I have been warning since 2007 that European banks were in at least as bad a shape as US banks. Recent events in Greece, Ireland, Portugal, and Spain should make it clear to even the Euro bulls just how severe the stress on the Euro is.
One would think this would have caused the dollar-centric hyperinflationists and those who thought the Euro would be the world’s next reserve currency to go into hiding, but instead several hyperinflation proponents have attracted followings by calling for hyperinflation in the US by the end 2011. One even offered seminars on how to deal with it.
Let’s instead focus on the real world.
Fatally Flawed Euro
Randall Forsyth writing for Barron’s makes an excellent case that Serial Bailouts Mean Diminished Euro.
THE EURO IS NOT DEAD, but it may be fatally wounded as a viable alternative global reserve currency. For now, the dollar reigns supreme, by default, in every sense of the word.
Almost immediately after Ireland acceded to a bailout from the European Union and the International Monetary Fund, the international bond markets have set their sights on Spain as the next crisis point, sending its government bonds plunging and the cost of insuring its sovereign debt soaring.
“With Ireland moving toward bailout, bond vigilantes apparently have decided to skip over the Portugal domino and target Spain,” writes Uwe Parpart, Cantor Fitgerald’s chief economist and strategist for Asia.
Spain’s credit default swaps hit a record, topping 300 basis points (a premium of $300,000 to insure $10 million debt), to 305 basis points. The yield on 10-year Spanish government bonds has soared a full percentage point as their spreads over German bunds hit a record.
“Another point and Spain will find it difficult to continue refinancing its debt,” Parpart observes. “Moody’s says Spain is on more solid ground than Ireland. But with still €10 billion to raise this year, bond vigilantes will exact a pound of flesh.”
While there are dire predictions of a breakup of the euro, the costs would be unimaginable. If, for instance, Greece reintroduces the drachma, what happens to its debt obligations denominated in euros? Would they be paid off in euros, which would vastly increase the real burden of that debt? Or would they be paid off in drachmas? And at what exchange rate?
So, the euro may lurch from crisis to crisis with serial bailouts, as Chancellor Merkel describes them. Does that sound like the formula for a global reserve currency as reliable as the dollar? For all its problems, the dollar is issued by a government where there is fiscal as well as monetary unity.
There is no doubt that the international monetary system will be less dollar-centric in the years and decades to come. But the euro, whose inherent flaws now are being exposed, no longer looks like a viable alternative. While its exchange rate could rise at times, mainly because of America’s financial vices rather than Europe’s virtues, as long as the uncertainty created by serial bailouts exists, the euro is unlikely to attain the status of a reserve currency equal to the dollar.
Desperate Fight to Save the Euro
Sean O’Grady, Economics Editor of The Independent writes about the Desperate fight to save the euro.
The euro plunged further into crisis yesterday as investors sold off Spanish, Portuguese and Belgian government bonds in record numbers on renewed fears that those nations would follow Greece and Ireland into the financial emergency ward, undermining confidence in the single currency.
The spreading contagion suggests that the markets now view the break-up of the euro as a realistic possibility, and that “shock and awe” efforts to shore up individual economies with huge bailouts have not succeeded in insulating their neighbours from infection. Spain, in particular, is regarded as being “too big to save”. Should Spain eventually need assistance it would also imply a much larger UK bilateral loan than the £8bn offered to Ireland – perhaps £20bn or £30bn.
The ECB has so far lent some €531bn (£449bn) to European financial institutions at ultra-cheap rates of interest, effectively a life support system that the ECB president Jean-Claude Trichet believes is unsustainable. As so many nations’ banking systems are state-guaranteed or nationalised, this also adds to the pressure on governments across the EU to find a more permanent solution to the crisis.
Slovakia’s Finance Minister, Ivan Miklos, yesterday become the latest European figure to question the euro’s long-term survival, saying that “the risk of a eurozone break-up is very real”. Slovakia joined the single currency last year. On Tuesday, the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, reflected the deep anxiety felt in Germany about events when she commented that the euro was in an “exceptionally serious” position. Herman Van Rompuy said last week that the European Union itself was in a “survival crisis”. Or, as Chancellor Merkel has put it: “If the euro fails, Europe fails.” A poll of economists conducted by Reuters revealed that an overwhelming majority expect a bailout next for Portugal.
With Belgium shaping up as the next “domino” to fall, the contagion of the euro crisis has spread from the peripheral and southern nations for the first time to a northern economy at the heart of the European Union.
Just Who The Hell Do You Think You Are?
Canada Free Press reports on Euro super-skeptic Nigel Farage who in a speech before European Parliament says “The Euro Game Is Up… Just Who The Hell Do You Think You Are?”
Famous euroskeptic Nigel Farage in just under 4 brief minutes tells more truth about the entire European experiment than all European bankers, commissioners, and politicians have done in the past decade. As we have already said pretty much all of this before, we present it without commentary:
“Good morning Mr. van Rompuy, you’ve been in office for one year, and in that time the whole edifice is beginning to crumble, there’s chaos, the money’s running out, I should thank you – you should perhaps be the pinup boy of the euroskeptic movement. But just look around this chamber this morning, look at these faces, look at the fear, look at the anger. Poor Barroso here looks like he’s seen a ghost. They’re beginning to understand that the game is up. And yet in their desperation to preserve their dream, they want to remove any remaining traces of democracy from the system. And it’s pretty clear that none of you have learned anything.
When you yourself Mr. van Rompuy say that the euro has brought us stability, I supposed I could applaud you for having a sense of humor, but isn’t this really just the bunker mentality.
We had the Greek tragedy earlier on this year, and now we have the situation in Ireland. I know that the stupidity and greed of Irish politicians has a lot to do with this: they should never, ever have joined the euro. They suffered with low interest rates, a false boom and a massive bust. But look at your response to them: what they are being told as their government is collapsing is that it would be inappropriate for them to have a general election. In fact commissioner Rehn here said they had to agree to a budget first before they are allowed to have a general election.
Just who the hell do you think you people are. You are very, very dangerous people indeed: your obsession with creating this European state means that you are happy to destroy democracy, you appear to be happy with millions and millions of people to be unemployed and to be poor. Untold millions will suffer so that your euro dream can continue. Well it won’t work, cause its Portugal next with their debt levels of 325% of GDP they are the next ones on the list, and after that I suspect it will be Spain, and the bailout for Spain will be 7 times the size of Ireland, and at that moment all the bailout money will is gone – there won’t be any more.
But it’s even more serious than economics, because if you rob people of their identity, if you rob them of their democracy, then all they are left with is nationalism and violence. I can only hope and pray that the euro project is destroyed by the markets before that.”
Words alone cannot describe the video. Please play this.
Gold and the Watched Pot Theory
Flashback Wednesday, October 07, 2009 1:24 AM Gold And The Watched Pot Theory
Message Of Gold
The reason for the strength in gold is not US inflation. As I have pointed out many times, gold fell from 850 to 250 over the course of 20 years, with inflation every step of the way. Thus, the inflation story just does not fit.
However, it should be clear that a major financial crisis is in store following a long period of competitive currency devaluation and massive debt and derivatives expansion by nearly every major country on the planet.
The G-7 agreed to do nothing to fix this mess, nor did the previous G-20 meeting. Countries are going to do what they are going to do: follow misguided Keynesian logic that suggests one can spend one’s way to prosperity even though the problem is excessive spending across the board.
Might the US dollar blow up? Yes it might. But so could the RMB if China floated it, and so could the British pound. No one seems to see the crisis brewing in Japan with a huge demographic problem, a shrinking population, falling exports, and no way to pay back its national debt.
There is seldom a mention of the problems in European banks who foolishly lent money to the Baltic States in Euros or Swiss Francs and now those Baltic country currencies have collapsed and the loans cannot be paid back. European banks also lent to Latin America and those loans are also suspect. Arguably, European banks are in worse shape than US banks, but no one talks about it, at least in the US.
Spain has unemployment approaching 20% yet must suffer through the same interest rate policy as Germany. Seldom does one hear about this either.
Certainly the UK is a complete basket case with its banks on government life support. Iceland has already blown up, who is next?
Most are not aware of the problems in China, Japan, or Europe. However, the problems in the US are universally well understood. Indeed all eyes are on the dollar and everyone is talking about deficits, monetary printing, and especially unfunded liabilities even though the latter is tomorrow’s problem, not today’s.
Watched Pot Theory Revisited
A watched pot may boil, but it’s not likely to explode, especially when everyone watching the pot expects an explosion any second.
Indeed, it would be fitting if the Ridiculous Hype Over Secret Oil Meetings, helped form a bottom on the US dollar.
Yet, it’s easy to see that a financial crisis is brewing.
Somewhere, something is going to blow sky high, but from where I sit, it’s as likely to be in the Yen, the Swiss Franc, the British Pound, or something no one is watching at all as opposed to the US dollar specifically.
In retrospect it’s easy to see that Greece, Portugal, and Ireland were among those places a new financial crisis would brew, and it was over the Euro as opposed to the continually watched pot in the US.
Someone remind me to revisit the 2011 US hyperinflation call a year from now. It should be fun.
Mike “Mish” Shedlock
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