Sunday, November 22, 2015

Brussels Hotel Locked Down Amid Terror Threat, 4 Harbingers Of Stock Market Doom Are Flashing Red Again

Belgian police and soldiers descended on a major hotel in central Brussels Sunday night, declaring a lockdown on the buildings in light of a serious security threat, reports said.

Guests at the Radisson Blu Hotel were told to stay in their rooms and residents of the area were told to stay indoors until further notice. In addition, the Grand Place central square, minutes from the hotel, was evacuated.

The move is thought to be part of the ongoing manhunt for several suspects linked to the November 13 Paris attacks, including Salah Abdeslam, who managed to slip past French security forces.

Salah’s brother Brahim died when be blew himself up outside a bar as others attacked restaurants, a rock concert and the national stadium.

Belgian police have launched several operations linked to the “terrorist threat” facing Brussels, which is under a top security alert over fears of Paris-style attacks, a spokesman said Sunday.

“Different operations are under way because of the terrorist threat,” a police spokesman told AFP, requesting that “the media do not comment directly on the actions under way, mentioning the places for example.” The public prosecutor will hold a news conference “when it is all over,” he added.

Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel said earlier Sunday that Brussels would remain at the highest possible alert level into Monday, with schools and metros closed over a “serious and imminent” security threat similar to the Paris attacks.

“The threat is considered serious and imminent,” Michel said, a day after the authorities raised the alert level from 3 to 4 in the city that also hosts EU and NATO headquarters.

The city’s metro system will stay closed and all schools will be shut on Monday, he said after a meeting of the national security council to review the situation.
Tense Brussels was locked down for a second day Sunday with armed police and troops patrolling near-deserted streets amid fears jihadists planned a repeat of the Paris attacks, which left 130 people dead on November 13.

So many of the exact same patterns that we witnessed just before the stock market crash of 2008 are playing out once again right before our eyes.  Most of the time, a stock market crash doesn’t just come out of nowhere.  Normally there are specific leading indicators that we can look for that will tell us if major trouble is on the horizon.  One of these leading indicators is the junk bond market.  Right now, a closely watched high yield bond ETF known as JNK is sitting at 35.77.  If it falls below 35, that will be a major red flag, and it will be the first time that it has done so since 2009.  As you can see 
from this chart, JNK started crashing in June and July of 2008 – well before equities started crashing later that year.  A crash in junk bonds almost always precedes a major crash in stocks, and so this is something that I am watching carefully.

And there is a reason why junk bonds are crashing.  In 2015 we have seen the most corporate bond downgrades since the last financial crisis, and corporate debt defaults are absolutely skyrocketing.  The following comes from a recent piece by Porter Stansberry

So far this year, nearly 300 U.S. corporations have seen their bonds downgraded. That’s the most downgrades per year since the financial crisis of 2008-2009. The year isn’t over yet. Neither are the downgrades. More worrisome, the 12-month default rate on high-yield corporate debt has doubled this year. This suggests we are well into the next major debt-default cycle.

Another thing that I am watching closely is the price of oil.
A massive crash in the price of oil preceded the stock market crash of 2008, and over the past year we have seen another dramatic crash in the price of oil.
Many had been expecting the price of oil to bounce back, but instead we are seeing new downward momentum.  In fact, according to Business Insider the price of U.S. oil briefly dipped below $43 a barrel on Wednesday…

Another thing that I am watching is the ongoing crash of other industrial commodities.  This is something that also preceded the stock market crash of 2008, and it is a clear sign that global economic activity is really slowing down.
Prices for industrial commodities such as aluminum, tin, iron ore and coal are all crashing.  But the commodity that has me most alarmed personally is copper.
Economists commonly refer to it as “Dr. Copper”, and there is a very good reason for that.  Looking back over history, the price of copper often makes a significant move in one direction or the other before the overall economy does.  And the price of copper almost always starts declining before stocks do.
As I write this, the price of copper has fallen to $2.21, and it is already lower than at any point since the last financial crisis.  To get a better perspective regarding what I am talking about, just check out this chart.  This is one signal that is absolutely screaming that a major financial crisis is imminent.

One more harbinger of financial doom on the horizon is the surging U.S. dollar.  The U.S. dollar surged just before the financial crisis of 2008, and now it is happening again.

Most Americans don’t understand this, but the truth is that a rising U.S. dollar puts an incredible amount of stress on emerging markets all around the globe.

If the Fed does follow through with an interest rate hike in December, that is going to make things even worse.  The U.S. dollar will surge even more, and emerging markets will be in even more trouble.

This is just the beginning of a time of great financial volatility.  The things that we are going to witness in the months and years to come are going to be absolutely unprecedented.  A massive global debt super-cycle is coming to an end, and the pain that this is going to mean for the global economy is almost too great to put into words.

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