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Just as Obama and Shinzo Abe, the Prime Minister of Japan, were holding a joint press conference to talk about economic cooperation to fuel the economy and trade, some breaking news from Tokyo was reverberating around the internet.  Japanese retail sales crashed by 9.7% over the last year.  This was the largest annual drop in history.  So much for QE to the moon.  Japan now owns the largest debt to GDP ratio of any country on Earth at 4.26 to 1. 
 
Auto sales fell 6% in a single month.  Even food and beverages, which in Japan is 30% of total retail sales, fell 1.9%.  It is getting more difficult to eat on ones’ income in Japan.  If it were not for tourism, it is thought that retail sales would have fallen much farther.  Of course this only affects large stores in big cities as most tourists stay in the larger areas. 
 
This is a blueprint for things to come in Europe and the U.S. in my view, and sooner rather than later.  Oil price declines have been thought to be good for consumers but they are holding back because they are tapped out debt wise. 
 
In Britain, it was reported that the economy has grown at the lowest level in three years.  Even Germany has reported a slowing economy, which makes it unanimous in the EU.  In the U.S. in the last quarter, the dockworkers strike in Los Angeles crippled trade there for over 4 months, and the hope has been that the ships would be quickly unloaded and the backlog cleaned out. 
 
Those hopes were dashed on Tuesday when truck drivers who haul goods from the port complex in LA and Long Beach went on strike.  Up to 16,000 truckers could quit hauling if there is not a settlement.  This will not affect the short haulers, who number about 1,200 truckers, but most of the 16,000 independent truckers are expected to strike.  They say they face shrinking wages and want to become employees of big trucking companies with better wages and insurance benefits. 
 
The strike is really against the Harbor Trucking Association that argues that driver pay is already good and picketing ports was not healthy for the economy as the area is trying to recover from the dockworkers strike.  If this goes on even for a week, GDP figure estimates that have already been cut numerous times will ratchet lower.


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