The financial crisis that has spanned the globe has had an especially strong impact in countries beset by political uncertainty. Analysts say weak governments saddled with poorly performing economies are more vulnerable to social unrest and armed insurgency.
According to analysts, Pakistan is one of the most prominent examples of a nation where economic pressures are feeding unrest and threatening a wobbly government.
1. SOVEREIGN credit quality is coming into question.
2. Eastern Europe is starting to meltdown.
3. Rapid deterioration in commercial real estate continues apace.
The article below is by Mike Larson (02-27-09).
I’m a worrier by nature. I can’t help it. My job is to peer around the corner, figure out what’s next, and most importantly, discern what can really go WRONG in the economy and the markets.
And right now, I see three troubling developments that are keeping me up at night. These problems aren’t front-page news … yet. But they are circling in the background and threatening to explode into the headlines — derailing the market in the process. I suggest you sit up and take notice. I sure am.
More below …
Troubling Development #1 — Credit quality is worsening … and I’m not talking about home mortgages or credit cards
We all know that the private credit markets are in disarray. Delinquency and default rates are soaring on credit cards, home mortgages, auto loans, and more. The cost of insuring bonds consisting of those kinds of loans has risen substantially, and losses on those bonds have been rising smartly.
The U.S. government — and its counterparts overseas — are responding very aggressively with bailouts, bank rescues, interest rate cuts, and rampant money printing. Many advocates of these policies would have you believe there will be no consequences from these actions.
But the market is sending a different message. Indeed, all of the largesse is starting to have a real impact on the perceived credit quality of the countries involved.
In other words, forget about PRIVATE credit quality. SOVEREIGN credit quality is coming into question. Just look at this chart …
If this were a stock, it’d be one you’d want to own … right? Unfortunately, it’s not a stock. This chart actually shows the cost of buying insurance against a U.S. government debt default in the Credit Default Swap (CDS) market.
It now costs professional bond investors 98 basis points to buy that protection, up 14-fold from just 7 basis points in late 2007. That translates into $9,800 per $1 million of U.S. debt versus $700 previously.
Granted, that’s pocket change when compared to the cost of insuring the 10-year debt of troubled corporate borrowers, like a General Motors. But again, it’s the trend that matters — and the trend here is decidedly bearish.
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I started talking about this development months ago. This week, I heard someone on CNBC discussing it … for the very first time.
Rising default insurance costs were LEADING indicators of last fall’s stock market meltdown. And if default insurance costs continue to rise, I suspect it’ll be bearish for long-term U.S. Treasury prices and bearish for stocks as well.
So be sure to watch this trend!
Troubling Development #2 — Eastern Europe melting down
You want to know which other leading indicator told me the U.S. market was in huge trouble last year?
The meltdown in Iceland. Yes, Iceland!
Iceland’s mounting problems helped set off a credit and stock market hurricane.
When the rest of Wall Street was looking the other way, I couldn’t help but notice this small country’s mounting problems. Iceland’s currency was tanking, its stock market was coming under severe pressure, and concern about the country’s external debt burden — and its ability to pay back those debts — was soaring.
Turns out Iceland was the proverbial butterfly, whose flapping wings helped set off a credit and stock market hurricane. And these days, those same kinds of troubling winds are starting to blow in the Baltic republics, the former Soviet satellite states and elsewhere in Eastern Europe.
Just consider the following …
In Latvia, their currency, the lats, has been losing value against the euro amid increased credit concerns. Standard & Poor’s has cut the country’s credit rating down to junk territory, going from BBB- to BB+. The Latvian economy is collapsing at a 10%+ rate, forcing it to seek $9.6 billion in aid from the International Monetary Fund.
In the Ukraine, things are bad and getting worse. The country’s currency, the hryvnia, has lost half its value against the dollar in the past several months. S&P just slashed the Ukraine’s sovereign credit rating to CCC+ from B, and market participants are worried its $16.4 billion November bailout from the IMF won’t be enough to stop the bleeding.
Meanwhile, Serbia is seeking as much as $2 billion in IMF aid. Concern about Romania’s foreign-currency debt is driving its currency down. And Poland’s zloty is plunging amid a sharp economic decline. I’m seeing industrial production fall there at the fastest rate since the country abandoned Communism two decades ago.
Now you might think it doesn’t matter that the Warsaw Stock Exchange WIG Index is down 56% from a year ago. Or that the Bucharest Exchange Trading Index has plunged 76% (and 82% from its July 2007 high, as this cliff-diving chart shows).
But considering the interconnectedness of world markets — and the lesson of last year — that kind of thinking could prove dangerous. These budding crises could matter a whole bunch to U.S. investors, and it makes sense to pay close attention.
Troubling Development #3 — Rapid deterioration in commercial real estate continues apace
Empty buildings. For sale signs everywhere. Idled cranes and fenced-off lots. Bright orange eviction notices plastered to front doors. No, I’m not talking about what’s going on in the residential real estate market. I’m talking about what’s happening in the COMMERCIAL side of the business.
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We’re seeing commercial property sales dry up. We’re seeing issuance of commercial mortgage backed securities (CMBS) plunge — dropping 95% last year. We’re seeing CMBS delinquency rates rise quickly, with S&P suggesting they’ll triple this year. And we’re seeing vacancy rates surge, sublease space being dumped on the market, and rents declining.
Next up: Plunging commercial construction activity …
You can tell that’s coming by looking at leading indicators like the American Institute of Architects index. This index, which tracks how much building design and planning work architects are getting, dropped to 33.3 in January from 34.1 in December. That’s the lowest level ever for the index, which dates back to 1995.
As construction spending slumps, it’s going to be one more force dragging down the U.S. economy. And as commercial real estate loan performance deteriorates, it’s going to be yet another huge black hole for the banking and lending industries.
Bottom line: I’m still having a hard time being bullish on this market. And I still think more downside looms.
Until next time,
P.S. Don’t forget that in between your weekly Money and Markets updates, you can get my very latest market insights at my blog. You can also sound off on everything that’s happening in the interest rate and real estate worlds. Just click over to http://blogs.moneyandmarkets.com/interest-rate-roundup.
This investment news is brought to you by Money and Markets. Money and Markets is a free daily investment newsletter from Martin D. Weiss and Weiss Research analysts offering the latest investing news and financial insights for the stock market, including tips and advice on investing in gold, energy and oil. Dr. Weiss is a leader in the fields of investing, interest rates, financial safety and economic forecasting. To view archives or subscribe, visit http://www.moneyandmarkets.com.
A look inside Bushehr, Iran’s nuke facility
MSNBC – ?Feb 26, 2009
By Ali Arouzi, NBC News Producer BUSHEHR, Iran – As we were bused from the airport in the southwestern coastal city of Bushehr toward Iran’s nuclear power …
The bill that could break up Europe Economist – ?12 hours ago?
TUMBLING exchange rates, gaping current-account deficits, fearsome foreign-currency borrowings and nasty recessions: these sound like the ingredients of a …
Eastern Europe’s fall puts Continent on edge Christian Science Monitor – ?8 hours ago?
Latvia’s collapse and the sinking East is hurting Western banks, and the ideals of unity. By Robert Marquand | Staff writer/ February 26, 2009 edition …
* EU’s Almunia defends EU measures for E.Europe guardian.co.uk – ?11 hours ago?
By Marcin Grajewski and Boris Groendahl BRUSSELS/VIENNA, Feb 26 (Reuters) – The European Union defended its efforts to help emerging Europe before a summit …
Europe’s reluctant paymaster Economist – ?12 hours ago?
AP ITS place on the map once worried its generals. Now Germany feels encircled by economic menace. To the east lie ex-communist economies suffering from …
The transnational circles of Europe’s hell Globe and Mail – ?15 hours ago?
Everything is being stress-tested in this crisis. Europe, too. The weak points in the way the European Union has been put together, politically and …
E. Europe faces debt, currency woes International Herald Tribune – ?18 hours ago?
AP Rich West European countries face a dilemma: how to help poorer, former communist eastern neighbors weather the financial crisis even as they are forced …
Stress tests for the eurozone Times of Malta – ?20 hours ago?
The world’s youngest and second most important currency enters its second decade of existence with formidable challenges ahead of it. …
Eastern Europe crisis raises bailout risk MSNBC – ?11 hours ago?
By VANESSA GERA WARSAW, Poland – After significant pain in the transition to capitalism, formerly communist Eastern Europe finally got its reward in recent …
The Kremlin has been behaving like a big spender, even though Russia is among the countries hardest hit by the global financial crunch. [For background see the Eurasia Insight archive]. And the news just keeps getting grimmer for Moscow. Indeed, Russian government officials recently reported that the state budget is starting to groan under the weight of the country’s economic burdens.
Russia’s dependence on energy exports to generate income is the central problem. For 2009, state planners had put together a budget based on an oil price of $95 per barrel. But on February 26, the price of Russian oil was lingering at about half that level. Adding to the pressure on the budget, state revenue is projected to be 42 percent less than the government had predicted it would be. At the same time, Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin said state expenditures will be substantially higher in 2009 than envisioned, due to increasing outlays to stabilize the shaky economy.
THE final frontier is being assaulted by a couple of troubling pioneers. North Korean officials are boasting that they will soon launch a rocket that will lift a communications satellite into space. With this defiant spectacular, they seem to be cocking a snook at America, South Korea, Japan, China and Russia, who have been trying through six-party talks to curb North Korea’s equally vaunted nuclear-weapons efforts. Meanwhile, earlier in February, Iran—suspected of harbouring similar nuclear ambitions to North Korea’s, though it denies this—lifted its own small, supposedly home-made satellite into orbit too.
Both regimes trumpet their space prowess, and indeed such technological feats are not easy to achieve. But how do these “civilian” space efforts complement their terrestrial nuclear work? That is the question that deeply worries outsiders.
If you believe the videos I’m about to show you, then you will learn that Islam does in fact take over most of the known world at some point in the future. It’s not any Islam either. It’s radical Islam.
The Mahdi that Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad talks about does in fact return.
You will be made to get a mark that says “In the Name of Allah.” The Arabic script for Bismallah, In the Name of Allah, actually looks similar to 666.
Find out which countries Jesus fights when he returns. It turns out that they are all Muslim.
Find out why the Mystery Babylon is Saudi Arabia.
This is all pretty scary stuff, but the guest lecturer, Walid Shoebat, lays out a very compelling case at the Southern California Prophecy Conference.
After the videos find out why and when the United States will be destroyed.
According to Moojan Momen, among the most commonly reported signs that presage the advent of the Mahdi in Shia hadith are
1. Before his coming will come the red death and the white death. The red death is the sword and white death is plague. (see also Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse)
2. Several figures will appear: the one-eyed Dajjal, the Sufyani and the Yamani. Another figure, the Pure Soul (an-Nafs az-Zakiyya), will be assassinated.
3. The sun will rise from the West and a star will appear in the East giving out as much light as the moon.
4. The Arabs will throw off the reins and take possession of their land, throwing out the authority of the foreigners.
5. A caller will call out from heaven. 6. There will be a great conflict in the land of Syria until it is destroyed.
7. Death and fear will afflict the people of Baghdad and Iraq. A fire will appear in the sky and a redness will cover them.
Here we have the case of Syria being destroyed in Islamic prophecy. Syria is also destroyed in Bible prophecy in Amos 1 and Isaiah 17.
At least half of the world will be destroyed in the end-time. So why exactly should we care about Syria? Why is Syria important?
Syria is important because it is a sign of great events to come. In 2009 we have entered the “age of upheaval”. Should a conflict between Israel and Syria spiral out of control, then I argue that the United States will be subject to retaliation. And that would completely change the world in one day.
In Isaiah 17 we learn that Damascus, Syria is destroyed. In Isaiah 18 we learn that America is destroyed in retaliation.
Isaiah 17 [KJV]
17:1 The burden of Damascus. Behold, Damascus is taken away from [being] a city, and it shall be a ruinous heap.
– Here we learn that Damascus is destroyed.
17:4 And in that day it shall come to pass, [that] the glory of Jacob shall be made thin, and the fatness of his flesh shall wax lean.
– The implication here is that Israel is the destroyer of Damascus.
17:13 The nations shall rush like the rushing of many waters: but [God] shall rebuke them, and they shall flee far off, and shall be chased as the chaff of the mountains before the wind, and like a rolling thing before the whirlwind.
– So the nations are rushing like water at Israel. [They wish to destroy Israel]. God forces them away by destroying their armies.
– Why do the nations feel that they can attack Israel? Where is America? America is not there!
17:14 And behold at eveningtide trouble; [and] before the morning he [is] not. This [is] the portion of them that spoil us, and the lot of them that rob us.
– Something happens at evening time. Probably a chemical attack on Israeli cities by Syria. Israel destroys Damascus by morning.
1. Woe to the land shadowing with wings, which is beyond the rivers of Ethiopia:
– A warning to an unknown land that is far away.
– By the end of this chapter we will learn that this land is a powerful friend of Israel. It is America.
2. That sendeth ambassadors by the sea, even in vessels of bulrushes upon the waters, saying, Go, ye swift messengers, to a nation scattered and peeled, to a people terrible from their beginning hitherto; a nation meted out and trodden down, whose land the rivers have spoiled!
– Providing us with identity information. Many countries could qualify at this point.
3. All ye inhabitants of the world, and dwellers on the earth, see ye, when he lifteth up an ensign on the mountains; and when he bloweth a trumpet, hear ye.
– This references Amos 1 and Isaiah 17. When Israel takes the West Bank and plants a flag, then watch out.
4. For so the LORD said unto me, I will take my rest, and I will consider in my dwelling place like a clear heat upon herbs, and like a cloud of dew in the heat of harvest.
– Hints at nuclear war – Amos 1. This is a sign.
5. For afore the harvest, when the bud is perfect, and the sour grape is ripening in the flower, he shall both cut off the sprigs with pruning hooks, and take away and cut down the branches.
– When a process is just about complete, God stops it with a judgment – Amos 1.
6. They shall be left together unto the fowls of the mountains, and to the beasts of the earth: and the fowls shall summer upon them, and all the beasts of the earth shall winter upon them.
– Who cares?
– Amos 1 takes place in the summer. Not much happens through winter. Timing!
– Spring is the season to watch.
7. In that time shall the present be brought unto the LORD of hosts of a people scattered and peeled, and from a people terrible from their beginning hitherto; a nation meted out and trodden under foot, whose land the rivers have spoiled, to the place of the name of the LORD of hosts, the mount Zion.
– A land is about to get wiped out, who cares about gifts? Timing!
– When a powerful friend of Israel [America] brings gifts to the newly rebuilt Jewish temple on the Temple Mount, then destruction is near.
– Spring is the season. We may learn the very day of destruction when gifts are presented.
The author of the article below discusses how Isaiah 18 could be America; However, his timing is different than mine.
I’ve been asked more than once if there is any mention of the United States in the prophetic writings of the Bible. While I cannot be certain of this, I believe that a strong circumstantial case can be made that Isaiah 18 is describing the US. I have heard others indicate this as well, and have long had an suspicion that they may be correct. It is only recently that I have examined this short chapter of seven verses in detail.
The broader context of Isaiah 14-17 contains some scenes that may take place in the relatively near future, and the following chapter 19 also contains prophecies not yet fulfilled. Given this context, and the indication that chapter 18 has never been historically fulfilled in any significant manner, I believe Isaiah 18 warrants some serious consideration, especially if it is indeed speaking of the United States.
This chapter is strangely compelling to me, and the Spirit has put a heaviness in my heart concerning it. It is a message of woe to the nation it addresses, but also describes a very favorable role for them in the final verse.
The identification of the nation in this chapter is found in verses 1, 2, and 7, and contains a number of detailed specifications. (Several different Bible translations will be used here). As we examine the specifics, it will become clear that no modern nation fits the description as closely as does the United States, and no ancient nation fulfilled the prophecy.
First, it is a nation of “whirring wings”, “where the sound of wings is heard”, or the “land of clamorous wings”. Given that the military prominence of this nation figures largely later on, we might assume that this is a reference to the sounds of jets and helicopters. No other nation has the fearsome air power of the US.
Next, it is a nation that “lies beyond the rivers of Cush”. This is an area that roughly corresponds to Sudan in Africa. But notice it does not say it is Cush itself, but beyond there. Obviously, in those days, central northern Africa would have seemed like the ends of the earth. So if Isaiah were trying to convey the idea of a land far, far away from where he was, wouldn’t he probably say it’s beyond the farthest area with which he was familiar? Therefore, this prophecy is not about Ethiopia or Sudan or that region, but a nation beyond there.
This nation in question “sends envoys (ambassadors) over the sea” , “shipping emissaries all over the world”. What nation is currently known for sending envoys overseas? The United States. With what political situation are the US diplomats and envoys most involved to an extraordinary degree? It is the Middle East conflict. This corresponds to some crucial details later on in the chapter.
Also, “envoys over the sea” is another indicator that the prophet was not speaking of an area in central Africa, which does not have access to oceans.
To further qualify the nation being addressed, Isaiah then describes its people, its geography, and its power. The people are described as tall and smooth-skinned. Handsome and bronzed are words used in other translations. What image do other parts of the world have of the appearance of Americans, especially from American TV shows piped all over the world? Tall, attractive, smoothed-skinned people. The geography of the land these people live in is “a land divided by rivers”. That also describes the US.
Finally, the military and political might of the nation to which Isaiah is prophesying are described. “A people inspiring awe through out their history”, “a nation that inspired awe since it came into being”, “a strong nation, crushing down its haters”, “feared all over the world”, “a mighty and masterful nation,” “strong and victorious” — could these be describing the world’s sole superpower?
But to me, the clincher regarding the identification of this nation is found in verse 7, the final verse of the chapter.
“At that time gifts will be brought to the LORD of hosts from a people tall and smooth, from a people feared near and far, a nation mighty and conquering, whose land the rivers divide, to Mount Zion, the place of the name of the LORD of hosts.” (Isaiah 18:7 RSV)
After the events described in Isaiah 18 transpire, the people of this nation (presumably US Christians and Jews) will be noted for the gifts they bring to “the place of the name”. This is, of course, the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. One can assume these gifts are not designated for the Islamic structures that currently stand there, but for the rebuilding of the Temple after the Dome of the Rock and Al Aqsa mosque are obliterated. And what nation is better prepared, equipped, and motivated to send monetary gifts and supplies to Mount Zion for rebuilding the Temple than the United States?
Given this strong circumstantial case, we can conclude that no other nation, ancient or modern, fits the description as closely as the United States. But this prophecy is a message of disaster for that nation. The first word of the chapter is “woe”.
A bit of irony is expressed here as well. While saying that this country sends messengers all over the world, Isaiah is telling them “go home, messengers, and give this message of disaster to the country itself”.
“Go back quickly, O representatives, to a nation tall and smooth, to a people causing fear through all their history; a strong nation, crushing down its haters, whose land is cut through by rivers.” (Isaiah 18:2 BBE).
So the messengers are to take a message to that country. But the next verses seem somewhat out of place at first. Perhaps they are there to give us some historical context of when this prophecy will be fulfilled. Whenever it is, globally important events will be taking place:
“All you people of the world, you who live on the earth, when a banner is raised on the mountains, you will see it, and when a trumpet sounds, you will hear it.” (Isaiah 18:3 NIV)
We can surmise that the mountains are the mountains of Israel (the West Bank) and the banner is an Israeli flag. The shofar is blown during battle. Therefore, it is likely whatever is happening to the nation described in this chapter is happening in conjunction with Israel retaking Biblical Judea and Samaria back as their own possession, through a military operation. This would happen once the Palestinians are vanquished and that land becomes part of Israel formally. So, God is telling the world, “when that happens, pay attention.”
The nation that is the primary subject of this chapter, presumably the United States, is at the forefront of the process to create a Palestinian state. We are assured by the prophetic Scriptures that ancestral heartland of Israel, which is the object of contention today, will one day fully belong to Israel, in spite of the world’s efforts to seize it. So verse 3 has a defiant tone to it, addressed at the entire world, that God’s intentions for that land will be accomplished. Israel’s banner will be raised on the mountains of Israel, visible to all.
As we shall see in verse 5, the efforts by others to seize that land will appear to be succeeding for awhile, but just as they is about to come to fruition, God will take dramatic action to put a stop to them.
This is the point where we might begin to get a little nervous, because if this chapter is talking about the US, and if the time of fulfillment is soon, the next verses do not bode well at all.
“This is what the LORD says to me: “I will remain quiet and will look on from my dwelling place, like shimmering heat in the sunshine, like a cloud of dew in the heat of harvest.”” (Isaiah 18:4 NIV)
Something spectacular is going to happen, we presume, because the Lord says that he’s just going to sit and watch quietly when it does, giving the appearance of doing nothing about it. The next phrases, I’m sorry to say, sound very much like a description of nuclear explosions. Looking at the Hebrew words used, they seem similar to how someone in those days might have described a nuclear blast: dazzling, shimmering, white heat, a thick cloud. What happens to dew in the heat of a late summer day? It dissipates rapidly when hit by the radiation of the sun.
Is this describing some kind of traumatic event which will effectively put a halt to the so-called “peace process”? Another translation of that verse provides a different view of one aspect of God’s intentions. “I will look after My Place of Foundation.” (Stone Edition Tanach) As God plants His banner and sounds His shofar to confirm His designation of the entire land of Israel to the people of Israel, He takes special care to look after the Temple Mount. Though the world powers, in conjunction with Islam, attempt to keep their grip on the place God founded as the place for His name to dwell forever, they will not succeed.
The JPS translation of verse 4 ends, “like a rain cloud in the heat of reaping time.” The notes of the JPS Bible explain “i.e. like a threat of disaster”. During the harvest period, it is the threat of rain that can turn that process into a failure. That use of the word harvest leads us to the next verse, where the harvest which be aborted is presumably the “land for peace” efforts, propelled by the US, to form a Palestinian state.
For, before the harvest, when the blossom is gone and the flower becomes a ripening grape, he will cut off the shoots with pruning knives, and cut down and take away the spreading branches. (Isaiah 18:5 NIV)
Just before the harvest, just before the process is consummated, God lops off the branches ripe with fruit. If we link this back to the proclamation to the whole world back in verse 3, we deduce the attempts to create a Palestinian state will be approaching ripeness when God severs them. He does this by bringing the “woes” pronounced on the nation that is the object of this prophecy, presumably the United States. The spreading branches he will hew away are the contrivances of the Palestinian Authority to spread into Israel’s land.
(Isaiah 18:6 NIV) They will all be left to the mountain birds of prey and to the wild animals; the birds will feed on them all summer, the wild animals all winter.
After God takes the conclusive, forceful action to terminate the process about to come to fruition, the numerous carcasses of those God has cut down will be devoured by the carrion animals for an extended period.
Even so, the chapter ends on a very positive note, as we mentioned earlier. Could it be that whatever events take place here are also simultaneous to the liberation of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem? Verse 7 seems to imply that.
(Isaiah 18:7 NIV) At that time gifts will be brought to the LORD Almighty from a people tall and smooth-skinned, from a people feared far and wide, an aggressive nation of strange speech, whose land is divided by rivers– the gifts will be brought to Mount Zion, the place of the Name of the LORD Almighty.
The nation that is the focus of this prophecy, once again identified here, will finally play a role of blessing to Israel. That nation will be singled out as the primary contributor of gifts designated for the Temple.
Let’s tie it all together in a what is sure to be a controversial proposition: This prophecy may be speaking of the US, in conjunction with actions taken that will result in an Israeli victory over the Palestinians. As the process to create a Palestinian state appears to be approaching consummation, God takes forceful action to thwart it. Something that for all appearances is a nuclear attack hits the US. This great calamity upon the “land of whirring wings” puts an end to the process.. But afterwards, Christians and Jews in the US will bring gifts to the Temple Mount for the rebuilding of the Temple.
Copyright 2005 Bob Westbrook – Use permitted with attribution and link