Don't Look Up

The sky might actually be falling. Here's some of the debris.

Financial news of late seems to suggest that the sky may be falling. Over the course of the past couple of years, we've gone from a relatively booming economy, a near-full recovery from the post-9/11 panic of the beginning of the decade, to what some economists are starting to call a recession, or not, depending on which politician you happen to hate.

All of a sudden, your house, which you only bought to flip at a 500 percent profit after two years anyway, is a giant, stucco white elephant, worth two-thirds what you paid for it, and what the hell were you thinking putting in a sauna anyway? Oh, and remember when your car was a mobile sanctuary from those problems? No more. That 12 miles to the gallon seemed reasonable, almost eco-friendly three years ago when you bought it. Now, you remember that you like food better than driving.

Here's a sampling of some of the recent horror.

Riots and Senseless Deaths

• A group of investors in Karachi, Pakistan, last week challenged the classic sullen, suicidal stereotype so often associated with the loss of one's nest egg, taking to the streets in violent protest. After the Karachi Stock Exchange's KSE-100 index dropped more than 35 percent between April and July, more than 200 jilted investors took to the streets, breaking the exchange building's windows and demanding a halt in trading. The military had to be called in to quell the uprising.

• Two striking truck drivers, protesting the high prices of diesel fuel in Europe, were run over and killed in Spain and Portugal last month.

• At least seven people were killed during Haitian food riots in response to rising worldwide food staple prices in April.

Terrifying Predictions

• Financial blog Seeking Alpha last week predicted that the United States would see fuel shortages and gas lines similar to those during the 1970s oil crisis as soon as this fall.

• There's even doomsaying from a more credible source, Barron's Magazine analyst Robyn Goldwyn Blumenthal, who earlier this month discussed the so-called "Hindenburg Omen" on CNBC's Europe Tonight. The Hindenburg Omen, reportedly 92 percent accurate in the run-up to a crash or market panic, is a phenomenon wherein there are huge discrepancies between well-performing and poorly performing stocks. Blumenthal said that the omen was confirmed on June 17 and usually occurs about 120 days before a market shortfall. "That puts us at about October," she said.

• Last month, Bob Janjuah, chief strategist for the Royal Bank of Scotland and the man who predicted last year's housing credit bust, told his clients to brace themselves for a worldwide market crash, as oil prices and the weak housing market bring "all the chickens home to roost" on Wall Street.

General Bad News

• In April, oil topped the 1980 post-oil-crisis high of $39.50 per barrel (that's $103.76 in today's dollars) for the first time ever, trading at $103.95 per barrel. It gets worse, though! As of this writing, crude oil is trading at $131.68 per barrel, according to the Bloomberg Index.

• According to the U.S. Department of Labor, nine states had a higher unemployment rate than the national average of 5.5 percent for the month of June. And Tennessee was one of them, with 6.5 percent, an increase of 1.9 percent from June 2007.