The warning signs are all around us. All we have to do is open up our eyes and look at them. Almost every single day there are more prominent voices in the financial world telling us that a massive economic crisis is coming and that we need to prepare for the worst. On Wednesday, it was the World Bank itself that issued a very chilling warning. In an absolutely startling report, the World Bank revised GDP growth estimates for 2012 downward very sharply, warned that Europe could be on the verge of a devastating financial crisis, and declared that the rest of the world better "prepare for the worst." You would expect to hear this kind of thing on The Economic Collapse Blog, but this is not the kind of language that you would normally expect to hear from the stuffed suits at the World Bank. Obviously things have gotten bad enough that nobody is even really trying to deny it anymore. Andrew Burns, the lead author of the report, said that if the sovereign debt crisis gets even worse we could be looking at an economic crisis that could be even worse than the last one: "An escalation of the crisis would spare no-one. Developed- and developing-country growth rates could fall by as much or more than in 2008/09." Burns also stated that the "importance of contingency planning cannot be stressed enough." In other words, Burns is saying that it is time to prepare for the worst. So are you ready?
But of course it isn't just the World Bank that is warning about these things. The chorus of voices that is warning about the next great financial crisis just seems to grow by the day.
Some of these voices were profiled in a Bloomberg article the other day entitled "Apocalypse How? Dire ’12 Forecasts". The following is just a sampling of quotes from that article....
-John Mauldin, president of Millennium Wave Advisors: "We've got a cancer. That cancer is debt"
-Mark Spitznagel of Universa Investments: "Too much malinvestment has been kept alive, and history shows an inevitable wipeout, which started in 2000."
-Michael Panzner of Financial Armageddon: "The fundamental outlook is even worse now than it was a few weeks ago, given (the lack of positive) developments in Europe and growing evidence that the economies of major countries around the world are deteriorating fast."
If you have time, you should go check out the rest of that article. It really is fascinating.
When this crisis is over, all sorts of people are going to be running around claiming that they predicted it. But it does not take a genius to see what is coming. All you have to do is open up your eyes and look at the flashing red warning signs.
So what should we all be looking for next?
March 20th is a key date to keep your eye on. That is the day when Greece will either makes its 14.5 billion euro bond payment or it will default.
Greece does not have a prayer of making that payment without help. If Greece can convince the EU and the IMF to release the next scheduled bailout payment and if Greece can reach a satisfactory deal with private bondholders, then the coming Greek default might be "orderly". But if something goes wrong, the coming Greek default might be quite "disorderly".
At this point, almost everyone in the financial world is anticipating a Greek default of one form or another....
-Edward Parker, the managing director for Fitch's sovereign and supranational group in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, recently declared that a Greek default is inevitable....
"It is going to happen. Greece is insolvent so it will default."
-Moritz Kraemer, the head of S&P's European sovereign ratings unit, made the following statement on Bloomberg Television on Monday:
"Greece will default very shortly. Whether there will be a solution at the end of the current rocky negotiations I cannot say."
-Richard McGuire, a strategist at Dutch bank Rabobank, was recently quoted by CNBC as saying the following....
"People often ask if Greece is going to default which ... is a misnomer because Greece is (already) defaulting"
-Diane Swonk, the chief economist at Mesirow Financial in Chicago, says that the default by Greece will probably be an "orderly" one but that the situation could change at any moment....
"It appears at the moment that the market is accepting a Greek default as inevitable, and it will be an orderly default. But that can change on a dime."
But whether there is a default or not, the reality is that Greece is already experiencing a full-blown economic depression. In Greece, 20 percent of all retail stores have already shut down. The unemployment rate for those under the age of 24 is now at 39 percent. Large numbers of Greeks are trying to get themselves and their money out of the country while they still can.
Pessimism regarding Greece is at an all-time high. Michael Fuchs, the deputy leader of Angela Merkel's political party, recently made the following statement....
"I don't think that Greece, in its current condition, can be saved."
But of course Greece is not the only declining economy in Europe by a long shot.
Italy has a much larger economy, and if Italy totally collapses it will be an absolute nightmare for the entire globe.
Right now, the Bank of Italy is forecasting a significant recession for the Italian economy in 2012. The following is from a statement that Bank of Italy has just released....
"The uncertainty that surrounds the medium-term perspectives of the Italian economy ... are extraordinarily high and are directly linked to the evolution of the eurozone debt crisis"
Italy's youth unemployment rate has hit the highest level ever, and nearly all sectors of the Italian economy are showing signs of slowing down.
Plus there is the looming problem of Italian debt. As I wrote about yesterday, when you add the maturing debt that the Italian government must roll over in 2012 to their projected budget deficit, it comes to 23.1 percent of Italy's GDP.
Originally it was hoped that the economic problems in Europe could be contained to just a few countries. But now it has become clear that is just not going to happen.
Trends forecaster Gerald Celente recently explained to ABC Australia that much of Europe is already essentially experiencing an economic depression....
"If you live in Greece, you’re in a depression; if you live in Spain, you’re in a depression; if you live in Portugal or Ireland, you’re in a depression,” Celente said. “If you live in Lithuania, you’re running to the bank to get your money out of the bank as the bank runs go on. It’s a depression. Hungary, there’s a depression, and much of Eastern Europe, Romania, Bulgaria. And there are a lot of depressions going on [already]."
The troubling news out of Europe just seems to keep coming in waves. Here are some more recent examples....
-Manufacturing activity in the euro zone has fallen for five months in a row.
-Germany's economy actually contracted during the 4th quarter of 2011.
-It is being reported that the Spanish economy contracted during the 4th quarter of 2011.
So will all of this economic trouble eventually spread to the United States?
Of course it will.
The global economy is more interconnected today than ever. Back in 2008 the financial crisis that started on Wall Street ended up devastating economies all over the planet. The same thing will happen during this next great financial crisis.
Only this time the U.S. is in a much weaker position. The U.S. debt problem has gotten much worse since the last crisis.
During 2008, our national debt crossed the 10 trillion dollar mark. Less than 4 years later, we have crossed the 15 trillion dollar mark.
So what are we going to do the next time large numbers of banks fail and unemployment skyrockets?
Where are we going to get the money to bail out all of those banks and to take care of all of those newly unemployed people?
Some people say that socialism is the answer, but the truth is that we are already a socialist welfare state. If you can believe it, nearly half of all Americans live in a household that receives some form of financial benefits from the U.S. government.
During the next great crisis, the number of people that are dependent on the government will go even higher.
If you don't want to end up dependent on the government, you should heed the warning signs and you should use this time to prepare for the hard times that are coming.
When even the World Bank tells us to hope for the best but to prepare for the worst, you know that it is late in the game.
Unfortunately, the vast majority of people out there only believe what they want to believe. They don't want to believe that a great economic crisis is coming, and so when it does happen they are going to be absolutely blindsided by it.