15 Potentially Massive Threats To The U.S. Economy Over The Next 12 Months

ilene's picture

Courtesy of Michael Snyder, Economic Collapse

We live in a world that is becoming increasingly unstable, and the potential for an event that could cause "sudden change" to the U.S. economy is greater than ever.  There are dozens of potentially massive threats that could easily push the U.S. economy over the edge during the next 12 months.  A war in the Middle East, a financial collapse in Europe, a major derivatives crisis or a horrific natural disaster could all change our economic situation very rapidly. 

Most of the time I write about the long-term economic trends that are slowly but surely ripping the U.S. economy to pieces, but the truth is that just a single really bad "black swan event" over the next 12 months could accelerate our economic problems dramatically.  If oil was cut off from the Middle East or a really bad natural disaster suddenly destroyed a major U.S. city, the U.S. economy would be thrown into a state of chaos.  Considering how bad the U.S. economy is currently performing, it would be easy to see how a major "shock to the system" could push us into the "next Great Depression" very easily.  Let us hope that none of these things actually happen over the next 12 months, but let us also understand that we live in a world that has become extremely chaotic and extremely unstable.

In the list below, you will find some "sudden change" events that are somewhat likely and some that are quite unlikely.  I have tried to include a broad range of potential "black swan events", but there are certainly dozens more massive threats that could potentially be listed.

The following are 15 potentially massive threats to the U.S. economy over the next 12 months....

#1 War With Syria - U.S. Senator John McCain is now publicly calling for U.S. airstrikes against Syria.  A military conflict with Syria becomes more likely with each passing day.

#2 War With Iran - A war in the Middle East involving Iran could literally erupt at any time.  The following is from a Reuters news report that was issuedon Monday....

President Barack Obama appealed to Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday to give sanctions time to curb Iran's nuclear ambitions, but the Israeli prime minister offered no sign of backing away from possible military action, saying his country must be the "master of its fate."

#3 A Disorderly Greek Debt Default - Many reporters in Europe seem to think that this is becoming increasingly likely.  So what would a disorderly Greek debt default mean for the global financial system?  A leaked report that was authored by the Institute of International Finance says that a disorderlyGreek debt default would have some very serious consequences.  You can read the full text of that leaked report right here.

#4 An Economic Collapse In Spain - Spain has one of the largest economies in Europe and it is rapidly becoming a basket case.  As I have written about previously, the unemployment rate in Spain has hit 19.9 percent, and the unemployment rate for workers under the age of 25 is up to 49.9 percent.  Unfortunately, the situation in Spain continues to deteriorate.  The following is from a recent article by Marc Chandler....

However, the devolution in Spain is particularly troubling. The new fiscal compact had just been signed last week, which includes somewhat more rigorous fiscal rule and enforcement, when Spain's PM Rajoy revealed that this year's deficit would come in around 5.8 percent of GDP rather the 4.4 percent target. This of course follows last year's 8.5 percent overshoot of the 6 percent target.

The problem that for Spain is that the 4.4 percent target was based on forecasts for more than 2 percent growth this year. However, in late February, the EU cuts its forecast to a 1 percent contraction. This still seems optimistic. The IMF forecasts a 1.7 percent contraction, which the Spanish government now accepts.

#5 The Price Of Gasoline - The average price of a gallon of gasoline in the United States has risen for 27 days in a row and is now up to $3.77.  Virtually all forms of economic activity are affected by the price of gasoline, and if the price of gas keeps going up it is eventually going to have dramatic consequences for the U.S. economy.

#6 The Student Loan Debt Bubble - Just like we saw with the housing bubble, the student loan debt bubble just continues to grow and grow and grow.  At some point the nearly 1 trillion dollar bubble is going to burst.  What effect will it have on our financial system when that finally happens?

#7 State And Local Government Debt Crisis - It is being reported that California is running out of cash again and there are cities all over the country that are on the verge of bankruptcy.  Could we see a significant municipal bond crisis in the next 12 months?

#8 The Collapse Of A Major U.S. Bank - A number of top U.S. banks are looking increasingly shaky.  In a recent article, David Trainer explained why he has such serious concerns about Bank of America right now....

In my opinion, there are four actions taken by financial services that signal the company is headed to serious trouble.

1. Management shake-up and major layoffs - lots of layoffs over the past year

2. Exploiting accounting rules to boost earnings - SFAS 159

3. Drawing down reserves to boost earnings: to the tune of $13.3 billion in 2011 and 2012

4. Bilking customers with new fees: tried it before and trying it again

Bank of America has taken all four steps.

#9 A Derivatives Crisis - The International Swaps and Derivatives Association recently ruled that the Greek debt deal will not trigger payouts on credit default swaps.  This is seriously shaking confidence in the global market for derivatives.  But the global financial system simply cannot afford a major derivatives crisis.

Estimates of the notional value of the worldwide derivatives market range from $600 trillion all the way up to $1.5 quadrillion.  The notional value of all derivatives held by Bank of America is approximately $75 trillion.  JPMorgan Chase is holding derivatives with a notional value of approximately $79 trillion.

When the derivatives bubble finally bursts it is going to be a financial horror show unlike anything we have ever seen.

#10 The Fall Of The Japanese Economy - The Japanese economy shrankat a 2.3 percent rate during the fourth quarter of 2011.  Japan has a debt to GDP ratio of over 200 percent and a major debt crisis involving Japan could erupt at any time.

#11 A "Solar Megastorm" - Scientists tell us that there is a "1 in 8 chance" that a "solar megastorm" will hit the earth by 2014.  A recent Daily Mail article detailed what some of the consequences of such an event would be....

'We live in a cyber cocoon enveloping the Earth. Imagine what the consequences might be,' Daniel Baker, of the University of Colorado's Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics told National Geographic when asked about a potential 'megastorm'.

'Every time you purchase a gallon of gas with your credit card, that's a satellite transaction.

'Imagine large cities without power for a week, a month, or a year. The losses could be $1 to $2 trillion, and the effects could be felt for years.

#12 A Major West Coast Earthquake Or Volcanic Eruption - On Monday, there was a 4.0 earthquake in San Francisco and a 6.1 earthquake in Argentina.  Is the "Ring of Fire" waking up again?

#13 Tornado Damage To Major U.S. Cities - Last year, the U.S. experienced one of the worst tornado seasons of all time.  This year, we have already seen the worst tornado outbreak ever recorded in the United States in the month of March.  A couple of towns in Indiana were completely wiped out by that outbreak.  So what should we expect when we get to the heart of tornado season this year?

#14 Severe Drought In The United States - Last summer was one of the driest summers on record in the United States, and in many areas there is simply not enough water available for farmers this year.  Some are even projecting that we could see "dust bowl conditions" return to some areas of the country eventually.

#15 An Asteroid Strike In 2013 - Although scientists tell us that the probability is extremely low, the truth is that there is a slight chance that a sizeable asteroid could hit the earth in February 2013.  The asteroid is estimated to be between 60 and 100 meters wide, and it is projected to pass by our planet "at a distance of under 27,000 km".  If it did hit us (and scientists say that the odds of that happening are very low) it would potentially be as serious an event as the Tunguska Event in Siberia in 1908.  Mac Slavo of shtfplan.com recently described how awesome the Tunguska Event really was....

On June 30, 1908 an incoming meteor exploded approximately 5 miles above Siberia. The force of the air burst explosion, estimated at between 15 and 30 megatons, or about 1000 times bigger than the atomic bomb that destroyed Hiroshima, was so powerful that it annihilated everything in an 830 square mile area, and reports suggest that that explosion was heard up to 1000 miles away. Because of the remoteness of the impact zone, the Tunguska Event over Siberia had very little effect on the human population in the region, but the destruction of some 80 million trees in the area shows just how powerful a blast was created.

Of course there are so many other "sudden change" events that could potentially happen - a terror event in a major U.S. city, a deadly pandemic, an EMP attack, cyberterrorism or a major political scandal could all possibly cause a stock market crash and an economic collapse in the United States.

In the world that we are living in today, you just never know what is going to happen.

So what are all of you concerned about over the next 12 months?

Do you see the potential for some "black swan events" to happen?

Please feel free to post a comment with your thoughts below....


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winter2012's picture

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lakecity55's picture

Yes, the Assteroid:


Would any gubbermint admit it was going to hit and cause chaos before impact?

Hell no.

There would be chaos to deal with enough after the strike....

On a good note, however, it might land on O'Bama.

FreeNewEnergy's picture

FBI arrests members of Anonymous and LULZ SEC. - oops, already happened.

FBI cracks LulzSec ring with help of top hacker

Okay, I could run out of vodka after the liquor store closed for the night. HORRORS!

JayKitsap's picture

The worst Black Swan Event


Barack Hussein Obama being reelected.



Breaker's picture

"So what should we expect when we get to the heart of tornado season this year?"

Endless newspaper articles insisting that global warming (er climate change) caused the tornados and that we must put up more windmills and solar panels and drive Volts.

theprofromdover's picture

So presumably if the big 5 banks, when they renege on paying out on their CDS obligations, will have their banking licences stripped from them.

Or is that only in a parallel universe?

the grateful unemployed's picture

nearly everything you mention is POSITIVE, the only reason the economy will collapse is when there is no reason for government to print more money. the old adage goes, that a market is like a shark, it has to keep swimming. although if derivatives went south again that would do it.


right now they're sitting on pins and needles hoping asset prices don't collapse to a level where economic activity would begin to pick up, high oil prices make them feel good, because the wall of commodity prices moves as one, and one brick out of the wall leads to another. if oil collapses, and it should, because the natgas/ wti spread on a equivalent BTU basis is the biggest phony crack spread ever formed by a dishonest cartel. when it gives expect oil to follow NG, (which is one reason why POTUS keeps hims mouth shut about oil, if half the cars in the US ran NG, then oil would come crashing down, (think Exxon, Chevron, BP, all Dow darlings being lead to the slaughter)


a rational man would have expected the POTUS to force prices lower to give the economy a kick in the ass. this guy could disappear and the market would be up 1000 pts the next day just on the GOOD ECONOMIC NEWS, and the new guy would guarantee plenty of QE just to be sure. which is what the new guy should try by the way, when you see money supply going up, and interest rates going up, then buy with both hands (that was Greenspans finest hour by the way)

Nobody For President's picture

In the West, in the Summer, 

there is always Fire...

But mostly, I worry about the creeping rise of the corporate state, where the world of freedom ends, not with a bang, not with a black swan event, but with 'thunderous applause':


besnook's picture

number 1, as it is the likeliest.  mossad false flag attack on usa soil bigger than wtc blamed upon iran.

VelvetHog's picture

But Ilene, we only have 8.3 percent of the population unemployed and the economy is roaring along.  Why shucks, we came out of the last recession in June of 2009.  That was ages ago.  Relax, its all good! 

Peter Pan's picture

How about some white swans:

1. Goldman Sachs goes broke

2. Goldman Sachs goes broke

3. Gold man Sachs goes broke 

and that's not all. How about:

4. Goldman Sachs goes broke

5. Goldman Sachs goes broke

6. Goldman Sachs goes broke

VelvetHog's picture

7) BAC goes tits-up.


We all know that neither of these "firms" can ever go under.

nmewn's picture

"As I have written about previously, the unemployment rate in Spain has hit 19.9 percent, and the unemployment rate for workers under the age of 25 is up to 49.9 percent.  Unfortunately, the situation in Spain continues to deteriorate."

Wait a minute...I thought Spain did the whole "green thang" years before we started.

Where'd these damned figures come from? This can't be true...O'Barry promised ten million "green jobs"...


"Optimistically treating European Commission partially funded data

, we find that for every renewable energy job that the State manages to finance, Spain’s experience cited by President Obama as a model reveals with high confidence, by two different methods, that the U.S. should expect a loss of at least 2.2 jobs on average, or about 9 jobs lost for every 4 created, to which we have to add those jobs that non-subsidized investments with the same resources would have created."



lakecity55's picture

No, he promised 10mil$ to the phony green energy firm who bundled campaign cash.

Maybe he will fall into a crowd of OWS zombies and go away.

nmewn's picture

It's rather like Biden getting a Fisker auto plant in Delaware isn't it?

A one hundred thousand dollar "hybrid" for the masses...what a deal or not...lol.

DOVER, Del. (AP) — Fisker Automotive, an electric car maker that received a half-billion-dollar loan from the federal government, said Monday that it has laid off workers in Delaware and California.

The layoffs include 26 workers at a former General Motors plant in Wilmington that Fisker is retooling to manufacture its Nina plug-in hybrid sedan. Another 40 contractors and employees who were working in design and development of Fisker's Karma luxury car in Anaheim, Calif., also have been cut.

The layoffs come as Fisker is seeking to renegotiate its loan agreement with the Department of Energy.

Fisker has received $193 million of the $529 million DOE loan, mostly for work on the Karma, which sells for about $100,000. The introduction of the Karma was delayed because of regulatory issues and battery pack problems that prompted a voluntary safety recall by Fisker.

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/leisure/2012/02/07/fisker-announces-layoffs-as-company-misses-targets-has-doe-loans-frozen/#ixzz1oOIvVOhW

StychoKiller's picture

It's gotta be said:  "Sounds like bad Karma!"

Hulk's picture

Green energy is the greatest destroyer of wealth ever devised by delusional man...

donsluck's picture

Kinda sad, I guess, if you value earth dispoiling extraction oriented jobs at all costs.

nmewn's picture

It's much better to drive all economies into the same ditch isn't it?

HungrySeagull's picture

I don't mind taking advantage of the Dollar Collapse.

I adhere to our history since prior to the Founding Fathers and follow the lessons learned.

However if that big rock falls to earth, you will find me and a girl sitting by the river with smokes and drinks enjoying life.

My mind set is driven by having escaped, cheated or otherwise got Death out of my world a few times or saved some lives. To survive and emerge into a wasteland will not be a wanted result.

spinone's picture

I guarantee that whatever black swan gets us, it will be like a lead left hook, completely unpredicted and unpredictable.

Lead left:  hardest punch to throw in boxing and most effective cause it comes out of NOWHERE


gmak's picture



A Black swan event is NOT an unexpected event. It is an event that the majority have assigned a lower probability of occurring than is, in fact, the reality.

For example: The sunstorm has 1 in 8 chance of occuring. If one were betting on it, one would offer less than an 8 to 1 payoff. If, in fact, the probability is actually 3 in 8 - then the person offering the payoff would likelly lose - if not this time, then over all the bets.


Options work this way. This is why we see the volatility smile. It is market specialists increasing the spread on the far OTM options because bitter experience has taught them that the tails of the distribution of stock prices are fatter at the extreme than the Black-Scholes model (and the normal distribution) imply.



W10321303's picture

16. Category 3 or 4 Hurricane that goes up the Chesapeake Bay or hits the NYC/Boston area. Allianz Insurance has estimated the cost at $1 Trillion. Came very close last summer, but the eyewall collapsed right before reaching land. Stay tuned folks, the La Nina is over now....

Ground Control to Major Tom              10

Ground Control to Major Tom               9


Zero Govt's picture

# 16. Barney Frank shelves retirement and decides to go on, ruining America 

MrSteve's picture

#16: Newt Wins!
#17: Newt Loses!
#18: Ron Paul Wins!
#19: Argentina Invades Falkland Islands Again!
#20: North Korea Seeks Reunification Talks w/ South Korea!
#21: Tibet Revolts!
#22: Milk and Gasoline both cost $5.00 a gallon!
#23: DJIA and Gold Prices Cross Again!

lotsoffun's picture

michael jackson will be re-incarnated as the son of marilyn, elvis and jfk (it was a real party), will be adopted by snooki and inherit the voice of whitney houston.  and then be made head of the ny fed.

the sky is certainly falling :)


true brain's picture

What is missed in the report is that immediately right after the black swan event, god will descend from the heaven and stand next Santorum. Or better yet he will descend from heaven onto Santorum's shoulder and as he perches on Santorum's shoulder he will bring about the rapture as the Iran and the rest of the world burn. Everywhere burns except an area of 50 miles radius around Santorum.

web bot's picture

Ahhhh.... don't you love the 21st century...

Heroic Couplet's picture

How about revising to the 15 greatest threats to the private bank cartel families. Then the 15 greatest threats to the Federal Reserve staff. The more bankers, hedge fund managers, and day traders destitute, unemployed, broke, tossed out onto their ass, and on food stamps, the better the world will be.

Chart how many jobs in the finance sector were created right before and right after the repeal of Glass-Steagall and the creation of secondary derivatives instruments, in conjunction with CDOs, CDO squared. The people connected with these should be broke and unemployed.

If we need banks, we have the state bank of North Dakota. I'd shut down Wall Street for a year. razor wire, guards stationed on top the building, Uzi machine guns, anything to shut it down and keep it shut down. There are other stock exchanges and other governments don't permit the crap that goes on in the US. Get rid of lobbying in the finance sector. Then let's assess.



optimator's picture

Any of those would give the Dow an easy thousand points UP.  The only black swan that could bring down this market would be that asteroid hitting the center of New York City.

thomasco's picture

A Black Swan is an identified event that is catastrophic if it occurs, but which has a low probability of ocurirng. This article identifies 15 events, any one or combination of which should not be a surprise in retrospect--except for its timing.   What makes Black Swans even worse is that there is little or no preparation in advance despite our knowledge that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

ReeferMac's picture


North Korea?

UP4Liberty's picture

Number 21 - Ron Paul does not get elected to POTUS.  Either OBummer or RomRumGrinch will just continue the slide into Dante's Inferno...sheesh.

Dan The Man's picture

well seriously...if a meteor strike is on the list you might a well put in plagues and locusts....and wild fires...let's not forget the wildfires.


toadold's picture

N. Korea explodes, Civil War in China, Obama make major miscalculation throws group under bus and violence begats counter violence.  Yellowstone erupts, Madrid fault let's go, It is revealed that the Instapundit uses LIVE puppies for his smooothines.  Some kitchen scientist discovers how to do cold fusion with easily accessible stuff and post the procedure on the Internet (OK, Ahkbar,Step away from the blender, drop the banana and put down the carbon black). New TV show special effects indurces epilepsy in 80% of the viewers.  Price of aluminum foil puts protection of paranoids on fixed income out of reach (get off of me!) Aliens from outerspace invade, lose, and demand citizenship and aid, 'cause they can't open new resturants since they are not allowed to serve man (eurp). 


j.tennquist's picture

N. Korea explodes.  Good riddance.  A country with no sense of humor and no bowling alleys.  White swan.

Obama miscalculation:  No. 5293 and counting and who cares?  Authority is a joke.  That's just life in the land of hope and change.  Get your food stamps while you can.  White swan.

Yellowstone erupts:   A couple thousand tourists are boiled.  If Yogi Bear survives, he will be eating like a king for months.

Madrid Fault.   Chicago is destroyed, leveled.  The state of Illinois is devastated.  Modern day Sodom and Gomorah.  A fitting end.  I'm no fan of organized religion but when that many crooked politicos are anhilated, the hand of providence is apparent.  That one might even get me to go to mass again.

I love the Instapundit one.   He wields a mighty web page, but it ain't a game changer.

Cold fusion.  I assume your not talking about the coffee concentrate but rather power.   White swan.

All reality TV induces toxic boredom in 99 percent of all viewers yet "people" are transfixed by the antics of the Kardashians.  Zombie prep is essential.  Instapundit would agree.

Here is a potential black swan for you: Price inflation makes meds too expensive.  Imagine a society without Xanax and Cymbalta (not to mention Viagra...) I shudder at the thought.

Aliens visit, lose, become cheap labor for Apple.  AAPL price quadruples.  

White linings abound


SilverRhino's picture

Yellowstone erupts: The last super volcano eruption wiped over 90% of the human race at the time.  No real bright side on that one.

Madrid Fault:    Also wipes out Memphrika.    


toadold's picture

Yellowstone is a super volcano, if it blows full bore, you don't lose a few thousand tourists, you lose the state of Wyoming under ash and you get an end to summer for a number of years world wide. 

Cult of Criminality's picture

All these black swans around, how bout easing your mind some with

'White Bird'

 Its a Beautiful Day



j.tennquist's picture

I see something more vague, less an "event" than a continued disintegration (true form: dis-integration) of value and trust in government authority.  And not to sound naive or simple minded but that the possiblity for a rapid unraveling of control is becoming more plausible on all levels of society.  I don't believe it will be led by any one catalyst.   And at this point,  when trust erodes completely, I don't think precious metals will have any value.  Clean water and food will be the only currency until some form of order is restored.   After that - comes another very dark age.

Dead Canary's picture

Jar Jar Binks getting his own talk show. (scary!)

rsnoble's picture

Here is a very short and appropriate video for this post:


You are not safe!!! I love the flying rock in space part!

rosiescenario's picture

"Some of these 15 swans are blacker than others..."


No offense meant, but are those from Nigeria? You know, the ones that have a deal to offer you.


Just my take, the above listing of issues is good, but it will something from left field that hits us. A sizeable CA quake would absolutely put the final nail in the housing coffin for those of us here. (Recall the market after he Loma Prieta quake). But that would be too obvious....more swanlike would be an eruption of Mt. Hood.


F-ing Fed up's picture

I thought the #1 reason to worry about,  Barry gets re-elected. We are so F-ed