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Our Disneyland Economy July 16, 2017

Disneyland is known as a place “where dreams come true” and where every story always has a happy ending.  But there is going to be no happy ending for the U.S. economy.  Wishful thinking has resulted in one of the greatest stock market rallies in history in recent months, but like all childhood fantasies, it won’t last.  The real economy continues to deteriorate, and we can see this even right outside of the gates of Disneyland.  Every night growing numbers of homeless people sleep on the pavement just steps away from “the happiest place on Earth”.  It can be fun to “play make believe” for a while, but eventually reality always catches up with us.

Without a doubt, the stock market has been on a tremendous run.  Since Donald Trump’s stunning election victory in November, the market has been setting record high after record high, and it is now up a total of 17 percent

The Dow Jones Industrial Average recorded its 23rd all time high of 2017 yesterday closing at 21,532.  There have been a total of 120 days where the markets have closed since President Trump’s inauguration on January 20th.  The ‘DOW’ has closed at all time highs 23 of those days for nearly 20% or one-fifth of the days the market has been open.  The market is up 9% since the inauguration. 

Since the election on November 8th the DOW has closed at record highs an amazing 40 times!   Nearly one-fourth or 24% of the 168 days the markets have closed have been record highs since the November 8th election.  The market is up 17% since the election!

If this surge was supported by hard economic data, that would be something to greatly celebrate, but that has not been the case at all.

Instead, stock prices have become completely disconnected from economic reality, and now we are facing one of the greatest stock bubbles of all time.  As Graham Summers has pointed out, stocks are now trading at price to sales ratios that we haven’t seen since the very height of the dotcom bubble…

Earnings, cash flow, and book value are all financial data points that can be massaged via a variety of gimmicks. As a result of this, valuing stocks based on Price to Earnings, Price to Cash Flow, and Price to Book Value can often lead to inaccurate valuations.

Sales on the other hand are all but impossible to gimmick. Either money came in the door, or it didn’t And, if a company is caught faking its sales numbers, someone is going to jail.

So the fact that stocks are now trading at a P/S ratio that matches the Tech Bubble (the single largest stock bubble in history) tells us that we’re truly trading at astronomical levels: levels associated with staggering levels of excess.

There is no possible way that this is sustainable, and just like before the 2008 crisis a whole host of experts are warning that disaster is imminent.  One of them is John Mauldin

Looking with fresh eyes at the economic numbers and central bankers’ statements convinced me that we will soon be in deep trouble. I now feel that it’s highly likely we will face a major financial crisis, if not later this year, then by the end of 2018 at the latest. Just a few months ago, I thought we could avoid a crisis and muddle through. Now I think we’re past that point. The key decision-makers have (1) done nothing, (2) done the wrong thing, or (3) done the right thing too late.

Having realized this, I’m adjusting my research efforts. I believe a major crisis is coming. The questions now are, how severe will it be, and how will we get through it?

And even though the stock market has been surging deeper and deeper into bubble territory in recent months, the middle class has continued to shrink and poverty has continued to grow all over the country.  In fact, because so many homeless people have been sleeping at bus shelters across from Disneyland lately authorities decided to completely remove the benches that they had been sleeping on

The vanishing benches were Anaheim’s response to complaints about the homeless population around Disneyland. Public work crews removed 20 benches from bus shelters after callers alerted City Hall to reports of vagrants drinking, defecating or smoking pot in the neighborhood near the amusement park’s entrance, officials said.

The situation is part of a larger struggle by Orange County to deal with a rising homeless population. A survey last year placed the number of those without shelter at 15,300 people, compared with 12,700 two years earlier.

But simply removing benches will not make the problem go away.

Homelessness has been growing so rapidly in Los Angeles that the the L.A. City Council actually asked Governor Jerry Brown to formally declare a state of emergency.

And in New York City, street homelessness is up 39 percent over the past year.

This is where the real economy is heading, but a rising stock market makes for much happier headlines.

Many major cities around the nation are passing laws to essentially make it illegal to be homeless.  Forcing homeless people to go somewhere else may mask the problem for a while, but it certainly doesn’t do anything to solve it.  In my new book entitled “Living A Life That Really Matters”, I talk about how real love is not just about loving those that are just like us.  Rather, real love is about caring for people no matter what they look like and no matter what they are going through.

Unfortunately, the economic suffering that we are seeing right now is just the beginning.

Just like in 2008, the major financial crisis that is coming is going to greatly accelerate our economic problems.  And just like last time, millions of people are going to lose their jobs, and millions of people are going to lose their homes.

Homelessness is already worse in many parts of the nation that it was during the depths of the last recession, and what we are going to see during the next economic downturn is going to be absolutely unprecedented.

So don’t look down on those that need a helping hand, because in the not too distant future you may find yourself needing some help.

Michael Snyder is a Republican candidate for Congress in Idaho’s First Congressional District.  His new book entitled “Living A Life That Really Matters” is available in paperback and for the Kindle on Amazon.com.

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Legendary Investor Jim Rogers Warns That The Worst Stock Market Crash In Your Lifetime Is Coming ‘This Year Or Next’ June 11, 2017

If Jim Rogers is right, the worst stock market crash that any of us has ever seen is right around the corner.  For the past 15 years, Rogers has been a frequent guest analyst on CNBC, Fox News and elsewhere, and he is immensely respected for the depth of knowledge and experience that he brings to the table.  So the fact that he is warning that we are about to see the worst stock market crash in any of our lifetimes is making a lot of waves in the financial community.  And of course Rogers is far from alone.  Previously, I have written about several other prominent experts that are warning that a new financial crisis is imminent, and I have also discussed how a number of big investors are quietly positioning themselves to make an enormous amount of money when the markets crash.  Could it be possible that all of these incredibly sharp minds could be wrong?  Yes, but I wouldn’t bet on it.

I was actually quite stunned when I first learned what Jim Rogers had told Henry Blodget of Business Insider during a recent interview.  Rogers has built up a tremendous amount of credibility, but now he is putting that credibility on the line by warning that a great stock market crash will happen by the end of next year.  Here is the key portion of the interview

Blodget: Well, yeah, TV ratings do seem to go up during crashes, but then they completely disappear when everyone is obliterated, so no one is hoping for that. So when is this going to happen?

Rogers: Later this year or next.

Blodget: Later this year or next?

Rogers: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Write it down.

There is no backing out of a statement like that.

If Rogers is wrong, he will never hear the end of it.

Subsequently, Blodget and Rogers also discussed how severe the coming crisis would be…

Blodget: And how big a crash could we be looking at?

Rogers: It’s going to be the worst in your lifetime.

Blodget: I’ve had some pretty big ones in my lifetime.

Rogers: It’s going to be the biggest in my lifetime, and I’m older than you. No, it’s going to be serious stuff.

So that means that Rogers is convinced that the coming crisis is going to be even worse than what we went through in 2008.

Of course this is something that I have been warning about for quite a while, but for Jim Rogers to make a statement like this is a really, really big deal.

Later in the interview, Rogers shared more details about what he believes the coming crisis will look like…

You’re going to see governments fail. You’re going to see countries fail, this time around. Iceland failed last time. Other countries fail. You’re going to see more of that.

You’re going to see parties disappear. You’re going to see institutions that have been around for a long time — Lehman Brothers had been around over 150 years. Gone. Not even a memory for most people. You’re going to see a lot more of that next around, whether it’s museums or hospitals or universities or financial firms.

That definitely sounds like an “economic collapse” to me.  Of course the truth is that the U.S. economy is already in the midst of a slow-motion economic collapse that stretches back for decades, but this coming crisis that Rogers is talking about is going to great accelerate matters.

Let us hope that it is put off for as long as possible, but at some point we are simply going to run out of time.

And when markets do start falling, they can move very, very rapidly.  Just look at what happened on Friday.  Technology sector stocks were down 2.7 percent, and the FAANG stocks were some of the biggest movers

Facebook fell $5.11, or 3.3%, to $149.60.

Apple fell $6.01, or 3.9%, to $148.90.

Amazon fell $31.96, or 3.2%, to $978.31 now demoted from the elect group for 4-digit stocks back to the large group of 3-digit stocks.

Netflix plunged $7.85, or 4.7%, to $158.20.

Alphabet – the G in FAANG – fell $33.58, or 3.4%, to $952.23, moving further away from everyone’s dream of closing at $1,000.

If we are indeed moving toward a new crisis, one of the things that we will want to watch for is an inverting of the yield curve.

We saw this happen in 2000 and in 2006, and on both occasions it foreshadowed that a huge stock market crash was coming in the not too distant future.

Unfortunately, CNBC says that a new inversion of the yield curve could happen “by the end of this year”…

The bounce in Treasury yields witnessed after the election of Donald Trump is now decaying in the D.C. swamp. If the Federal Reserve continues to ignore this slow growth and deflationary signal from the bond market and continues along its current rate hiking path, the yield curve will invert by the end of this year and an equity market plunge and a recession is sure to follow.

An inverted yield curve, which has correctly predicted the last seven recessions going back to the late 1960’s, occurs when short-term interest rates yield more than longer-term rates. Why is an inverted yield curve so crucial in determining the direction of markets and the economy? Because when bank assets (longer-duration loans) generate less income than bank liabilities (short-term deposits), the incentive to make new loans dries up along with the money supply. And when asset bubbles are starved of that monetary fuel they burst. The severity of the recession depends on the intensity of the asset bubbles in existence prior to the inversion.

Another key indicator is the growth of commercial and industrial loans. According to Zero Hedge, this indicator has correctly foreshadowed every single recession since 1960…

While many “conventional” indicators of US economic vibrancy and strength have lost their informational and predictive value over the past decade (GDP fluctuates erratically especially in Q1, employment is the lowest this century yet real wage growth is non-existent, inflation remains under the Fed’s target despite its $4.5 trillion balance sheet and so on), one indicator has remained a stubbornly fail-safe marker of economic contraction: since the 1960, every time Commercial & Industrial loan balances have declined (or simply stopped growing), whether due to tighter loan supply or declining demand, a recession was already either in progress or would start soon.

So considering the fact that this indicator has been so accurate, it is extremely alarming that we could see our “first negative loan growth” since the last financial crisis “in roughly 4 to 6 weeks”

After growing at a 7% Y/Y pace at the start of the year, which declined to 3% at the end of March and 2.6% at the end of April, the latest bank loan update from the Fed showed that the annual rate of increase in C&A loans is now down to just 1.6%, – the lowest since 2011 – after slowing to 2.3% and 1.8% in the previous two weeks.

Should the current rate of loan growth deceleration persist – and there is nothing to suggest otherwise – the US will post its first negative loan growth, or rather loan contraction since the financial crisis, in roughly 4 to 6 weeks.

And when you throw in all of the other signs that the U.S. economy is slowing down, a very clear picture begins to emerge.

It has been said that those that do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.  As a society, we certainly didn’t learn much from the horrible financial disaster of 2008, and now so many of the exact same patterns are repeating once again.

An unprecedented financial crisis is most definitely heading our way, and the only thing left to be answered is how soon it will get here.

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Central Banks Now Own Stocks And Bonds Worth Trillions – And They Could Crash The Markets By Selling Them June 7, 2017

Have you ever wondered why stocks just seem to keep going up no matter what happens?  For years, financial markets have been behaving in ways that seem to defy any rational explanation, but once you understand the role that central banks have been playing everything begins to make sense.  In the aftermath of the great financial crisis of 2008, global central banks began to buy stocks, bonds and other financial assets in very large quantities and they haven’t stopped since.  In fact, as you will see below, global central banks are on pace to buy 3.6 trillion dollars worth of stocks and bonds this year alone.  At this point, the Swiss National Bank owns more publicly-traded shares of Facebook than Mark Zuckerberg does, and the Bank of Japan is now a top-five owner in 81 different large Japanese firms.  These global central banks are shamelessly pumping up global stock markets, but because they now have such vast holdings they could also cause a devastating global stock market crash simply by starting to sell off their portfolios.

Over the years I have often been asked about the “plunge protection team”, but the truth is that global central banks are the real “plunge protection team”.  If stocks start surging higher on any particular day for seemingly no reason, it is probably the work of a central bank.  Because they can inject billions of dollars into the markets whenever they want, that essentially allows them to “play god” and move the markets in any direction that they please.

But of course what they have done is essentially destroy the marketplace.  A “free market” for stocks basically no longer exists because of all this central bank manipulation.  I really like how Bruce Wilds made this point

One indication of just how messed up and flawed the global markets have become is reflected in the way central banks across the world are now buying stocks. This has become a part of their response to correcting the forces of past excesses. Their incursion into this bastion of the free markets signals we have entered the era where true price discovery no longer exists. The central banks are often viewed as price-insensitive buyers, so this incestuous influx of money is in some ways the ultimate distortion.

According to Business Insider, global central banks are on pace to purchase an astounding 3.6 trillion dollars in stocks and bonds in 2017.

Overall, the five largest global central banks now collectively have 14.6 trillion dollars in assets on their balance sheets.

You can call this a lot of things, but it certainly isn’t free market capitalism.

The Swiss National Bank is one of the biggest offenders.  During just the first three months of this year, it bought 17 billion dollars worth of U.S. stocks, and that brought the overall total that the Swiss National Bank is currently holding to more than $80 billion.

Have you ever wondered why shares of Apple just seem to keep going up and up and up?

Well, the Swiss National Bank bought almost 4 million shares of Apple during the months of January, February and March.

And as I mentioned above, the Swiss National Bank now owns more publicly-traded shares in Facebook than Mark Zuckerberg”

Switzerland’s central bank now owns more publicly-traded shares in Facebook than Mark Zuckerberg, part of a mushrooming stock portfolio that is likely to grow yet further.

The tech giant’s founder and CEO has other ways to control his company: Zuckerberg holds most of his stake in a different class of stock. Nevertheless this example illustrates how the Swiss National Bank has become a multi-billion-dollar equity investor due to its campaign to hold down the Swiss franc.

It is now the world’s eighth-biggest public investor, data from the Official Monetary and Financial Institutions Forum show.

But as shameless as the Swiss National Bank has been, the Bank of Japan is even worse.

Today, the Nikkei is essentially a giant sham.  The Bank of Japan regularly goes in and just starts buying up everything in sight, and according to Bloomberg they are on pace to become the largest shareholder in dozens of the most prominent Japanese corporations by the end of 2017…

Already a top-five owner of 81 companies in Japan’s Nikkei 225 Stock Average, the BOJ is on course to become the No. 1 shareholder in 55 of those firms by the end of next year, according to estimates compiled by Bloomberg from the central bank’s exchange-traded fund holdings.

If global central banks have the power to pump up these markets, they also have the power to crash them.

Why would they want to do such a thing?

I can answer that question with just two words…

Donald Trump.

If the Comey angle doesn’t work, the elite could try to destroy Trump by engineering an absolutely devastating stock market crash.  Close to half the U.S. population dislikes Trump anyway, and so it would be fairly easy to get them to believe that Trump’s policies have caused a new financial crisis.  Of course that would be complete nonsense, but in our society today the truth often doesn’t really matter.

And without a doubt, evidence continues to mount that the real economy is starting to slow down substantially.  For example, we just learned that bankruptcies surged once again in May.  The following comes from Wolf Richter

So here we go again. Total US business bankruptcies in May rose 4.7% year-over-year to 3,572 filings, according to the American Bankruptcy Institute. That’s up 40% from May 2015 and up 10% from May 2014.

And there’s another concern: Bankruptcy filings are highly seasonal. They peak in tax season – March or April – and then fall off. The decline in April after the peak in March was within that seasonal pattern. Over the past years, filings dropped in May. But not this year.

Without unprecedented intervention by global central banks, financial markets would have crashed long ago.

And if they keep increasing their purchases of stocks and bonds, the central banks may be able to prop things up for a while longer.

Who knows?  Perhaps with enough financial engineering they would be able to keep this bubble going for years.  Of course things would start to get really awkward once they eventually owned virtually everything, but I have a feeling that things will never get that far.

I have a feeling that global central banks will eventually find an excuse to start “unwinding their balance sheets”, and I have a feeling that it will be at a time that is highly inconvenient for President Trump.

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