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

So exactly what “big” solution do Merkel and Sarkozy have up their sleeves that does not involve more money?

Can they really produce the goods or are they just blowing smoke?

Perhaps global financial markets should be focusing on what we can see rather than on what we cannot see.

For example, the first major bank bailout in Europe has now happened.  Dexia is being bailed out, and it is going to cost more than 100 billion dollars.

The funny thing is that Dexia actually passed the banking stress test that was conducted a few months ago.

What does that say about all of the major European banks that did not pass the stress test?

Also, perhaps global financial markets should focus on all of the credit ratings that are being downgraded all over Europe.

Lately, we have seen a cascade of credit rating downgrades.

For example, Moody’s slashed Italy’s credit rating by three levels last Tuesday, and the other day S&P slashed the credit ratings of seven different major Italian banks.

The problems in Europe continue to grow worse, and yet the stock market is soaring.

It doesn’t make a lot of sense, does it?

If Greece defaults, it is going to be a major disaster.

If Italy or Spain defaults, it is going to be financial armageddon.

The world truly is on the verge of a massive financial crisis.  If you don’t want to believe me, perhaps you might believe some of the top financial officials in the world….

*Bank of England Governor Sir Mervyn King: “This is the most serious financial crisis we’ve seen at least since the 1930s, if not ever”

*U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner recently stated that if something is not done quickly, Europe faces “cascading default, bank runs and catastrophic risk.”

*IMF advisor Robert Shapiro: “If they can not address [the financial crisis] in a credible way I believe within perhaps 2 to 3 weeks we will have a meltdown in sovereign debt which will produce a meltdown across the European banking system. We are not just talking about a relatively small Belgian bank, we are talking about the largest banks in the world, the largest banks in Germany, the largest banks in France, that will spread to the United Kingdom, it will spread everywhere because the global financial system is so interconnected.”

For many more shocking quotes about how bad things have gotten in Europe, just check out this article.

Merkel and Sarkozy are holding really weak cards but they have chosen to raise the stakes anyway.

Their bluff may calm financial markets for a month or two, but in the end they will not be able to stop what is coming.

A great financial collapse is coming to Europe.

Try to get out of the way of the coming avalanche while you still can.

Nervous Breakdown? 21 Signs That Something Big Is About To Happen In The Financial World

Will global financial markets reach a breaking point during the month of October?  Right now there are all kinds of signs that the financial world is about to experience a nervous breakdown.  Massive amounts of investor money is being pulled out of the stock market and mammoth bets are being made against the S&P 500 in October.  The European debt crisis continues to grow even worse and weird financial moves are being made all over the globe.  Does all of this unusual activity indicate that something big is about to happen?  Let’s hope not.  But historically, the biggest stock market crashes have tended to happen in the fall.  So are we on the verge of a “Black October”?

The following are 21 signs that something big is about to happen in the financial world and that global financial markets are on the verge of a nervous breakdown….

#1 We are seeing an amazing number of bets against the S&P 500 right now.  According to CNN, the number of bets against the S&P 500 rose to the highest level in a year last month.  But that was nothing compared to what we are seeing for October.  The number of bets against the S&P 500 for the month of October is absolutely astounding.  Somebody is going to make a monstrous amount of money if there is a stock market crash next month.

#2 Investors are pulling a huge amount of money out of stocks right now.  Do they know something that we don’t?  The following is from a report in the Financial Post….

Investors have pulled more money from U.S. equity funds since the end of April than in the five months after the collapse of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc., adding to the $2.1 trillion rout in American stocks.

About $75 billion was withdrawn from funds that focus on shares during the past four months, according to data compiled by Bloomberg from the Investment Company Institute, a Washington-based trade group, and EPFR Global, a research firm in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Outflows totaled $72.8 billion from October 2008 through February 2009, following Lehman’s bankruptcy, the data show.

#3 Siemens has pulled more than half a billion euros out of two major French banks and has moved that money to the European Central Bank.  Do they know something or are they just getting nervous?

#4 On Monday, Standard & Poor’s cut Italy’s credit rating from A+ to A.

#5 The European Central Bank is purchasing even more Italian and Spanish bonds in an attempt to cool down the burgeoning financial crisis in Europe.

#6 The Federal Reserve, the European Central Bank, the Bank of England, the Bank of Japan and the Swiss National Bank have announced that they are going to make available an “unlimited” amount of money to European commercial banks in October, November and December.

#7 So far this year, the largest bank in Italy has lost over half of its value and the second largest bank in Italy is down 44 percent.

#8 Angela Merkel’s coalition is getting embarrassed in local elections in Germany.  A recent poll found that an astounding 82 percent of all Germans believe that her government is doing a bad job of handling the crisis in Greece.  Right now, public opinion in Germany is very negative toward the bailouts, and that is really bad news for Greece.

#9 Greece is experiencing a full-blown economic collapse at this point.  Just consider the following statistics from a recent editorial in the Guardian….

Consider first the scale of the crisis. After contracting in 2009 and 2010, GDP fell by a further 7.3% in the second quarter of 2011. Unemployment is approaching 900,000 and is projected to exceed 1.2 million, in a population of 11 million. These are figures reminiscent of the Great Depression of the 1930s.

#10 In 2009, Greece had a debt to GDP ratio of about 115%.  Today, Greece has a debt to GDP ratio of about 160%.  All of the austerity that has been imposed upon them has done nothing to solve their long-term problems.

#11 The yield on 1 year Greek bonds is now over 129 percent.  A year ago the yield on those bonds was under 10 percent.

#12 Greek Deputy Finance Minister Filippos Sachinidis says that Greece only has enough cash to continue operating until next month.

#13 Italy now has a debt to GDP ratio of about 120% and their economy is far, far larger than the economy of Greece.

#14 The yield on 2 year Portuguese bonds is now over 17 percent.  A year ago the yield on those bonds was about 4 percent.

#15 China seems to be concerned about the stability of European banks.  The following is from a recent Reuters report….

A big market-making state bank in China’s onshore foreign exchange market has stopped foreign exchange forwards and swaps trading with several European banks due to the unfolding debt crisis in Europe, two sources told Reuters on Tuesday.

#16 European central banks are now buying more gold than they are selling.  This is the first time that has happened in more than 20 years.

#17 The chief economist at the IMF says that the global economy has entered a “dangerous new phase“.

#18 Israel has dumped 46 percent of its U.S. Treasuries and Russia has dumped 95 percent of its U.S. Treasuries.  Do they know something that we don’t?

#19 World financial markets are expecting that the Federal Reserve will announce a new bond-buying plan this week that will be designed to push long-term interest rates lower.

#20 If some wealthy investors believe that the Obama tax plan has a chance of getting through Congress, they may start dumping stocks before the end of this year in order to avoid getting taxed at a much higher rate in 2012.

#21 According to a study that was recently released by Merrill Lynch, the U.S. economy has an 80% chance of going into another recession.

When financial markets get really jumpy like this, all it takes is one really big spark to set the dominoes in motion.

Hopefully nothing really big will happen in October.

Hopefully global financial markets will not experience a nervous breakdown.

But right now things look a little bit more like 2008 every single day.

None of the problems that caused the financial crisis of 2008 have been fixed, and the world financial system is more vulnerable today than it ever has been since the end of World War II.

As I wrote about yesterday, the U.S. economy has never really recovered from the last financial crisis.

If we see another major financial crash in the coming months, the consequences would be absolutely devastating.

We have been softened up and we are ready for the knockout blow.

Let’s just hope that the financial world can keep it together.

We don’t need more economic pain right about now.

The Economic Collapse