Free Beyond Collapse Survival Reference

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Economic Collapse Trigger Points And Black Swans


By Giordano Bruno

An avalanche is not an “event”, it is an epic; a series of smaller events drifting and compacting one after another until the contained potential energy reaches an apex, a point at which it can no longer be managed or inhibited. A single tremor, an inopportune echo, an unexpected shift in the winds, and the entire icy edifice, the product of countless layered storms, is sent crashing down the valley like a great and terrible hand. In this way, avalanches in nature are quite similar to avalanches in economies; both events accumulate over the long span of seasons, and finally end in the bewildering flash of a single moment.


The problem that most people have today is being unable to tell the difference between a smaller storm in our economy, and an avalanche. Very few Americans have ever personally witnessed a financial collapse, and so, when confronted with an initiating event, like the stock market plunge of 2008, they have no point of reference with which to compare the experience. They misinterpret the crash as a finale. Untouched, they breathe a sigh of relief, unaware that this is merely the beginning of something much more complex and threatening.


So, without personal experience on our side to help us recognize a trigger point incident; the catalyst that brings down our meticulously constructed house of cards, how will we stand watch? Will we miss the danger parading right in front of our faces? Will we be caught completely off-guard?


The key in avoiding such a scenario is in identifying the primary pillars of our particular financial system, and tracking them carefully. Once we are able to cut through the haze of distractions and minor events promoted mostly by the mainstream media, and focus on that which is truly important, our ability to foresee danger greatly increases. But what are the crucial mainstays of our economy, and what kind of disastrous occurrence could possibly bring them tumbling down?


Mortgage Crisis Redux


The health of property markets is a vital indicator of the stability of almost any country, but most especially in the United States. The reason why the bust in mortgage values is so dangerous to our particular economy is because Americans allowed themselves to become completely dependent on debt in order to sustain their consumption. We have been surviving on mortgage loans and Visa cards for nearly two decades! The fantastical boost in stocks and retail during the late 90’s and early 2000’s was an illusion built on artificially low interest rates and easy credit. Of course, it doesn’t help that corporate interests outsourced most of our industrial foundation to the third world leaving us with an emaciated jobs market utterly reliant on the service sector. Many people were given few options besides taking loan after loan using homes they couldn’t afford in the first place as collateral.

Regardless, without the support of solid industry and innovation in a system to supply employment opportunities and create true wealth (not debt), we have only “derivatives” and toxic securities, worthless bits of paper representing liabilities that will never be repaid. Now that these contracts are known to be worthless, there is only one thing left to prop up the economy; fiat printing of the U.S. dollar.


Back in 2008, I called the bailout of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac a “black hole” of debt which would siphon the last remaining vestiges of wealth from the American taxpayer, and this is exactly what has happened. Every quarter, MSM analysts claim the housing market has “bottomed” and is ready for a rebound, yet, every quarter the mortgage crisis gets just a little bit worse. It is now projected that Fannie and Freddie could end up costing taxpayers over $1 Trillion:


http://www.cnbc.com/id/37982580/Fannie_Freddie_Bailout_Could_Cost_Taxpayers_1_Trillion


This is a conservative estimate in my opinion, considering both firms comprise about $5 Trillion of the U.S. housing market, and mortgage defaults have continued unabated for nearly three years now. Until this past month, banks had accelerated their foreclosure rates by 25%:


http://www.foxnews.com/us/2010/09/16/homes-lost-foreclosure-percent/


The more homeowners declare bankruptcy, the more money U.S. citizens will have to pay to bailout banks and mortgage companies to keep them afloat, and the more the private Federal Reserve will create fiat dollars to continue this process. However, a new development has made this bad situation even more volatile.


In any major economic collapse, there is always another Jack-in-the-box. This time, it’s in the home foreclosure process itself. The Attorney General’s office in every state is now investigating banks like JP Morgan, Citigroup, Well’s Fargo, Bank Of America, etc, for flawed foreclosure documents, “automated” foreclosures, and the signing of foreclosure papers without properly ensuring their accuracy:


http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2010-10-18/u-s-bank-earnings-face-mortgage-scrutiny-as-49-billion-in-value-vanishes.html


These four banks control over 55% of the billing and collections market in U.S. home loans, while Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac usually own a piece of every mortgage these companies are involved in. Any sign of malfeasance on the part of these corporations may indicate widespread imbalances and fraud. Such news could trigger a flight of investors away from companies tied to this relapse in mortgage uncertainty, along with renewed bank failures in the vein of Lehman Bros. In response, some states have completely frozen home foreclosures. Florida, site of the third highest foreclosure rates in the country, will continue it’s freezing of home seizures for at least another month:


http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2010-10-25/florida-foreclosures-still-on-hold-as-banks-say-they-ve-resumed-seizures.html



There are two very big problems with this situation. First, while I am all for Americans keeping their homes and making life difficult for the bankers, a foreclosure freeze creates the possibility of a heightened banking collapse, which could lead to quantitative easing programs on a scale that dwarfs previous measures. This means even more tax dollars going into the “too big to fails”. Therefore, globalist banks actually BENEFIT from a foreclosure upheaval. It could also lead to a direct bailout of the mortgage market itself. In either case, the response will be more massive printing of fiat, and a catastrophic devaluation of the dollar.


Second, foreclosures now make up over 30% of all home sales in this country. In some states, including California, foreclosures make up nearly half of all home sales:


http://www.sacbee.com/2010/09/30/3069035/foreclosures-make-up-nearly-half.html


If you think home sales are in trouble now, imagine what will happen if all foreclosure sales stopped in their tracks for several months or more! Poof! 30% to 40% of the housing market gone, just like that! I have no doubt that this would inspire considerable outflows of investment from the U.S. economy, especially by foreign nations. This is already happening in certain sectors. Central Banks across the world recently dumped a record $57 billion in U.S. Agency bonds. These bonds support such entities as Fannie and Freddie, and an expanded property market disaster would greatly damage their value:


http://jsmineset.com/2010/09/16/central-banks-dump-57-billion-of-us-agency-debt/


Interestingly, this dump began almost right before the “foreclosure-gate” issue arose, which suggests that some central banks were aware that the mortgage crisis in the U.S. would hit a new stage before it even happened.


Essentially, any announcement of an extended foreclosure freeze would set in motion a domino effect that is likely to contribute to systematic failure in our economy, and most especially, in the now precarious health of the dollar. News of a nation-wide freeze without an announcement of a time-frame should be considered by those in the Liberty Movement as a neon red warning sign that the situation is about to get ugly.


Stock Market Bubble Burst


So much fiat is being pumped into banks and the Dow by the Treasury and the Federal Reserve it is difficult to tell what is truly going on in the stock market. There are, though, certain signs we can look for to gage when a stock bubble implosion could take place. One method is to track the cash holdings of mutual funds.


When mutual funds have a lot of cash on hand, it often means they ready to funnel new capital into markets when the time is right. When mutual funds are very low on cash, this might signal that the market is ready to begin an extensive sell off. Currently, mutual fund cash levels have hit an all-time record low:




http://pragcap.com/mutual-funds-are-all-in


This shows one of two things; either the stock market is inflated to its peak, and mutual funds have invested as much as they can to support it, or, mutual fund participants are beginning to pull their money out of their portfolios, in which case, the stock rally is built almost entirely on infusions from other sources (the Federal Reserve). The latter is supported by reports of an exodus of investors from mutual funds since August of this year:


http://www.kiplinger.com/news/article.php/retail-investors-pull-money-from-mutual-funds-is-19929663.html


Both problems reveal a severe weakness in stocks, one that could instigate an eventual Dow drop on par with the consecutive market dives of the Great Depression.


Another signal of a stock collapse is the “net short positions” of Commercial (corporate) traders in the market. When commercials short stocks heavily, it means they are betting on a substantial fall in market value. Being that many of these larger banks and hedge funds have an “inside track” on market information, they are usually correct in their predictions. Current net short positions of commercial traders have hit levels higher than any in the past 5 years:


http://pragcap.com/is-the-smart-money-getting-short


In my view, the next extended market drop we see is liable to be the last. Today’s economy is so unstable, and based on so much faith rather that fundamentals, any uncertainty in the Dow will pull the rug out from under us. A sudden 20% to 30% loss in stock values would be more than enough to create a trigger point in the destabilization of the rest of our financial system and should be taken very seriously by those in the Liberty Movement. This could happen over a period of months, or in a series of flash crashes lasting a matter of days.


Escalation Of Currency Conflict


Recently, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner announced that the U.S. had no intention of devaluing the dollar for export advantage over the rest of the world, and that the G20 should work on “aligning” their Forex positions to avoid wars over currency devaluation. This is fascinating, mainly because this statement is completely counter to what Geithner has been saying for the past couple years. Did ‘Tiny Tim’ grow a heart, or a brain, and realize the currency war rhetoric is a disaster waiting to happen for the United States? I really doubt it.


Such talk is typical in the midst of G20 conferences, but rarely if ever does this translate into any positive action by globalists. Currency devaluations, including that of the dollar, are well underway, and lip service paid by Geithner is not going to change anything. I’m sure he’s well aware of this.


The manner in which the currency war plays out hinges on a few key events. First, legislation put forward in Congress to institute trade duties on China is awaiting approval before the end of this year. The passage of this legislation WILL bring on the full force of a currency fight, and probably the dumping of U.S. T-bonds by China. Second, the Treasury Department trade report on China, which is expected to label the country as a currency manipulator, has been delayed even though it is required by law to be posted every 15th of October. The delay will probably last until after the November elections:


http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/business/7249676.html


If this report is released with the intention of accusing China of manipulation, expect escalation.


Finally, a further loss in the value of the dollar index, perhaps below the 74 point resistance level, could also result in an increased dumping of U.S. T-bonds by foreign central banks. Those looking for preemptive warning of collapse should keep a close eye on the dollar index as well as foreign liquidations of T-bond reserves.


Escalation Of Resource Conflict


Most people are aware of the import and export implications of a global trade war. Tariffs and duties are put in place, prices on foreign goods skyrocket, international investment tanks, and everyone becomes generally miffed with everyone else. It’s a perfect recipe for a full scale financial meltdown. However, one factor that is particularly detrimental to the U.S. is the use of vital resources by other nations as leverage to initiate a breakdown in the foundations of our domestic trade.


The U.S. imports everything and produces almost nothing. Trade duties on China would cause swelling prices on nearly all products, being that most items we buy are made in China, but this is nothing compared to the resource and commodity valuations that will follow, along with the scarcity of materials withheld by governments out of spite.


Oil, for instance, will obviously be the first resource used as a trade weapon. For now, crude oil is holding at around $80 a barrel, but this will not last much longer. The dollar’s world reserve currency status is intact for the moment, and oil is traded across the planet almost exclusively in dollars. A dollar devaluation, even in the face of commodity market manipulation, would eventually lead to an oil spike. A trade war would exacerbate this scenario by reducing the steady flow of oil into the U.S. OPEC members are now calling for oil to rise to $100 a barrel to counter weakness in the dollar. This would bring us back to $3 to $3.50 a gallon gas, if crude values and supplies remain at that level:


http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2010-10-15/opec-members-seek-100-a-barrel-oil-as-sliding-dollar-cuts-real-revenue.html


I suspect with added currency instability, $150 a barrel oil is conceivable within the next 6 months. Two years ago, high gas prices frustrated Americans, but were still bearable. Today, after two years of static 20% real unemployment and trillions in lost savings, $150 oil would crush what’s left of this economy.


Another good example of resource control would be China’s domination of “rare earth”, a metals material necessary for the manufacture of most electronics and some military defense products. China regulates about 97% of the rare earth market, and is beginning to hoard the needed ore (while claiming they will not) in response to economic collapse and trade decoupling:


http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2010-10-20/china-pledges-to-maintain-rare-earth-sales-official-says-exports-may-rise.html


China’s exports of rare earth fell by 72% in July. The price of rare earth metals has increased seven-fold in the past six months. Considering the fact that one of the few industries left in the U.S., computer chips, relies entirely on this resource, its use as a trade weapon is evident.


While mushrooming commodity prices are a good sign of inflation in the dollar, in some cases they can also reflect the first stages of trade combat. Tracking them can give you precious insight into more insidious hazards just over the horizon.


Quantitative Easing To The Max


How many bailouts does it take to get to the center of a hyperinflationary collapse? Three? Or maybe just one continuous undefined fiat injection…


Federal Reserve officials meeting on November 2-3 will decide yet again how much money they will create out of thin air to prop up the economy. Some estimate that the Fed will pour around $300 billion into the system, while others are predicting around $2 trillion. I should mention, though, that whatever sum the Fed openly announces it will be irrelevant to those who understand how the central bank operates. The bailouts begun in 2008 never really stopped, and it’s impossible to say how much currency exactly the Fed has Xeroxed into circulation without taking a look at their books, which they won’t let anyone do.


The announcement will matter psychologically to those investors who don’t understand the shadowy nature of the Fed, and blindly believe whatever they are told.


A statement by Ben Bernanke of $300 billion or less in quantitative easing will probably have a calming effect on the fall of the dollar, at least for a short time, and a minor drop in the value of gold. An announcement of $1 trillion or more in easing will cause greater dollar instability, and a spike in gold. What mainstream investors will not comprehend is that ANY stimulus announcement is a very bad sign for the coming year. The Fed has been tossing dollars into the financial system at will without oversight and without public approval. Why would they now decide to make their program public? I believe the easing is meant to preempt a trigger point event in the markets yet to take place, as well as set the stage for further global currency tensions. The money creation that starts in early November will be an extension of that which has been going on unabated since 2008, but it will also herald a new phase, one which brings a frightening velocity to matters.


Austerity In A Land Of Excess


A society which has lived for a long time in a state of economic uncertainty and then faced with austerity measures is going to have to hurdle some serious obstacles to survive. On the other hand, a society that has grown used to a luxurious standard of living by comparison, and then forced into austerity, is liable to freak out padded-room style and make an unprecedented mess of things.


I honestly cannot imagine the full extent of an American reaction to austerity. Cuts in social security, medical care, unemployment welfare, food stamps, education, police, military spending, government jobs, etc, would at the very least result in rioting, not to mention leave a lot of starving, homeless people in its wake. This is, of course, what happens when you encourage dependency on government and a lack of self sufficiency in a culture. The life of the nanny state is often assumed eternal, even when its debts and currency are blatantly unsustainable.


According to Citigroup’s chief economist, “savage austerity” is already in the making for the U.S.:


http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2010-10-20/-savage-austerity-is-in-u-s-s-future-citigroup-s-buiter-says-tom-keene.html


A proclamation of austerity measures would be a high profile trigger point, sending shockwaves throughout our economy. Austerity would likely be preceded by defaults in municipal debts in cities across the country, as well as confiscation of employee pension funds. The government may try to use greater fiat injections to avoid having to cut certain services to the public, but some austerity will take place, seeds that will grow over time as the dollar loses its reserve status and its perceived value. Any sign of austerity in the U.S. is a sign of total collapse, period.


Black Swans Come Home To Roost


A “Black Swan” is an event which defies predictability and affects the very nature of a system in unexpected ways. A terrorist attack (or false flag), which causes investor sentiment to falter and stocks to disintegrate, would be an example of a Black Swan. Surprise cataclysms are in most cases only possible when there are already acute imbalances in a system (which have been ignored by the public) present to act as tinder for the fire. Like a twisted game of Jenga, global banks have pulled numerous supports from our financial structure, causing it to teeter on the brink of oblivion. It is indeed extremely vulnerable to unanticipated incidents.


There is absolutely no guarantee that life tomorrow will be anything like life today. Expectations of continuity and safety are a crutch for those who lack the ability to adapt to changing circumstances. Accepting the reality of possible upheaval is the first step in preparing one’s self to weather unfortunate circumstances, or even to prevent them. By recognizing trigger points in our economy, we can remove the shock factor, and thus the teeth of the dilemma. By familiarizing ourselves with the potential for danger, we steel ourselves to its ferocity. Even the shadow of a Black Swan is nothing to those who are intuitive, informed, savvy, and capable. The goal for those of us in the Liberty Movement is to encourage these qualities in our friends, family, and neighbors, until their ability to foretell financial and social jeopardy is carefully honed.


One thing is certain; we cannot go on simply waiting for misfortune to strike like lightening. We cannot play at life, pretending all is well until the final curtain falls, and acknowledging the need for vigilance could go a long way in seeing that it never does….

Original Article

1 comment:

  1. Preparing our assets and investing them wisely is a good preparation for an economic crisis.

    ReplyDelete