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Is the U.S. economy steamrolling toward another recession? Will 2014 turn out to be a major “turning point” when we look back on it? Before we get to the evidence, it is important to note that there are many economists that believe that the United States never actually got out of the last recession. For example, data compiled by John Williams of shadowstats.comshow that the U.S. economy has continually been in recession since 2005. So if anyone out there would like to argue that America is experiencing a recession right now, I certainly would not have a problem with that. In fact, that would fit with the daily reality of tens of millions of Americans that are deeply suffering in this harsh economic environment. But no matter whether we are in a “recession” at the moment or not, there are an increasing number of indications that we are rapidly plunging into another major economic slowdown. The following are the top 12 signs that the U.S. economy is heading toward another recession…
#1 We recently learned that the number of new mortgage applications in the United States had fallen to the lowest level that we have seen in nearly 20 years.
#4 Obamacare is really starting to hammer the U.S. health care industry…
“The Affordable Care Act is creating significant financial uncertainty to health care organizations,” said a survey respondent from the health care and social assistance industry.
“With little warning, the negative impact on revenuehas been unprecedented.”
#5 Trading revenue at the “too big to fail” banks on Wall Street is way down…
Citigroup Inc. (C) and JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM) are bracing investors for a fourth straight drop in first-quarter trading, a period of the year when the largest investment banks typically earn the most from that business.
Citigroup finance chief John Gerspach said yesterday his firm expects trading revenue to drop by a “high mid-teens” percentage, less than a week after JPMorgan Chief Executive Officer Jamie Dimon said revenue from equities and fixed income was down about 15 percent. If trading at the nine largest firms slumps that much, it would extend the slide from 2010’s first quarter to 36 percent.
#6 One of the “too big to fail” banks, JPMorgan, is planning to fire “thousands” more workers.
#7 Moody’s has downgraded the credit rating of the city of Chicago again. Now it is just three notches above junk status.
#8 The U.S. economy actually lost 2.87 million jobs during the month of January according to the unadjusted numbers. Over the past decade, the only time the U.S. economy has lost more jobs during the month of January was in 2009 at the peak of the last recession.
#9 In January, real disposable income in the U.S. experienced the largest year over year decline that we have seen since 1974.
#10 Only 35 percent of all Americans say that they are better off financially than they were a year ago.
#11 Global retail sales for machinery giant Caterpillar have fallen for 14 months in a row.
#12 The economic data show that virtually all of the largest economies on the planet are slowing down right now. The following is from a recent Zero Hedge article…
The last 3 weeks have seen the macro fundamentals of the G-10 major economies collapse at the fastest pace in almost 4 years and almost the biggest slump since Lehman. Despite a plethora of data showing that ‘weather’ is not to blame, US strategists, ‘economists’, and asset-gatherers are sticking to the meme that this is all because of the cold on the east coast of the US (and that means wondrous pent-up demand to come). However, as the New York Times reports, for the earth, it was the 4th warmest January on record.
For much more on how the rest of the global economy is also slowing down, please see my recent article entitled “20 Signs That The Global Economic Crisis Is Starting To Catch Fire“.
Meanwhile, things in Ukraine continue to become even more tense, and the Russian government continues to debate how it will respond if the U.S. does end up deciding to hit Russia with economic sanctions.
According to one Russian news source, the Russian parliament is actually considering the confiscation of the property and assets of U.S. businesses in Russia if the U.S. decides to go ahead with economic sanctions against Russia…
The upper house of Russia’s parliament is mulling measures allowing property and assets of European and US companies to be confiscated in the event of sanctions being adopted against Russia over its threatened military intervention in Ukraine.
We are talking about banks, retail chains, mining operations, etc.
U.S. companies have billions invested in Russia, and all of that could be gone in an instant.
So let us certainly hope that economic war between the United States and Russia is averted. Our economy is hurting enough as it is.
But no matter how things with this crisis in Ukraine play out, it looks like hard times are ahead for the U.S. economy.
Unfortunately, most Americans never learned the lessons that they should have learned back in 2008.
They just assume that the federal government and the Federal Reserve have fixed our problems and have everything under control, so they are not preparing for the next great crisis.
In the end, tens of millions of Americans will be absolutely devastated when they get absolutely blindsided by what is coming.
oftwominds-Charles Hugh Smith: Eating Our Seed Corn: How Much of our “Growth” Is From One-Time Cashouts?
We as a nation are consuming our seed corn in great gulps, and there will be precious little left in a decade to pass down to the next generation.
Anecdotally, it seems a significant percentage of our recent economic “growth” is being funded by one-time cashouts of IRAs, 401Ks, sales of parents’ homes, etc. This is the equivalent of eating our seed corn. Once these pools of savings/equity/capital are gone, they aren’t coming back.
I personally know a number of people who have cashed out their retirement account 401Ks (and paid the taxes) to pay for their kids’ college expenses–in effect, cashing out their retirement to lower but not eliminate the debt burden of their offspring who bought the “going away to college” experience.
The cashed-out 401K delighted the government, which reaped huge penalties and income taxes, as the cashout pushed the annual income of the recipient into a high tax bracket. (“Hardship” withdrawals for medical care and education waive the penalties, but the income tax takes a big chunk of the withdrawal.)
The middle-aged person who cashed out their retirement will not work long enough to save an equivalent nestegg. Not only is time against such an accumulation of retirement savings, so is the stagnant economy: companies are slashing 401K contributions to offset rising healthcare (a.k.a. sickcare) expenses, and many workers young and old alike are finding jobs that pay them as self-employed contractors or part-time jobs with no benefits.
Another set of middle-aged people are withdrawing from IRAs (and paying the penalties) just to fill the gap between expenses and income. For a variety of reasons, many people are loathe to cut expenses or are unable to do so without drastic changes in their lifestyle. So they withdraw from the IRA (individual retirement account) to cover expenses that are left after income has been spent.
This “solution” is appealing to those whose incomes have declined in what they perceive as “temporary” hard times.
Another pool of equity that is being drained is the home equity in aging parents’ homes. The government will only pay for one set of medical expenses (long-term care, for example) if the elderly person has assets of less than $2,000 (as I recall). Given this cap, it makes sense for elderly homeowners to transfer ownership of their home to their offspring well before they need long-term care (which can cost $12,000 to $15,000 a month).
A variety of other medical expenses can arise that cause the home to be sold to raise cash–either expenses for the elderly parents or for their late-middle-age offspring who develop costly health issues. Family disagreements over sharing the equity can arise, leading to the sale of the house and the division of the equity among the offspring.
This cash is immediately hit with a variety of demands: a grandkid needs a car, somebody needs money to go back to graduate school (pursuing the fantasy that another degree will provide financial security), and so on–not to mention “we deserve a nice vacation, a new car, etc.”, the temptations in a consumerist culture that we all “deserve.”
Once the family home is sold, the furnishings and other valuables are also sold off to raise cash. In many cases, the expense of transporting the items across the country to relatives exceeds the value of the furnishings.
One common thread in all these demands for liquidation of equity is the short-term need is pressing. A consumerist culture offers few incentives for long-term savings other than life insurance, IRAs and 401Ks, and all of these can be tapped once a pressing need arises.
Though people may want to hang on to their nestegg, they are faced with short-term needs: how else can I pay tuition, or this medical bill?
As incomes have stagnated and costs for big-ticket expenses such as college and healthcare have soared, the gap between income and expenditures has widened every year for the bottom 90%.
Even those in the top 10% are not protected from draw-downs in retirement funds and family equity in homes and other assets.
Retirement funds, home equity, family assets–these are the financial equivalent of seed corn. Once they’re cashed out and spent, they cannot be replaced.
In more prudent and prosperous times, these nesteggs of capital were conserved to be passed on to the next generation not for consumption but as a nestegg to be conserved for the following generation. That chain of capital preservation and inheritance is being broken by the ravenous need for cash to spend, not later but right now.
So how much of the recent “growth” in GDP results from our consumption of seed corn? It is difficult to find any data on this, something which is unsurprising as the data would reveal the entire “recovery” story as a grandiose illusion: we as a nation are consuming our seed corn in great gulps, and there will be precious little left in a decade to pass down to the next generation.
We face not just an impoverishment in consumption but in expectations and generational assets.