The Italian banking system is a “leaning tower” that truly could completely collapse at literally any moment. And as Italy’s banks begin to go down like dominoes, it is going to set off financial panic all over Europe unlike anything we have ever seen before. I wrote about the troubles in Italy back in January, but since that time the crisis has escalated. At this point, Italian banking stocks have declined a whopping 28 percent since the beginning of 2016, and when you look at some of the biggest Italian banks the numbers become even more frightening. On Monday, shares of Monte dei Paschi were down 4.7 percent, and they have now plummeted 56 percent since the start of the year. Shares of Carige were down 8 percent, and they have now plunged a total of 58 percent since the start of the year. This is what a financial crisis looks like, and just like we are seeing in South America, the problems in Italy appear to be significantly accelerating.
So what makes Italy so important?
Well, we all saw how difficult it was for the rest of Europe to come up with a plan to rescue Greece. But Greece is relatively small – they only have the 44th largest economy in the world.
The Italian economy is far larger. Italy has the 8th largest economy in the world, and their government debt to GDP ratio is currently sitting at about 132 percent.
There is no way that Europe has the resources or the ability to handle a full meltdown of the Italian financial system. Unfortunately, that is precisely what is happening. Italian banks are absolutely drowning in non-performing loans, and as Jeffrey Moore has noted, this potentially represents “the greatest threat to the world’s already burdened financial system”…
Shares of Italy’s largest financial institutions have plummeted in the opening months of 2016 as piles of bad debt on their balance sheets become too high to ignore. Amid all of the risks facing EU members in 2016, the risk of contagion from Italy’s troubled banks poses the greatest threat to the world’s already burdened financial system.
At the core of the issue is the concerning level of Non-Performing Loans (NPL’s) on banks’ books, with estimates ranging from 17% to 21% of total lending. This amounts to approximately €200 billion of NPL’s, or 12% of Italy’s GDP. Moreover, in some cases, bad loans make up an alarming 30% of individual banks’ balance sheets.
Things have already gotten so bad that the European Central Bank is now monitoring liquidity levels at Monte dei Paschi and Carige on a daily basis. The following comes from Reuters…
The European Central Bank is checking liquidity levels at a number of Italian banks, including Banca Carige and Monte dei Paschi di Siena , on a daily basis, two sources close to the matter said on Monday.
Italian banking shares have fallen sharply since the start of the year amid market concerns about some 360 billion euros of bad loans on their books and weak capital levels.
The ECB has been putting pressure on several Italian banks to improve their capital position. The regulator can decide to monitor liquidity levels at any bank it supervises on a weekly or daily basis if it has any concern about deposits or funding.
A run on the big Italian banks has already begun. Italians have already been quietly pulling billions of euros out of the banking system, and if these banks continue to crumble this “stealth run” could quickly become a stampede.
And of course panic in Italy would quickly spread to other financially troubled members of the eurozone such as Spain, Portugal, Greece and France. Here is some additional analysis from Jeffrey Moore…
A deteriorating financial crisis in Italy could risk repercussions across the EU exponentially greater than those spurred by Greece. The ripple effects of market turmoil and the potential for dangerous precedents being set by EU authorities in panicked response to that turmoil, could ignite yet more latent financial vulnerabilities in fragile EU members such as Spain and Portugal.
Unfortunately, most Americans are completely blinded to what is going on in the rest of the world because stocks in the U.S. have had a really good run for the past couple of weeks. Headlines are declaring that the risk of a new recession “has passed” and that the crisis “is over”. Meanwhile, South America is plunging into a full-blown depression, the Italian banking system is melting down, global manufacturing numbers are the worst that we have seen since the last recession, and global trade is absolutely imploding.
Other than that, things are pretty good.
Seriously, it is absolutely critical that we don’t allow ourselves to be fooled by every little wave of momentum in the stock market.
It is a fact that sales and profits for U.S. corporations are declining. This is a trend that began all the way back in mid-2014 and that has accelerated during the early stages of 2016. The following comes from Wolf Richter…
Total US business sales – not just sales by S&P 500 companies but also sales by small caps and all other businesses, even those that are not publicly traded – peaked in July 2014 at $1.365 trillion, according to the Census Bureau. By December 2015, total business sales were down 4.6% from that peak. A bad 18 months for sales! They’re back where they’d first been in January 2013!
Sales by S&P 500 companies dropped 3.8% in 2015, according to FactSet, the worst year since the Financial Crisis.
I know that a lot of people have been eagerly anticipating a complete and total global economic collapse for a long time, and many of them just want to “get it over with”.
Well, the truth is that nobody should want to see what is coming. Personally, I rejoice for every extra day, week or month we are given. Every extra day is another day to prepare, and every extra day is another day to enjoy the extremely comfortable standard of living that our debt-fueled prosperity has produced for us.
Most Americans have absolutely no idea how spoiled we really are. Even just fifty years ago, life was so much harder in this country. If we had to go back and live the way that Americans did 100 or 150 years ago, there are very few of us that would be able to successfully do that.
So enjoy the remaining days of debt-fueled prosperity while you still can, because great change is coming, and it is going to be extremely bitter for most of the population.
Keep an eye on the shadow banking system – it is about to be shaken to the core. According to the Financial Stability Board, the size of the global shadow banking system has reached an astounding 75 trillion dollars. It has approximately tripled in size since 2002. In the U.S. alone, the size of the shadow banking system is approximately 24 trillion dollars. At this point, shadow banking assets in the United States are even greater than those of conventional banks. These shadow banks are largely unregulated, but governments around the world have been extremely hesitant to crack down on them because these nonbank lenders have helped fuel economic growth. But in the end, we will all likely pay a very great price for allowing these exceedingly reckless financial institutions to run wild.
If you are not familiar with the “shadow banking system”, the following is a pretty good definition from investing answers.com…
The shadow banking system (or shadow financial system) is a network of financial institutions comprised of non-depository banks — e.g., investment banks, structured investment vehicles (SIVs), conduits, hedge funds, non-bank financial institutions and money market funds.
How it works/Example:
Shadow banking institutions generally serve as intermediaries between investors and borrowers, providing credit and capital for investors, institutional investors, and corporations, and profiting from fees and/or from the arbitrage in interest rates.
Because shadow banking institutions don’t receive traditional deposits like a depository bank, they have escaped most regulatory limits and laws imposed on the traditional banking system. Members are able to operate without being subject to regulatory oversight for unregulated activities. An example of an unregulated activity is a credit default swap (CDS).
These institutions are extremely dangerous because they are highly leveraged and they are behaving very recklessly. They played a major role during the financial crisis of 2008, and even the New York Fed admits that shadow banking has “increased the fragility of the entire financial system”…
The current financial crisis has highlighted the growing importance of the “shadow banking system,” which grew out of the securitization of assets and the integration of banking with capital market developments. This trend has been most pronounced in the United States, but it has had a profound influence on the global financial system. In a market-based financial system, banking and capital market developments are inseparable: Funding conditions are closely tied to fluctuations in the leverage of market-based financial intermediaries. Growth in the balance sheets of these intermediaries provides a sense of the availability of credit, while contractions of their balance sheets have tended to precede the onset of financial crises. Securitization was intended as a way to transfer credit risk to those better able to absorb losses, but instead it increased the fragility of the entire financial system by allowing banks and other intermediaries to “leverage up” by buying one another’s securities.
Over the past decade, shadow banking has become a truly worldwide phenomenon, and thus it is a major threat to the entire global financial system. In China, shadow banking has been growing by leaps and bounds, but this has the authorities deeply concerned. In fact, according to Bloomberg one top Chinese regulator has referred to shadow banking as a “Ponzi scheme”…
Their growth had caused the man who is now China’s top securities regulator to label the off-balance-sheet products a “Ponzi scheme,” because banks have to sell more each month to pay off those that are maturing.
And what happens to all Ponzi schemes eventually?
In the end, they always collapse.
And when this 75 trillion dollar Ponzi scheme collapses, the global devastation that it will cause will be absolutely unprecedented.
Bond expert Bill Gross, who is intimately familiar with the shadow banking system, has just come out with a major warning about the lack of liquidity in the shadow banking system…
Mutual funds, hedge funds, and ETFs, are part of the “shadow banking system” where these modern “banks” are not required to maintain reserves or even emergency levels of cash. Since they in effect now are the market, a rush for liquidity on the part of the investing public, whether they be individuals in 401Ks or institutional pension funds and insurance companies, would find the “market” selling to itself with the Federal Reserve severely limited in its ability to provide assistance.
As far as shadow banking is concerned, everything is just fine as long as markets just keep going up and up and up.
But once they start falling, the whole system can start falling apart very rapidly. Here is more from Bill Gross on what might cause a “run on the shadow banks” in the near future…
Long used to the inevitability of capital gains, investors and markets have not been tested during a stretch of time when prices go down and policymakers’ hands are tied to perform their historical function of buyer of last resort. It’s then that liquidity will be tested.
And what might precipitate such a “run on the shadow banks”?
1) A central bank mistake leading to lower bond prices and a stronger dollar.
2) Greece, and if so, the inevitable aftermath of default/restructuring leading to additional concerns for Eurozone peripherals.
3) China – “a riddle wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma”. It is the “mystery meat” of economic sandwiches – you never know what’s in there. Credit has expanded more rapidly in recent years than any major economy in history, a sure warning sign.
4) Emerging market crisis – dollar denominated debt/overinvestment/commodity orientation – take your pick of potential culprits.
5) Geopolitical risks – too numerous to mention and too sensitive to print.
6) A butterfly’s wing – chaos theory suggests that a small change in “non-linear systems” could result in large changes elsewhere. Call this kooky, but in a levered financial system, small changes can upset the status quo. Keep that butterfly net handy.
Should that moment occur, a cold rather than a hot shower may be an investor’s reward and the view will be something less than “gorgeous”. So what to do? Hold an appropriate amount of cash so that panic selling for you is off the table.
In order to avoid a shadow banking crisis, what we need is for global financial markets to stabilize and to resume their upward trends.
If stocks and bonds start crashing, which is precisely what I have projected will happen during the last half of 2015, the shadow banking system is going to come under an extreme amount of stress. If the coming global financial crisis is even half as bad as I believe it is going to be, there is no way that the shadow banking system is going to hold up.
So let’s hope that the financial devastation that we have seen so far this week is not a preview of things to come. The global financial system has been transformed into a delicately balanced pyramid of glass that is not designed to handle turbulent times. We should have never allowed the shadow banks to run wild like this, but we did, and now in just a short while we are going to get to witness a financial implosion unlike anything the world has ever seen before.
As Greece plunges even deeper into economic chaos, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras says that his government is prepared to respond to the demands of the EU and the IMF with “the great no” and that his party will accept responsibility for whatever consequences follow. Despite years of intervention from the rest of Europe, Greece is a bigger economic mess today than ever. Greek GDP has shrunk by 26 percent since 2008, the national debt to GDP ratio in Greece is up to a staggering 175 percent, and the unemployment rate is up above 25 percent. Greek stocks are crashing and Greek bond yields are shooting into the stratosphere. Meanwhile, the banking system is essentially on life support at this point. 400 million euros were pulled out of Greek banks on Monday alone. No matter what happens in the coming days, many believe that it is now only a matter of time before capital controls like we saw in Cyprus are imposed.
Over the past several months, there have been endless high level meetings over in Europe regarding this Greek crisis, but none of them have fixed anything. And even Jeroen Dijsselbloem admits that the odds of anything being accomplished during the meeting of eurozone finance ministers on Thursday is “very small”…
Some officials believe Thursday’s meeting of eurozone finance ministers will be perhaps the last chance to stop Greece sliding into default and towards leaving the euro.
However the president of the so-called Eurogroup, Jeroen Dijsselbloem, said the chance of an accord was “very small”.
And it is certainly not just Dijsselbloem that feels this way. At this point pretty much everyone is resigned to the fact that there is not going to be a deal any time soon. The following comes from Reuters…
“People are getting anxious on both sides. Athens expects Brussels to move. And Brussels expects Athens to move. And it’s stuck,” said a senior EU diplomat, who declined to be named.
“It’s very dangerous, and we may have an accident.”
EU officials insist that it is Greece that needs to back down, but the Greeks have no intention of backing down. Just consider the words of Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras. He says that he is not afraid to deliver “the great no” to the rest of Europe…
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said he’s ready to assume responsibility for the consequences of rejecting an unfair deal with creditors.
In a sign that he’s being taken at his word, officials from the Netherlands, Portugal and Germany said they were bracing for a breakdown in talks that could roil the currency bloc.
With a viable solution “the Greek government recently elected by the Greek people will bear the cost of carrying through,” Tsipras told reporters in Athens on Wednesday. Without one, “we will assume the responsibility to say ‘the great no’ to a continuation of the catastrophic policies.”
To me, that sounds like a man that is not going to back down. And to call it “the great no” is not an exaggeration at all. I think that he realizes that this “great no” will unleash financial chaos all over Europe.
For Greece, the consequences would likely be catastrophic. At least that is what the Bank of Greece thinks…
Failure to reach an agreement would, on the contrary, mark the beginning of a painful course that would lead initially to a Greek default and ultimately to the country’s exit from the euro area and – most likely – from the European Union. A manageable debt crisis, as the one that we are currently addressing with the help of our partners, would snowball into an uncontrollable crisis, with great risks for the banking system and financial stability. An exit from the euro would only compound the already adverse environment, as the ensuing acute exchange rate crisis would send inflation soaring.
All this would imply deep recession, a dramatic decline in income levels, an exponential rise in unemployment and a collapse of all that the Greek economy has achieved over the years of its EU, and especially its euro area, membership. From its position as a core member of Europe, Greece would see itself relegated to the rank of a poor country in the European South.
And no matter how confident the Germans appear to be right now, the truth is that a Greek debt default would be a complete and total nightmare for the rest of Europe as well. The euro would drop like a rock, stocks would crash all over Europe and bond yields would go crazy. And that is just for starters.
So we desperately need to see a deal. But with each passing day that seems less and less likely.
In fact, a Greek parliament committee on public debt just released a new report containing their preliminary findings. This report is not legally binding, but it does show the mood of the Greek parliament, and what this report says is absolutely stunning. It concluded that the Greek government is under absolutely no obligation to repay its debts. Just check out the following excerpt from the report…
All the evidence we present in this report shows that Greece not only does not have the ability to pay this debt, but also should not pay this debt first and foremost because the debt emerging from the Troika’s arrangements is a direct infringement on the fundamental human rights of the residents of Greece. Hence, we came to the conclusion that Greece should not pay this debt because it is illegal, illegitimate, and odious.
In other words, what this report is saying is that the Greek government should never pay back any of this debt. That certainly is not going to sit well with the officials from the EU and the IMF.
And what happens if other financially troubled nations in the eurozone decide that their debts are “illegal” and “odious” as well?
Globally, there are more than 76 trillion dollars worth of bonds floating around out there, and the yields on those bonds are based on the assumption that they will always be paid off. If nations such as Greece start defaulting, that will throw the entire global financial system into a state of tremendous chaos.
Of course the Greek financial system is already in a state of tremendous chaos. At this point, many believe that it is just a matter of time before capital controls are imposed. This is something that I have warned about in the past. The following description of what capital controls in Greece may look like comes from Bloomberg…
No one knows the specifics for Greece, but here’s what happened in Cyprus: ATM withdrawals were capped at 300 euros a person per day. Transfers of more than 5,000 euros abroad were subject to approval by a special committee. Companies needed documents for each payment order, with approvals for over 200,000 euros determined by available liquidity. Parents couldn’t send children that were studying abroad more than 5,000 euros a quarter. Cypriots traveling abroad could carry no more than 1,000 euros with them. Termination of fixed-term deposits was prohibited, while payments with credit and debit cards were capped at 5,000 euros. Checks couldn’t be cashed.
Since most Greeks do not want to have their money trapped in the banks, they have been pulling out cash and hiding it at home at a record breaking pace. This is precisely what we would expect to see when a nation is on the verge of total financial collapse…
“Everybody’s doing it,” said Joanna Christofosaki, in front of a Eurobank cash dispenser in the leafy Athens neighbourhood of Kolonaki. “Our friends have all done it. Nobody wants their money to be worthless tomorrow. Nobody wants to be unable to get at it.”
A researcher in the archaeology department at the Academy of Athens, Christofosaki said she knew plenty of people who had “€10,000 somewhere at home” and plenty of others who chose to keep their stash at the office. Was she among them? “If I was, I certainly wouldn’t tell you.”
As I wrote about yesterday, I believe that this is the beginning of the next great European financial crisis.
Eventually, it will spread all over the planet.
Unfortunately, even though global debt levels have never been higher and the signs of the coming financial implosion are all around us, most people have been lulled into a false sense of security.
Most people just assume that everything is going to turn out okay somehow.
The second half of this year is going to be much different from the first half, but most people will not be convinced until everything starts completely falling apart.
By then, it may be far too late to do anything about it.
Do you remember what happened when Cyprus decided to defy the EU? In the end, the entire banking system of the nation collapsed and money was confiscated from private bank accounts. Well, the nation of Greece is now approaching a similar endgame. At this point, the Greek government has not received any money from the EU or the IMF since August 2014. As you can imagine, that means that Greek government accounts are just about bone dry. The new Greek government continues to insist that it will never “violate its anti-austerity mandate”, but the screws are tightening. Right now the unemployment rate in Greece is over 25 percent and the banking system is on the verge of collapse. It isn’t going to take much to set off a panic, and when it does happen there are already rumors that the EU plans to confiscate money from private bank accounts just like they did in Cyprus.
Throughout this entire multi-year crisis, things have never been this dire for the Greek government. In fact, Greece came thisclose to defaulting on a loan payment to the IMF back on May 12th. And with essentially no money remaining at all, the Greek government is supposed to make several large payments in the weeks ahead…
Athens barely made its latest payment (May 12) to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and it managed to do so only when the government discovered that it could use a reserve account it wasn’t aware of, according to the Greek media.
Kathimerini, a Greek daily newspaper, reports that Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras wrote to the IMF’s Christine Lagarde warning that Greece would not be able to make that May payment, worth €762 million ($871 million, £554.2 million).
Pension and civil-servant pay packets are due at the end of the month, and based on this news Athens may struggle to pay them. Even if it does manage that, on June 5 the country owes another €305 million to the IMF.
In the two weeks following June 5 there are another three payments, bringing the June total to the IMF to over €1.5 billion.
The Germans and the other financial hawks in the EU are counting on these looming payment deadlines to force Greece into a deal.
Meanwhile, Greek banks also find themselves in very hot water. Many of them are almost totally out of collateral, and without outside intervention some of them could start collapsing within weeks. The following comes from Bloomberg…
Greek banks are running short on the collateral they need to stay alive, a crisis that could help force Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’s hand after weeks of brinkmanship with creditors.
As deposits flee the financial system, lenders use collateral parked at the Greek central bank to tap more and more emergency liquidity every week. In a worst-case scenario, that lifeline will be maxed out within three weeks, pushing banks toward insolvency, some economists say.
“The point where collateral is exhausted is likely to be near,” JPMorgan Chase Bank analysts Malcolm Barr and David Mackie wrote in a note to clients May 15. “Pressures on central government cash flow, pressures on the banking system, and the political timetable are all converging on late May-early June.”
If no agreement is reached, by this time next month Greece could be plunging into a Cyprus-style crisis or worse.
And if that does happen, there are already rumblings that a “Cyprus-style solution” will be imposed. Just consider what James Turk recently told King World News…
The troika of the EU, ECB and IMF have not yet pulled the plug on the Greek banks, but the following quote in the Financial Times from this weekend should be a warning to anyone who still has money on deposit in that country: “The idea of a “Cyprus-like” presentation to Greek authorities has gained traction among some eurozone finance ministers, according to one official involved in the talks.”
The ECB is up to its eyeballs swimming in unpayable Greek debt that it holds. The ECB is not going to take a loss on this Greek paper on its books. Because Greece does not have the financial capacity to repay what is now about €112 billion of credit exposure to Greece on the ECB’s books, the ECB has only two alternatives.
It can push the €112 billion of Greek debt it holds to the national central banks of the Eurozone and on to the backs of the taxpayers in those countries, which it politically untenable. Or it can confiscate depositor money in Greek banks, like it did in Cyprus and as the FT has now reported.
Needless to say, such a move would be likely to set off financial panic all over Europe.
Could we actually see such a thing?
Well, let’s recall that back in April we already saw the Greek government forcibly grab “idle” cash from the bank accounts of regional governments and pension funds. The following is from a Bloomberg report about that event…
Running out of other options, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras ordered local governments and central government entities to move their cash balances to the central bank for investment in short-term state debt.
The decree to confiscate reserves held in commercial banks and transfer them to the Bank of Greece could raise as much as 2 billion euros ($2.15 billion), according to two people familiar with the decision. The money is needed to pay salaries and pensions at the end of the month, the people said.
“It is a politically and institutionally unacceptable decision,” Giorgos Patoulis, mayor of the city of Marousi and president of the Central Union of Municipalities and Communities of Greece, said in a statement on Monday.“No government to date has dared to touch the money of municipalities.”
Grabbing cash from the bank accounts of private citizens is just one step farther.
And what happened in Cyprus just a couple of years ago is still fresh in the minds of most Greeks. That is why so many of them have been pulling money out of the banks in recent weeks. The following comes from Wolf Richter…
Greeks remember very well what happened in Cyprus in 2013, when local banks were given a big thumbs-up from Europe to help themselves to their depositors’ accounts. Cyprus and Greece are very closely tied, and many Greeks consider the island a “sister-nation.”
What little trust remained in banks in Greece died that day. People have been nervously looking for signs something similar may happen again in their home country. And they resolved to act at the first sign of danger: banks cannot confiscate money you have under your mattress. Cash can be hidden away.
Let’s certainly hope that what happened in Cyprus does not happen in Greece.
But right now, both sides are counting on the other side to fold.
The Germans believe that at some point the economic and financial pain will become so immense that it will force the new Greek government to give in to their demands.
The Greeks believe that the threat of a full blown European financial crisis will cause the Germans to back down at the last moment.
So what if they are both wrong?
What if both sides are fully prepared to stand their ground and take us over the cliff and into disaster?
For a long time I have been warning that a great financial crisis is coming to Europe.
This could be the spark that sets it off.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Greece staying in the eurozone is no longer “the base case” for European officials, and one even told the Journal that “literally nothing has been achieved” in negotiations with the new Greek government since the Greek election almost three months ago. In other words, you can take all of that stuff you heard about how the Greek crisis was fixed and throw it out the window. Over the next few months, a big chunk of Greek government bonds held by the IMF and the European Central Bank will mature. Unless negotiations produce a load of new cash for Greece, there will be a default, and right now there is very little optimism that we will see an agreement any time soon. In fact, as I wrote about the other day, behind the scenes banks all over Europe are quietly preparing for a Grexit. European news sources are reporting that the Greek banking system is on the verge of collapse, and over the past couple of weeks Greek bond yields have shot through the roof. Most of the things that we would expect to see in the lead up to a Greek exit from the eurozone are happening, and now we will wait and see if the Greeks actually have the guts to pull the trigger when push comes to shove.
At this point, many top European officials are quietly admitting that it is more likely than not that Greece will leave the euro by the end of this year. The following is an excerpt from the Wall Street Journal article that I mentioned above…
It’s still possible that Greece can remain in the eurozone—though that is no longer the base case for many policy makers. At the very least, most fear the situation is going to get much, worse before it gets any better. No one now expects a deal to unlock Greek bailout funding at this week’s meeting of eurozone finance ministers in Riga—originally set as the final deadline for a deal. The new final, final deadline is now said to be a summit on May 11.
But among European politicians and officials gathered in Washington DC last week for the International Monetary Fund’s Spring Meetings, there was little optimism that a deal will be agreed by then.
The two sides are no closer to an agreement than when the Greek government took office almost three months ago. “Nothing, literally nothing has been achieved,” says an official.
Literally nothing has been achieved?
That is not what the mainstream media has been telling us over the past few months.
They kept telling us that agreements were in place and that everything had been fixed.
I guess not.
The Germans believe that the risks of a “Grexit” have already been priced in by the financial markets and that a Greek exit from the euro can be “managed” without any serious risk of contagion.
So they are playing hardball with the Greeks.
On the other hand, the Greeks believe that the risk of contagion will eventually force the Germans to back down…
Greece’s Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis said in an interview broadcast on Sunday that if Greece were to leave the euro zone, there would be an inevitable contagion effect.
“Anyone who toys with the idea of cutting off bits of the euro zone hoping the rest will survive is playing with fire,” he told La Sexta, a Spanish TV channel, in an interview recorded 10 days ago.
“Some claim that the rest of Europe has been ring-fenced from Greece and that the ECB has tools at its disposal to amputate Greece, if need be, cauterize the wound and allow the rest of euro zone to carry on.”
In this case, I believe that the Greeks are right about what a Grexit would mean for the rest of Europe and the Germans are wrong.
Once one country leaves the euro, that tells the entire world that membership in the euro is only temporary. Immediately everyone would be looking for the “next Greece”, and there are lots of candidates – Italy, Spain, Portugal, etc.
There is a very good chance that a Grexit would set off a full-blown European financial panic. And once a financial panic starts, it is very hard to stop. The danger that a Grexit poses is so obvious that even the Obama administration can see it…
A Greek exit from the euro zone would carry significant risks for the global economy and no one should be under the impression that financial markets have fully priced in such an event, the chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers said.
The comments by Jason Furman in an interview with Reuters in Berlin are among the strongest by a senior U.S. official and are at odds with those of German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, who told an audience in New York last week that contagion risks from a so-called “Grexit” were limited.
“A Greek exit would not just be bad for the Greek economy, it would be taking a very large and unnecessary risk with the global economy just when a lot of things are starting to go right,” Furman said.
Meanwhile things continue to get even worse inside Greece. If you have any money in Greek banks, you need to move it immediately. The following comes from Zero Hedge…
Things for insolvent, cashless Greece are – not unexpectedly – getting worse by the day.
Following yesterday’s shocking decree that the government will confiscate local government reserves and “sweep” them into the central bank to provide the country more funds as it approaches another month of heavy IMF repayments, earlier today Bloomberg reported that the ECB would add insult to injury and may increase haircuts for Greek banks accessing Emergency Liquidity Assistance, thus “reining in” the very critical emergency liquidity which has kept Greek banks operating in recent weeks as the bank run sweeping the domestic banking sector has gotten worse by the day.
And many Greeks don’t even have any money to put in the banks because they haven’t been paid in months…
Meanwhile, the reality is that for a majority of the Greek population, none of this really matters because as Greek Ta Nea reports, citing Labor Ministry data, about one million Greek workers see delays of up to 5 months in salaries payment by their employers. The Greek media adds that about 45% of salaried workers in Greece make no more than €751 per month, the country’s old minimum wage; which also includes part-time workers.
No matter what European officials try, things just continue to unravel in Greece and in much of the rest of Europe.
We stand on the verge of the next great global economic crisis. The lessons that we should have learned from the last crisis were never learned, and instead global debt levels have exploded much higher since then. In fact, according to Doug Casey, the total amount of global debt is 57 trillion dollars higher than it was just prior to the last crisis…
In 2008, excess debt pushed the global financial system to the brink. It was a golden opportunity for governments and banks to reform the system. But rather than deal with the problem, they papered over it by issuing more debt. Worldwide debt levels are now $57 trillion higher than in 2008.
The eurozone as it is constituted today is doomed.
That doesn’t mean that the Europeans are going to give up on social, economic and political integration. It just means that we are entering a time of transition that is going to be extremely messy.
And once the European financial system begins to fall apart, the rest of the world will quickly follow.
How do you fix a superpower with exploding levels of debt, that has a rapidly aging population, that consumes far more wealth than it produces, and that has scores of zombie banks that could collapse at any moment. You might think that I am talking about the United States, but I am actually talking about Europe. You see, the truth is that the European Union has a larger population than the United States does, it has a larger economy than the United States does, and it has a much larger banking system than the United States does. Most of the time I write about the horrible economic problems that the U.S. is facing, but without a doubt economic conditions in Europe are even worse at the moment. In fact, there are many (including the Washington Post) that are calling what is happening in Europe a full-blown “depression”. Sadly, this is probably only just the beginning. In the months to come things in Europe are likely to get much worse.
First of all, let’s take a look at unemployment. If the U.S. was using honest numbers, the official unemployment rate would probably be somewhere close to 10 percent. But in many nations in Europe, the official unemployment rate is already above the ten percent mark…
The official unemployment rate for the eurozone as a whole is currently 11.5 percent. The lack of good jobs is causing the middle class to shrink all over Europe, and more people than ever are becoming dependent on government assistance. European nations are well known for their generous welfare programs, but all of this spending is causing debt to GDP ratios to absolutely explode…
At the same time, the value of the euro has been steadily declining over the last six months. This is significantly reducing the purchasing power that European families have…
Many believe that the euro will ultimately go much lower than this. Nations such as Greece and Spain are already experiencing deflation, and the inflation rates in Germany and France are both currently below one percent. If the European Central Bank starts injecting lots of fresh euros into the system to combat this perceived problem, that will lift the level of inflation but it will also further erode the value of the euro.
In the long run, it would not be a surprise to see the U.S. dollar at parity with the euro.
When it happens, remember where you heard it.
The Europeans are scared to death of a deflationary depression, but that is precisely where the long-term economic trends are taking them right now. The following is from a recent Forbes article…
Market consensus believes that the eurozone is edging toward that moment when the scourge of deflation actually becomes a crippling reality. Eurozone data is constantly reminding investors that the region’s economy is barely limping along, as companies slash selling prices in a vain attempt to improve sales in the face of a weakening economy and evaporating new orders. Corporate deflationary reactions like this only hurt a company’s bottom line by squeezing profit margins even further. The obvious knock-on effect will limit resources for hiring and investing, which in turn only dampens any chances of an economic rebound, again putting the region into a bigger hole.
In a desperate attempt to avoid widespread deflation in Europe, the ECB will inevitably take action at some point.
It may not happen immediately, but when it does it will be yet another salvo in the emerging global currency war.
Speaking of currencies, it is being reported that Russia is actually considering legislation that will ban the circulation of the U.S. dollar in that nation. The following is from an article that was posted on Infowars…
Russia may ban the circulation of the United States dollar.
The State Duma has already been submitted a relevant bill banning and terminating the circulation of USD in Russia, APA’s Moscow correspondent reports.
If the bill is approved, Russian citizens will have to close their dollar accounts in Russian banks within a year and exchange their dollars in cash to Russian ruble or other countries’ currencies.
Otherwise their accounts will be frozen and cash dollars levied by police, customs, tax, border, and migration services confiscated.
That is not good news for the U.S. dollar at all.
Expect wild shifts in the foreign exchange markets in the months and years to come. Turbulent times are ahead for the dollar, the euro and the yen.
Getting back to Europe, let us hope that things stabilize over there – at least for a while.
But that might not happen. In fact, things could take a turn for the worse at any moment.
Most people don’t realize this, but European banks are even shakier than U.S. banks, and that is saying a lot.
For example, the largest bank in the strongest economy in Europe is Deutsche Bank. At this point, Deutsche Bank has approximately 75 trillion dollars worth of exposure to derivatives. That amount of money is about 20 times the size of German GDP, and it is more exposure than any U.S. bank has.
And Deutsche Bank is far from alone. All over Europe there are zombie banks that are essentially insolvent. Many of them are being propped up by their governments. Those governments know that if those banks failed that it would make their economic problems even worse.
Just like in the United States, most economic activity in Europe is fueled by debt. So those banks are needed to provide mortgages, loans and credit cards to average citizens and businesses. Unfortunately, bad debt levels and business failures continue to shoot up all over Europe.
The system is breaking down, and nobody is quite sure what is going to happen next.
So keep an eye on Europe. In particular, keep an eye on Italy. I have a feeling that big economic news is about to start coming out of Italy, and it won’t be good.
In 2014, we have been experiencing “the calm before the storm”.
But 2015 is right around the corner, and it promises to be extremely “interesting”.
Wall Street banks are getting hit by cyber attacks every single minute of every single day. It is a massive onslaught that is not highly publicized because the bankers do not want to alarm the public. But as you will see below, one big Wall Street bank is spending 250 million dollars a year just by themselves to combat this growing problem. The truth is that our financial system is not nearly as stable as most Americans think that it is. We have become more dependent on technology than ever before, and that comes with a potentially huge downside. An electromagnetic pulse weapon or an incredibly massive cyberattack could conceivably take down part or all of our banking system at any time.
This week, the mainstream news is reporting on an attack on our major banks that was so massive that the FBI and the Secret Service have decided to get involved. The following is how Forbes described what is going on…
The FBI and the Secret Service are investigating a huge wave of cyber attacks on Wall Street banks, reportedly including JP Morgan Chase, that took place in recent weeks.
The attacks may have involved the theft of multiple gigabytes of sensitive data, according to reports. Joshua Campbell, supervisory special agent at the FBI, tells Forbes: “We are working with the United States Secret Service to determine the scope of recently reported cyber attacks against several American financial institutions.”
When most people think of “cyber attacks”, they think of a handful of hackers working out of lonely apartments or the basements of their parents. But that is not primarily what we are dealing with anymore. Today, big banks are dealing with cyberattackers that are extremely organized and that are incredibly sophisticated.
The threat grows with each passing day, and that is why JPMorgan Chase says that “not every battle will be won” even though it is spending 250 million dollars a year in a relentless fight against cyberattacks…
JPMorgan Chase this year will spend $250 million and dedicate 1,000 people to protecting itself from cybercrime — and it still might not be completely successful, CEO Jamie Dimon warned in April.
“Cyberattacks are growing every day in strength and velocity across the globe. It is going to be continual and likely never-ending battle to stay ahead of it — and, unfortunately, not every battle will be won,” Dimon said in his annual letter to shareholders.
Other big Wall Street banks have a similar perspective. Just consider the following two quotes from a recent USA Today article…
Bank of America: “Although to date we have not experienced any material losses relating to cyber attacks or other information security breaches, there can be no assurance that we will not suffer such losses in the future.”
Citigroup: “Citi has been subject to intentional cyber incidents from external sources, including (i) denial of service attacks, which attempted to interrupt service to clients and customers; (ii) data breaches, which aimed to obtain unauthorized access to customer account data; and (iii) malicious software attacks on client systems, which attempted to allow unauthorized entrance to Citi’s systems under the guise of a client and the extraction of client data. For example, in 2013 Citi and other U.S. financial institutions experienced distributed denial of service attacks which were intended to disrupt consumer online banking services. …
“… because the methods used to cause cyber attacks change frequently or, in some cases, are not recognized until launched, Citi may be unable to implement effective preventive measures or proactively address these methods.”
I don’t know about you, but those quotes do not exactly fill me with confidence.
Another potential threat that banking executives lose sleep over is the threat of electromagnetic pulse weapons. The technology of these weapons has advanced so much that they can fit inside a briefcase now. Just consider the following excerpt from an article that was posted on an engineering website entitled “Electromagnetic Warfare Is Here“…
The problem is growing because the technology available to attackers has improved even as the technology being attacked has become more vulnerable. Our infrastructure increasingly depends on closely integrated, high-speed electronic systems operating at low internal voltages. That means they can be laid low by short, sharp pulses high in voltage but low in energy—output that can now be generated by a machine the size of a suitcase, batteries included.
Electromagnetic (EM) attacks are not only possible—they are happening. One may be under way as you read this. Even so, you would probably never hear of it: These stories are typically hushed up, for the sake of security or the victims’ reputation.
That same article described how an attack might possibly happen…
An attack might be staged as follows. A larger electromagnetic weapon could be hidden in a small van with side panels made of fiberglass, which is transparent to EM radiation. If the van is parked about 5 to 10 meters away from the target, the EM fields propagating to the wall of the building can be very high. If, as is usually the case, the walls are mere masonry, without metal shielding, the fields will attenuate only slightly. You can tell just how well shielded a building is by a simple test: If your cellphone works well when you’re inside, then you are probably wide open to attack.
And with electromagnetic pulse weapons, terrorists or cyberattackers can try again and again until they finally get it right…
And, unlike other means of attack, EM weapons can be used without much risk. A terrorist gang can be caught at the gates, and a hacker may raise alarms while attempting to slip through the firewalls, but an EM attacker can try and try again, and no one will notice until computer systems begin to fail (and even then the victims may still not know why).
Never before have our financial institutions faced potential threats on this scale.
According to the Telegraph, our banks are under assault from cyberattacks “every minute of every day”, and these attacks are continually growing in size and scope…
Every minute, of every hour, of every day, a major financial institution is under attack.
Threats range from teenagers in their bedrooms engaging in adolescent “hacktivism”, to sophisticated criminal gangs and state-sponsored terrorists attempting everything from extortion to industrial espionage. Though the details of these crimes remain scant, cyber security experts are clear that behind-the-scenes online attacks have already had far reaching consequences for banks and the financial markets.
In the end, it is probably only a matter of time until we experience a technological 9/11.
When that day arrives, will your money be safe?
Why have we turned our backs on the principles that this nation was founded upon? Many of those that founded this nation bled and died so that we could experience “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”. And yet we have tossed their ideals aside as if they were so much rubbish. Our founders had experienced the tyranny of big government (the monarchy) and the tyranny of the big banks and feudal lords, and they wanted something very different for the citizens of the new republic that they were forming. They wanted a country where private property was respected and hard work was rewarded. They wanted a country where the individual was empowered, and where everyone could own land and start businesses. They wanted a country where there were severe restrictions on all large collections of power (government, banks and corporations all included). They wanted a country where freedom and liberty were maximized and where ordinary people had the power to pursue their dreams and build better lives for their families. And you know what? While no system is ever perfect, the experiment that our founders originally set up worked beyond their wildest dreams. But now we are killing it. Why in the world would we want to do that?
Most people are under the illusion that the United States has a “capitalist economy” today, but that simply is not accurate. At best, we have a “mixed economy” that is becoming a little bit more socialist with each passing day. We pay dozens of different types of taxes each year, and some Americans actually end up giving more of their earnings to the government than they keep themselves. But that is still not enough, and so our state governments have accumulated astounding amounts of debt, and our federal government has amassed the largest single debt that the world has ever seen. If future generations of Americans get the chance, they will curse us for the chains of debt that we have placed upon their shoulders.
So what do our government officials do with all of this money?
Well, today approximately 70 percent of all federal government activity involves taking money from some Americans and giving it to other Americans.
Despite this unprecedented wealth-redistribution program, poverty is absolutely exploding in this country and 49 million Americans are dealing with food insecurity.
Meanwhile, the bankers have been getting fabulously wealthy from all of this debt. The Federal Reserve system was designed to trap the U.S. government in an endless spiral of debt from which it could never possibly escape, and that mission has been accomplished. In fact, the U.S. national debt is now more than 5000 times larger than it was when the Federal Reserve was first created a little more than 100 years ago.
Most people like to think of big banks as “capitalist” institutions, but that is not really accurate. In the end, giant corporate banks like we have in the United States are actually collectivist institutions. They tend to greatly concentrate wealth and power, and socialists find those kinds of banks very useful.
In fact, Vladimir Lenin once said that “without big banks, socialism would be impossible.”
While there may be a bit of animosity between big government and big banks once in a while, the truth is that they are usually very closely tied to one another. We saw this close relationship very clearly during the financial crisis of 2008, and it is no secret that there is a revolving door between the boardrooms of Wall Street and the halls of power in Washington. The elite dominate both spheres, and it is not for the benefit of the rest of us.
In America today, government just keeps getting bigger and the banks just keep getting bigger. Meanwhile, the percentage of self-employed Americans is at an all-time low and the middle class is steadily dying.
What we are doing right now is clearly not working.
So why don’t we go back and do the things that we were doing when we were extremely successful as a nation?
In case you don’t know what those things were, here are some clues…
#1 “A wise and frugal government… shall restrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government.” — Thomas Jefferson, First Inaugural Address, March 4, 1801
#2 “A people… who are possessed of the spirit of commerce, who see and who will pursue their advantages may achieve almost anything.” – George Washington
#3 “Government is instituted to protect property of every sort; as well that which lies in the various rights of individuals, as that which the term particularly expresses. This being the end of government, that alone is a just government which impartially secures to every man whatever is his own.” – James Madison, Essay on Property, 1792
#4 “Banks have done more injury to the religion, morality, tranquility, prosperity, and even wealth of the nation than they can have done or ever will do good.” – John Adams
#5 “To take from one, because it is thought his own industry and that of his fathers has acquired too much, in order to spare to others, who, or whose fathers, have not exercised equal industry and skill, is to violate arbitrarily the first principle of association, the guarantee to everyone the free exercise of his industry and the fruits acquired by it.” — Thomas Jefferson, letter to Joseph Milligan, April 6, 1816
#6 “The moment the idea is admitted into society that property is not as sacred as the laws of God, and that there is not a force of law and public justice to protect it, anarchy and tyranny commence. If ‘Thou shalt not covet’ and ‘Thou shalt not steal’ were not commandments of Heaven, they must be made inviolable precepts in every society before it can be civilized or made free.” — John Adams, A Defense of the Constitutions of Government of the United States of America, 1787
#7 “I place economy among the first and most important virtues, and public debt as the greatest of dangers to be feared. To preserve our independence, we must not let our rulers load us with perpetual debt. If we run into such debts, we must be taxed in our meat and drink, in our necessities and in our comforts, in our labor and in our amusements.” – Thomas Jefferson
#8 “Beware the greedy hand of government thrusting itself into every corner and crevice of industry.” – Thomas Paine
#9 “If we can but prevent the government from wasting the labours of the people, under the pretence of taking care of them, they must become happy.” – Thomas Jefferson to Thomas Cooper, November 29, 1802
#10 “All the perplexities, confusion and distress in America arise not from defects in the Constitution or Confederation, not from a want of honor or virtue so much as from downright ignorance of the nature of coin, credit and circulation.” – John Adams, at the Constitutional Convention (1787)
#11 “The principle of spending money to be paid by posterity, under the name of funding, is but swindling futurity on a large scale.” – Thomas Jefferson
#12 “Liberty must at all hazards be supported. We have a right to it, derived from our Maker. But if we had not, our fathers have earned and bought it for us, at the expense of their ease, their estates, their pleasure, and their blood.” – John Adams, 1765
#13 “If ever again our nation stumbles upon unfunded paper, it shall surely be like death to our body politic. This country will crash.” – George Washington
#14 “I wish it were possible to obtain a single amendment to our Constitution. I would be willing to depend on that alone for the reduction of the administration of our government to the genuine principles of its Constitution; I mean an additional article, taking from the federal government the power of borrowing.” – Thomas Jefferson
#15 “When the people find that they can vote themselves money, that will herald the end of the republic.” — Benjamin Franklin