What in the world is happening over in Europe? Well, it is actually quite simple. We are witnessing the slow motion collapse of the euro and of the European financial system. At this point, many analysts are convinced that a full-blown financial implosion in Europe has become inevitable. Ireland, Spain, Portugal, Italy, France and Belgium are all drowning in an ocean of unsustainable debt. Meanwhile, Germany and the few other "healthy" members of the EU continue to try to keep all of the balls in the air by bailing everyone out. But can Germany keep bailing the rest of the EU out indefinitely? Are the German people going to continue to be willing to hand out gigantic sacks of cash to fix the problems of other EU nations? The Irish were just bailed out, but their problems are far from over. There are rumors that Greece will soon need another bailout. Spain, Portugal, Italy and France have all entered crisis territory. At the same time, there are a whole host of nations in eastern Europe that are also on the verge of financial collapse. So is there any hope that a major sovereign debt crisis can be averted at this point?
One would like to think that there is always hope, but each month things just seem to keep getting worse. Confidence in European government debt continues to plummet. The yield on 10-year Irish bonds is up to 8.97%. The yield on 10-year Greek bonds is up to an astounding 12.01%. The cost of insuring French debt hit a new record high on December 20th.
Bond ratings all over Europe are being slashed or are being threatened with being slashed. For example, Moody’s Investors Service recently cut Ireland's bond rating by five levels. Now there is talk that Spain, Belgium and even France could soon all have their debt significantly downgraded as well.
But if the borrowing costs for these troubled nations keep going up, that is just going to add to their financial problems and swell their budget deficits. In turn, larger budget deficits will cause investors to lose even more confidence.
So how far are we away from a major crisis point?
Professor Willem Buiter, the chief economist at Citibank, is warning that quite a few EU nations could financially collapse in the next few months if they are not quickly bailed out....
"The market is not going to wait until March for the EU authorities to get their act together. We could have several sovereign states and banks going under. They are being far too casual."
Many analysts are even calling for some of these troubled nations to stop using the euro for a while so that they can recover. In fact, Andrew Bosomworth, the head of portfolio management for Pimco in Europe says that Greece, Ireland and Portugal must all quit the euro at least for a little while if they expect to survive....
"Greece, Ireland and Portugal cannot get back on their feet without either their own currency or large transfer payments."
Sadly, most Americans don't realize just how bad the situation in Europe is becoming. This is truly a historic crisis that is unfolding.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel declared earlier this year that this is the biggest financial crisis that the EU has ever faced....
"The current crisis facing the euro is the biggest test Europe has faced for decades, even since the Treaty of Rome was signed in 1957."
So what is the answer?
Well, many are speculating that the EU could actually break up over this whole thing, but another possibility is that we could eventually see much greater integration.
In fact, for the first time the idea that "euro bonds" could be issued is gaining some traction. This would spread the risk of European government debt throughout the European Union. At this point, Andrew Bosomworth says that things have gotten so bad that it now seems inevitable that we will soon see the creation of euro bonds....
"Whether now or later, there is no way around a euro bond."
So just how bad are things going to get in Europe? Well, earlier this year Anthony Fry, the senior managing director at Evercore Partners had the following to say about the emerging bond crisis in Europe....
"I don’t want to scare anyone but I am considering investing in barbed wire and guns, things are not looking good and rates are heading higher."
So why should Americans care about all this?
Well, what is happening to these troubled European states is eventually going to happen to us.
If rates on U.S. government debt eventually hit 8 or 12 percent it will literally be financial armageddon in this country. The U.S. government has piled up the biggest mountain of debt in the history of the world, and if we continue piling up debt at the pace that we are, then it will only be a matter of time before the IMF is demanding that we implement our own "austerity measures".
As I have written about previously, there are already numerous indications that confidence in U.S. Treasuries is dying. If that happens, we could literally see interest costs on the national debt double or even triple.
But it is not just the U.S. government that is in trouble. A bloodbath in the municipal bond market has already started. Hundreds of state and local governments across the United States are on the verge of bankruptcy.
So don't laugh at what is going on in Ireland or Greece. The next victims could be financially troubled states such as California and Illinois.
In the history of global finance, we have never faced a sovereign debt crisis like we are seeing now. All over the globe governments are being suffocated by absolutely crushing debt loads. Once a couple of dominoes fall, it is going to be really hard to keep the rest of the dominoes from falling.
This is the biggest crisis that the euro has ever faced. At some point Germany will either be unwilling or unable to continuing rescuing the rest of the EU countries from the unsustainable mountains of debt that they have accumulated. When that moment arrives, it is going to throw world financial markets into turmoil.
But this is what happens when we allow long-term debt bubbles to be created. Eventually they always burst.
So keep your eye on the euro, because if a financial collapse does happen in Europe it is going to have a dramatic impact on the United States as well.