High interest rates and chaos in the real estate industry are combining to put an enormous amount of pressure on our largest financial institutions.  As a result, banks are getting very tight with their money, they are closing down hundreds of branches, and they are laying off thousands of workers.  We are in the early stages of the worst financial crisis since 2008 and 2009, and I fully expect conditions to get even worse in the months ahead.

During the first week of October alone, U.S. banks closed a whopping 54 local branches

Major US banks are continuing to close branches across the US, leaving an increasing number of Americans without access to basic financial services.

Bank of America axed 21 branches in the first week of October, according to a bulletin published by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) on Friday.

Wells Fargo shuttered 15, while US Bank and Chase reported closing nine and three respectively.

In total, some 54 locations had either closed or were scheduled to close between October 1 and October 7.

That is just one week!

Of course bank branches have been closing at a frightening pace for quite some time now.

Last year, U.S. banks shut down about 2,000 more branches than they opened…

Banks are closing branches faster than they’re opening new ones. U.S. banks closed over 3,000 branches last year while opening just 1,000. JPMorgan Chase led in branch closures last year, shuttering 144 branches, while opening 133. The trend will likely continue as banks face staunch competition for deposits and younger customers from online banks, fintech firms and Big Tech.

Unless you live under a rock, I am sure that you have noticed this happening in your own local area.

For many Americans, a “trip to the bank” is no longer just a few minutes away.

And our banks are also laying off staggering numbers of workers here in 2023…

The largest American banks have been quietly laying off workers all year — and some of the deepest cuts are yet to come.

Even as the economy has surprised forecasters with its resilience, lenders have cut headcount or announced plans to do so, with the key exception being JPMorgan Chase, the biggest and most profitable U.S. bank.

Pressured by the impact of higher interest rates on the mortgage business, Wall Street deal-making and funding costs, the next five largest U.S. banks have cut a combined 20,000 positions so far this year, according to company filings.

The banking industry is in trouble.

Big trouble.

And this is happening at a time when economic conditions are steadily deteriorating.

In fact, we just learned that the Conference Board’s index of leading economic indicators has now fallen for 18 months in a row

The Conference Board Leading Economic Index® (LEI) for the U.S. declined by 0.7 percent in September 2023 to 104.6 (2016=100), following a decline of 0.5 percent in August. The LEI is down 3.4 percent over the six-month period between March and September 2023, an improvement from its 4.6 percent contraction over the previous six months (September 2022 to March 2023).

“The LEI for the US fell again in September, marking a year and a half of consecutive monthly declines since April 2022,” said Justyna Zabinska-La Monica, Senior Manager, Business Cycle Indicators, at The Conference Board. “In September, negative or flat contributions from nine of the index’s ten components more than offset fewer initial claims for unemployment insurance. Although the six-month growth rate in the LEI is somewhat less negative, and the recession signal did not sound, it still signals risk of economic weakness ahead. So far, the US economy has shown considerable resilience despite pressures from rising interest rates and high inflation. Nonetheless, The Conference Board forecasts that this trend will not be sustained for much longer, and a shallow recession is likely in the first half of 2024.”

If things are this bad now, what is going to happen if the hot phase of World War III suddenly erupts in the Middle East?

At this point, nobody can claim that the economy is headed in the right direction. Read more here…