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.
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?
What would you do if you logged in to your bank account someday and it showed that you had a zero balance and your bank had no record that you ever had any money in your account? What would you do if all of the money in your bank account suddenly disappeared in a single moment? If you had not kept any paper records, which most Americans do not, it would be exceedingly difficult to prove to the bank that you actually had any money in the bank. If you don’t think that something like this could ever happen in the United States, you might want to think again. Cyber attacks against major banks in the United States are becoming more powerful and more sophisticated with each passing month. In fact, major U.S. bank websites have been offline for a total of 249 hours over the past six weeks. And just last month, thousands upon thousands of Chase customers logged into their bank accounts only to discover that their balances had all been reset to zero. Anyone that would want to cause complete and total economic chaos in the United States could accomplish it very easily by wiping out all of our bank account records. So please do not keep all of your money in a single bank, and from now on please keep a paper copy of all of your bank account statements. At some point it is likely that one of these cyber attacks will cause permanent damage to our banking system, and you want to be protected.
The mainstream media has generally been very quiet about the massive cyber attacks against our major banks, but behind the scenes authorities are truly alarmed. They don’t know how to stop these attacks, and they just keep getting more intense and more sophisticated.
Could you imagine how you would feel if you logged in to your bank account and all of your money was gone? That is exactly what happened to some Chase customers last month. The following is from a recent CNET article…
JP Morgan Chase denied this evening that it had suffered a hack that many customers claimed had suddenly reduced their checking account balances to zero.
After discovering the apparently empty accounts via the Internet or mobile devices, many Chase banking customers turned to Twitter to express their frustration and show screen shots of zero balances. Other users were greeted with messages that their bank account balances were unavailable.
But this was most definitely not an isolated incident. That same article noted that Chase and many of our other large banks have had their websites taken down for extended periods of time lately…
Customers’ suspicions about a possible security breach are natural, with the zero balances appearing less than a week after a massive distributed-denial-of-service attack rendered Chase’s Web sites useless for many hours. Customers trying to use the site’s tools were instead greeted with a note that the site was “temporarily down.”
Hackers have ratcheted up their assaults on financial institutions in recent months, using DDoS attacks to take down Wells Fargo, Bank of America, Chase, Citigroup, HSBC, and others.
In fact, as I mentioned above, major U.S. bank websites have been offline for an astounding 249 hours over the last six weeks alone. The attacks just keep getting larger and bank officials are becoming very alarmed about the power of these cyber attacks. The following is from an article that was posted on CNBC this week…
Major U.S. bank websites have been offline a total of 249 hours in the past six weeks, perhaps the clearest indication yet that American companies are prime targets in an unrelenting, global cyber conflict.
The heavier-than-usual outages are the result of a remarkable, sustained attack that began seven months ago and repeatedly knocks banks offline for hours at a time, frustrating consumers and bank security professionals alike.
“Literally, these banks are just in war rooms, sitting at controls trying to stop (the attacks),” said Avivah Litan, a bank security analyst with Gartner Group, a consulting firm. “The frightening thing is (the attackers) are not using as much resources as they have on call. The attacks could be bigger.”
So who is behind these attacks?
Some are blaming Chinese hackers, others believe that Iran is behind the attacks, and yet others are convinced that it is the work of Islamic terrorists.
It is kind of frightening that they cannot positively identify who is behind these attacks. Whoever it is, they sure do seem to have a tremendous amount of resources and they are very sophisticated.
And in the future, it may not be hackers on the other side of the globe that are attacking our banks. In fact, if someone wanted to “recapitalize the banks”, all they would have to do is wipe out all of our bank account records (including all backup records). Suddenly trillions of dollars of “unsecured liabilities” (that is what our bank accounts are) would be wiped out and the banks would suddenly be solvent again. Anyone that could not produce evidence that they actually had money in the banks would be in a lot of trouble. It would be the largest single wealth transfer in the history of the world, and it would throw the U.S. economy into utter chaos. This is a scenario that I am exploring in my new novel which will be coming out later this month.
In addition, there is the constant threat that a massive EMP burst could fry all of our electronics (including the banking records), but that is a topic that I have covered in a previous article.
And of course another way that your bank account could be wiped out in a single moment is if the government decides to “legally” steal it. We just witnessed this happen in Cyprus. In February, the Central Bank of Cyprus swore that such a thing could never possibly happen, but then one month later it did happen. The politicians will lie to your face until the very day comes when they steal your money.
Sadly, a very similar thing could easily happen in the United States someday. As I wrote about yesterday, the big banks are making incredibly reckless bets with our money. When those bets go bad, our money could very well be used to cover those bets.
One way this could be accomplished is by using a practice known as “rehypothecation”. It sounds complicated, but it really isn’t. Basically, the banks use money that clients have entrusted to them to cover their own gambling debts. This is how rehypothecaton is defined by Investopedia…
“The practice by banks and brokers of using, for their own purposes, assets that have been posted as collateral by their clients.”
An excellent article by Jeff Nielson detailed how this could result in the big banks grabbing our money when their trillions of dollars of reckless bets go bad…
1) Our banking regulators knowingly allow financial institutions to engage in recklessly misleading (if not outright fraudulent) contracts with their clients, through the use of complex “small print” in their account contracts with clients.
2) The three largest U.S. “banks” by deposit (JP Morgan, Bank of America, Citigroup) have made bets in their own rigged casino, which total well in excess of $100 trillion, an amount which completely dwarfs their total, combined deposits (and assets).
3) A large portion of those bets occur in the $60+ trillion credit default swap market. Pay-outs in these markets can (and do) exceed 300 times the amount of the original bet. It is bets in this market which “blew up” AIG, requiring more than $150 billion in immediate government aid.
4) Following the Crash of ’08; these same banks mooched a package of hand-outs, tax-breaks and “guarantees” (i.e. future hand-outs) from the Bush regime in excess of $15 trillion, the last time their gambling debts went bad on them – and all of these banks have been allowed to dramatically increase the total amount of their gambling since then.
5) It would take only a minor change in the gambling contracts in which these bankers engage to allow their creditors to seize funds out of ordinary bank accounts.
6) The existing language for the bank accounts of these U.S. banks is possibly already so vague (and prejudicial to clients) that it would allow these banks to reinterpret the terms of these bank accounts – and allow rehypothecation to be used to rob the holders of ordinary bank accounts, people who themselves make no “bets” in markets whatsoever. Alternately, customers could be blitzed with an offer for “new and improved” bank accounts, where terms allowing rehypothecation are slipped into the contract, with the banks knowing that the “regulators” will do nothing to warn account-holders of the gigantic risk they are taking.
But we are all covered by deposit insurance, right?
That is what the people of Cyprus thought too.
As we just saw in Cyprus, when there is a “banking crisis” sometimes government steps in and suddenly changes all of the rules overnight even though the vast majority of the population is against it.
Hopefully you can see that no bank account will ever truly be “safe” ever again.
Your money may be safe today, and your money may be there next week, but someday it could disappear in a single moment.
And the general public is definitely starting to lose faith in the banking system. Google searches for the term “bank run” have been absolutely spiking recently. Just check out this chart which shows that searches for “bank run” are now the highest that they have ever been.
So what should we all do to protect ourselves?
As I mentioned earlier, it is important to not have all of your money in one bank, and from now on you will want to permanently keep paper copies of all of your bank account statements.
Someday you may need those statements in order to prove that you actually had money in the bank.
Our world is becoming increasingly unstable, and at some point financial disaster is going to strike.
By taking prudent precautions now, hopefully you will be able to minimize the damage to your family.
If you still have money in European banks, you need to get it out. This is particularly true if you have money in southern European banks. As I write this, the final details of the Cyprus bailout are being worked out, but one thing has become abundantly clear: at least some depositors are going to lose a substantial amount of money. Personally, I never dreamed that they would go after private bank accounts in Europe, but now that this precedent has been set it should be apparent to everyone that no bank account will ever be considered 100% safe ever again. Without trust, a banking system simply cannot function, and right now there are prominent voices on both sides of the Atlantic that are loudly warning that trust in the European banking system has been shattered and that people need to get their money out of those banks as rapidly as they can. Even if you don’t end up losing a significant chunk of your money, you could still end up dealing with very serious capital controls that greatly restrict what you are able to do with your money. Just look at what is already happening in Cyprus. Cash withdrawals through ATMs have now been limited to 100 euros per day, and when the banks finally do reopen there will be strict limits on financial transactions in order to prevent a full-blown bank run. And of course anyone with half a brain will be trying to get as much of their money as they can out of those banks once they do reopen. So the truth is that the problems for Cyprus banks are just beginning. The size of the “bailout” that will be needed to keep those banks afloat will just keep getting larger and larger the more money that is withdrawn. Cyprus is heading for a complete and total banking meltdown, and because the economy of the island is so dependent on banking that means that the economy of the entire nation is going to collapse. Sadly, similar scenarios will soon start playing out all over Europe.
So if you hear that a “deal” has been reached to “bail out” Cyprus, please keep in mind that the economy of Cyprus is going to collapse no matter what happens. It is just a matter of apportioning the pain at this point.
According to the New York Times, it looks like much of the pain is going to be placed on the backs of those with deposits of over 100,000 euros…
The revised terms under discussion would assess a one-time tax of 20 percent on deposits above 100,000 euros at the Bank of Cyprus, which has the largest number of savings accounts on the island. Because the Bank of Cyprus suffered huge losses on bets that it took on Greek bonds, the government appears to be taking depositors’ money to help plug the hole.
A separate tax of 4 percent would be assessed on uninsured deposits at all other banks, including the 26 foreign banks that operate in Cyprus.
Does that sound bad to you?
Well, if a deal is not reached, there is a possibility that those with uninsured deposits could lose everything. According to Ekathimerini, EU officials are telling Cyprus to choose between a “bad scenario” and a “very bad scenario”…
The main question surrounds the future of the island’s largest lender, Bank of Cyprus. If unsecured deposits (above 100,000 euros) at all Cypriot banks are taxed then large savings at Bank of Cyprus are likely to be taxed between 20 and 25 percent. If the levy is not imposed on deposits at other lenders, the haircut for Bank of Cyprus customers will be much larger.
The option of a full bail in of Bank of Cyprus depositors is still on the table. As with the Popular Bank of Cyprus (Laiki), which is to go through a resolution process, the full bail in option could lead to deposits above 100,000 euros being lost. The only compensation for unsecured depositors will be shares in the “good” bank that will be created by a possible merger between the “healthy” Laiki and Bank of Cyprus entities.
When asked by Kathimerini how the Cypriot economy will survive if all company and personal deposits above 100,000 euros disappear from the country’s two biggest lenders, the EU official said: “Unfortunately, Cyprus’s choices are between a bad scenario and a very bad scenario.”
So what percentage of the deposits in Cyprus are uninsured deposits?
Well, nobody knows for sure, but according to JPMorgan close to half of the total amount of money on deposit in EU banks as a whole is uninsured.
Do you think that some of those people will start moving their money to safer locations after watching how things are going down in Cyprus?
They would be crazy if they didn’t.
And if you think that “deposit insurance” will keep you safe, you are just being delusional.
According to CNBC, very strict capital controls are coming to Cyprus. These rules will apply even to accounts that contain less than 100,000 euros…
Financial controls are coming. Depositors with less than 100,000 euros may not lose their money outright, but they won’t like the restrictions–no matter how much they have in the bank. Limits on withdrawals, limits on check cashing, and perhaps even outright conversion of checking accounts into fixed term deposits are coming (translation: you don’t have a checking account, you have a bond from the bank).
A lot of people are going to lose a lot of money in Cyprus banks, and a significant percentage of them are going to be Russian.
And as I wrote about the other day, you don’t want to have the Russians mad at you.
According to the Guardian, Moscow is already considering various ways that it might “punish” the EU…
However, with Russian investors having an estimated €30bn (£26bn) deposited in banks on the island, the growing optimism about a deal was accompanied by fears of retaliation from Moscow. Alexander Nekrassov, a former Kremlin adviser, said: “If it is the case that there will be a 25% levy on deposits greater than €100,000 then some Russians will suffer very badly.
“Then, of course, Moscow will be looking for ways to punish the EU. There are a number of large German companies operating in Russia. You could possibly look at freezing assets or taxing assets. The Kremlin is adopting a wait and see policy.”
Could this be the start of a bit of “economic warfare” between east and west?
One thing is for sure – the Russians simply do not allow people to walk all over them.
Meanwhile, things in Cyprus are getting more desperate with each passing day. Because they cannot get money out of the banks, many retail stores find themselves running low on cash. In a few more days many of them may not be able to function at all…
Retailers, facing cash-on-delivery demands from suppliers, warned stocks were running low. “At the moment, supplies will last another two or three days,” said Adamos Hadijadamou, head of Cyprus’s Association of Supermarkets. “We’ll have a problem if this is not resolved by next week.”
But do you know who was able to get their money out in time?
According to the Daily Mail, the President of Cyprus actually warned “close friends” about what was going to happen and told them to get their money out Cyprus…
Cypriot president Nikos Anastasiades ‘warned’ close friends of the financial crisis about to engulf his country so they could move their money abroad, it was claimed on Friday.
Overall, approximately 4.5 billion euros was moved out of Cyprus during the week just before the crisis struck.
Wouldn’t you like to get advance warning like that?
Well, at this point it does not take a genius to figure out what to do about any money that you may have in European banks. The following is from a recent Forbes article by economist Laurence Kotlikoff…
Whatever happens, no one is going to trust or use Cypriot banks. This will shut down the country’s financial highway and flip Cyprus’ economy to a truly awful equilibrium in a replay of our own country’s Great Depression, which was kicked off by the failure of one-in-three U.S. banks.
Cyprus is a small country. Still, the failure of its banks could trigger massive bank runs in Greece. After all, if the European Central Bank is abandoning Cypriot depositors, they may abandon Greek depositors next. A run on Greek banks could then spread to Portugal, Ireland, Spain, and Italy and from there to Belgium and France and, you get the picture, to other countries around the globe, including, drum roll, the U.S. Every bank in each of these countries has made promises they can’t keep were push come to shove, i.e., if all depositors demand their money back immediately.
We’ve seen this movie before. And not just in real life. Every Christmas our tellys show It’s a Wonderful Life in which banker Jimmy Stewart barely saves his small town from economic ruin arising from a banking panic.
Others are being even more blunt with their warnings. For example, Nigel Farage, a member of the European Parliament, is warning everyone to get their money out of southern European banks while they still can…
The appalling events in Cyprus over the course of the past week have surpassed even my direst of predictions.
Even I didn’t think that they would stoop to stealing money from people’s bank accounts. I find that astonishing.
There are 750,000 British people who own properties, or who live, many of them in retirement down in Spain.
Our message to expats now that the EU has crossed this line, must be: Get your money out of there while you’ve still got a chance.
And Martin Sibileau is proclaiming that if you still have an unsecured deposit in a eurozone bank that you should have your head examined…
What are depositors of Euros faced with today? Anything but a clean bet! They don’t know what the expected loss on their capital will be, because it will be decided over a weekend by politicians who don’t even represent them. They don’t really know where their deposits went to and they also ignore what jurisdiction they really belong to. Finally, depositors are paid mere basis points for their trust in the system vs. the 20% p.a. Argentina offered in 2001 (thanks to the zero-interest rate policies of the 21st century). In light of all this, I can only conclude that anyone still having an unsecured deposit in a Euro zone bank should get his/her head examined!
So where should you put your money?
I don’t know that there is anywhere that is 100% safe at this point. But many are pointing to hard assets such as gold and silver. The following is what trends forecaster Gerald Celente had to say during one recent interview…
“People always say to me, ‘Mr. Celente you are always talking about gold. What are you going to do with gold when everything collapses and there is no money?’ Well, let’s say you are a Cypriot and all of the ATM machines are out of money and the banks are closed? Do you think those pieces of silver are going to buy you what you need? Do you think that ounce of gold is going to get you what you want?
That’s the real money. There is no other money. When it all comes down, gold and silver are the only things you have to buy what you need, get what you want, or even get out if you need to.”
I used to tell people that putting their money in U.S. banks was safer than putting it other places because U.S. bank deposits are covered by deposit insurance up to a certain amount.
But now we see that deposit insurance means absolutely nothing. If they decide to “tax” (i.e. steal) your money from your bank accounts they will just go ahead and do it.
So what should we all do?
Personally, I think that not having all of your eggs in one basket is a wise approach. If you have your wealth a bunch of different places and in several different forms, I think that will help.
But as the global financial system falls apart, there will be no such thing as 100% safety. So if you are looking for that you can stop trying.
Our world is becoming a very unstable place, and things are going to get a lot worse. We are all going to have to adjust to this new paradigm and do the best that we can.
Cyprus lawmakers may have rejected the bank account tax, but the truth is that the financial crisis in Cyprus is just getting started. Right now, the two largest banks in Cyprus are dangerously close to a meltdown. If they fail, depositors could end up losing virtually all of their money. You see, the banking system of Cyprus absolutely dwarfs the GDP of that small island nation. Cyprus is known all over the world as a major offshore tax haven, and wealthy Russians and wealthy Europeans have been pouring massive amounts of money into the banking system over the last several decades. Yes, those bank deposits are supposed to be insured, but the truth is that there is no way that the government of Cyprus could ever come up with enough money to cover the massive losses that we are potentially looking at. This is a case where the banking system of a nation has gotten so large that the national government is absolutely powerless to stop a collapse from happening. If those banks fail, depositors may end up getting 50 percent of their money or they may end up getting nothing. We just don’t know how bad the damage is yet. And considering the fact that many of the largest corporations and many of the wealthiest individuals in Europe have huge mountains of cash stashed in Cyprus, the fallout from a banking collapse could potentially be absolutely catastrophic.
So Cyprus needs to come up with some money from somewhere in order to keep that from happening.
Basically, there are three options at this point…
1) Even though the bank account confiscation tax was voted down today, there is talk that it could come back in another form. This is really the only place inside of Cyprus where enough money can be raised to bail out the banks.
2) Cyprus could go back and beg the IMF and the EU for money, but the IMF and the EU have already said that they want depositors to share in the pain.
3) Cyprus could get the money that they need from the Russians. This will be discussed in more detail later.
A lot of people will see the headlines proclaiming that Cyprus has voted against the wealth tax and think that everything is going to be okay now, but that is very far from the truth.
The reality is that this is only the first move in a very complicated chess game. The problems for Cyprus are only just the beginning…
“This is not the end of the process, but instead kicks off a further round of negotiation with Moscow and Berlin,” JPMorgan economist Alex White wrote in a research note. “The Cypriot authorities wanted to conduct the vote so that they could reaffirm the extent of their difficulties to the Europeans.”
When the banks of Cyprus reopen in a few days, there is going to be a stampede of people trying to pull their money out of the banks.
In fact, this was starting to happen even before the “bank holiday” was declared. According to The Sun, bank insiders were tipping people off about what was going to happen in the days leading up to the crisis…
But Russian oligarchs and big investors emptied accounts in the days beforehand, prompting claims they were tipped off by bank insiders. A source told The Sun: “It leaked out. Bankers warned their best clients. Government officials warned their friends and relatives.
“Billions disappeared from accounts in days, most from accounts held by Russians.”
And according to David Zervos, we could see billions more euros withdrawn from banks in Cyprus once they reopen. There will be mass panic as depositors scramble to reclaim their money before it can be taxed…
The die is cast. There is no going back for the Cypriots or the Eurozone leaders. As soon as the banks open in Cyprus there will be billions in withdrawals. The question of course is – “where will the money come from?”. Well, if the parliament votes YES, then the Euros will have to come from the Eurosystem. But there is a glitch. The Cypriots have already borrowed 10b euro via the ELA and Target2. How can Mario just wire over 20 billion more (less the 10 to 15 percent haircut) for the Russians, and another 20 to 30 billion for the wealthy Greeks. What collateral will an economy with 20b in GDP post to get this cash? Unless Mario violates every collateral rule at the ECB, the Cypriot financial system will collapse even with a YES vote. Its a wonderful life – Cyprus style.
It may not even matter what Cyprus eventually decides to do about a “wealth tax”. The bank run that is about to happen may be enough to bring down the banks of Cyprus all by itself.
And of course people all over southern Europe are watching developments in Cyprus very closely. As former British Chancellor of the Exchequer Alistair Darling recently noted, if depositors in southern Europe start getting nervous that their bank accounts will be targeted too, they will be likely to start pulling money out of the banks very rapidly…
“They have actually now said to people ‘We will come after your deposits, no matter how small your savings are’ and that seems to me to make it more likely that, if you are a saver in Spain or in Italy, for example, and you have just the sniff of the EU or the IMF coming your way, you will take your money out and you will get a run on the bank”
Cyprus could actually get out of this mess by turning to Russia, but the United States and Europe really do not want to see Russia gain so much control over that very strategic island nation.
So why would Russia get involved? Well, it has been estimated that Russians have approximately $31 billion stashed in banks in Cyprus. It is the favorite offshore banking destination for the Russian oligarchs. Dennis Gartman recently detailed why the tiny island nation is so appealing to the Russians…
Cyprus has been their own private Switzerland for many years. Legal and non-legal Russian cash has swamped the banking system in Cyprus since the early 90’s. The beauty of the island; the ease of admission too and exit from the island via boat or plane; the secrecy of the banking laws; the warm Mediterranean climate and the ease of which Cypriot authorities could be bribed and bought all worked to make Cyprus the center of Russian capital flight.
And right now the Russians are not happy at all that their money is being threatened.
In particular, the Russian mafia launders a lot of money in Cyprus. The Russian mafia is not about to let anyone steal their money, and they have an international reputation for being absolutely brutal. In the end, pressure from the mafia may have been one of the primary reasons why many Cyprus lawmakers voted against the bank account tax. As Dennis Gartman astutely noted, by voting against the wealth tax they may have literally been saving their own lives…
“One could only laugh as such a comment; of course Cyprus was complacent about laundering. To think otherwise was and is naïve. Ah, but now you’ve stolen Russia money… or soon shall depending upon the vote in the Cypriot parliament… and that is dangerous… very. One does not steal Russian mafia money and get away with it. There are fewer statements of fact that are more certain, more factual, more unyielding than this statement. Russian Mafia figures do not take well to being stolen from, and they take even less well to be made fools of. We see no reason to mince words at this point: People will be hurt over this decision; some shall be killed.”
And the Russians definitely do not want to see the banking system of Cyprus collapse. In fact, proposals have been made that would provide the money necessary to keep it afloat. But of course that money would not come cheaply.
Some of the proposals that Russia has put forward were summarized by the Daily Mail…
But in a move that has raised eyebrows, the Russian energy giant Gazprom offered Cyprus a plan in which the company will undertake the restructuring of the country’s banks in exchange for exploration rights for natural gas on the island.
Representatives of the Russian company submitted the proposal to the office of Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades on Sunday evening.
It is also rumoured that the Kremlin is privately offering to help bail out Cyprus in exchange for the right to use a naval base in the Greek part of the island.
In addition, as I wrote about yesterday, some Russian investors have stepped forward and have offered to buy majority stakes in the two largest banks in Cyprus.
So why hasn’t Cyprus accepted help from Russia yet? Well, it is a geopolitical thing. Cyprus is a part of the EU, and European officials do not want Russia to become the dominant influence in Cyprus.
But if the IMF and the EU are not going to step up and help Cyprus, the Russian offers will become more tempting with each passing day.
Meanwhile, the attempted attack on bank accounts in Cyprus is making people nervous all over Europe. For example, the following is what German economist Peter Bofinger had to say about what the situation in Cyprus is doing to confidence in the European financial system…
Making small-scale savers pay is extremely dangerous. It will shake the trust of depositors across the Continent. Europe’s citizens now have to fear for their money.
And if you don’t think that this could ever happen anywhere else, you are just being delusional.
In fact, it is already happening. In fact, the Finance Minister of New Zealand is now proposing that depositors in his nation should be required to “take a haircut” if any banks in his nation fail…
The National Government are pushing a Cyprus-style solution to bank failure in New Zealand which will see small depositors lose some of their savings to fund big bank bailouts, the Green Party said today.
Open Bank Resolution (OBR) is Finance Minister Bill English’s favoured option dealing with a major bank failure. If a bank fails under OBR, all depositors will have their savings reduced overnight to fund the bank’s bail out.
“Bill English is proposing a Cyprus-style solution for managing bank failure here in New Zealand – a solution that will see small depositors lose some of their savings to fund big bank bailouts,” said Green Party Co-leader Dr Russel Norman.
“The Reserve Bank is in the final stages of implementing a system of managing bank failure called Open Bank Resolution. The scheme will put all bank depositors on the hook for bailing out their bank.
“Depositors will overnight have their savings shaved by the amount needed to keep the bank afloat.”
But surely there will never be any major banking problems in the United States, right?
Well, large numbers of Chase customers that logged into their accounts on Monday discovered that a “computer glitch” had reset all of their account balances to zero…
Chase bank experienced a problem Monday that had customers scrambling to figure out where their money went.
JP Morgan Chase said it hadn’t been hacked but was having a problem “related to an internal issue” as customers found their accounts showing zero balances.
Some customers shared their frustration on Twitter and showed screen shots of zero balances.
How would you feel if you suddenly discovered that you had no money in the bank?
Most Americans just assume that their money will always be there because their bank accounts are “guaranteed” by deposit insurance and by the full faith and credit of the federal government.
But that is exactly what the people of Cyprus thought too, and look how that turned out.
It would be hard to overstate how dangerous the situation in Cyprus is. Yes, their nation is very small but their banking system is absolutely huge.
If the banking system of Cyprus fails, it could be a “Lehman Brothers moment” for all of Europe. At this point, the entire European banking system is leveraged 26 to 1, and once European banks start to fail they could start falling like dominoes.
There is also a very strong possibility that Cyprus could be forced to leave the euro, and if that happens everyone will be wondering who will be next to leave the common currency.
So don’t think for a second that the crisis in Cyprus is over. The banking meltdown is just getting started, and the consequences could end up being far more dramatic than any of us could possibly imagine.
Is the financial system of Europe on the verge of a meltdown? I have always maintained that the next wave of the economic crisis would begin in Europe, and right now the situation in Europe is unraveling at a frightening pace. On Monday, European stocks had their worst day in over six months, and over the past four days we have seen the EUR/USD decline by the most that it has in nearly seven months. Meanwhile, scandals are erupting all over the continent. A political scandal in Spain, a derivatives scandal in Italy and banking scandals all over the eurozone are seriously shaking confidence in the system. If things move much farther in a negative direction, we could be facing a full-blown financial crisis in Europe very rapidly. So watch the financial markets in Europe very carefully. Yes, most Americans tend to ignore Europe because they are convinced that the U.S. is “the center of the universe”, but the truth is that Europe actually has a bigger population than we do, they have a bigger economy then we do, and they have a much larger banking system than we do. The global financial system is more integrated today than it ever has been before, and if there is a major stock market crash in Europe it is going to deeply affect the United States and the rest of the globe as well. So pay close attention to what is going on in Europe, because events over there could spark a chain reaction that would have very serious implications for every man, woman and child on the planet.
As I noted above, European markets started off the week very badly and things have certainly not improved since then. The following is how Zero Hedge summarized what happened on Thursday…
EuroStoxx (Europe’s Dow) closed today -1% for 2013. France, Germany, and Spain are all lower on the year now. Italy, following ENI’s CEO fraud, collapsed almost 3% from the US day-session open, leaving it up less than 1% for the year. Just as we argued, credit markets have been warning that all is not well and today’s afternoon free-fall begins the catch-down.
In addition, the euro has been dropping like a rock all of a sudden. Just check out this chart which shows what happened to the euro on Thursday. It is very rare to see the euro move that dramatically.
So what is causing all of this?
Well, we already know that the economic fundamentals in Europe are absolutely horrible. Unemployment in the eurozone is at a record high, and the unemployment rates in both Greece and Spain are over 26 percent. Those are depression-level numbers.
But up until now there had still been a tremendous amount of confidence in the European financial system. But now that confidence is being shaken by a whole host of scandals.
In recent days, a number of major banking scandals have begun to emerge all over Europe. Just check out this article which summarizes many of them.
One of the worst banking scandals is in Italy. A horrible derivatives scandal has pushed the third largest bank in Italy to the verge of collapse…
Monte dei Paschi di Siena (BMPS.MI), Italy’s third biggest lender, said on Wednesday losses linked to three problematic derivative trades totaled 730 million euros ($988.3 million) as it sought to draw a line under a scandal over risky financial transactions.
There is that word “derivative” that I keep telling people to watch for. Of course this is not the big “derivatives panic” that I have been talking about, but it is an example of how these toxic financial instruments can bring down even the biggest banks. Monte dei Paschi is the oldest bank in the world, and now the only way it is able to survive is with government bailouts.
Another big scandal that is shaking up Europe right now is happening over in Spain. It is being alleged that Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and other members of his party have been receiving illegal cash payments. The following summary of the scandal comes from a recent Bloomberg article…
On Jan. 31, the Spanish newspaper El Pais published copies of what it said were ledgers from secret accounts held by Luis Barcenas, the former treasurer of the ruling People’s Party, which revealed the existence of a party slush fund. The newspaper said 7.5 million euros in corporate donations were channeled into the fund and allegedly doled out from 1997 to 2009 to senior party members, including Rajoy.
That doesn’t sound good at all.
So what is the truth?
Could Rajoy actually be innocent?
Well, at this point most of the population of Spain does not believe that is the case. Just check out the following poll numbers from the Bloomberg article quoted above…
According to the Metroscopia poll, 76 percent of Spaniards don’t believe the People’s Party’s denials of the slush-fund allegations. Even more damning, 58 percent of the party’s supporters think it’s lying. All of the Spanish businessmen with whom I discussed the latest scandal expect it to get worse before it gets better. Their assumption that there are more skeletons in the government’s closet indicates what little trust they have in their leaders.
Meanwhile, the underlying economic fundamentals in Europe just continue to get worse. One of the biggest concerns right now is France. Just check out this excerpt from a recent report by Phoenix Capital Research…
The house of cards that is Europe is close to collapsing as those widely held responsible for solving the Crisis (Prime Ministers, Treasurers and ECB head Mario Draghi) have all been recently implicated in corruption scandals.
Those EU leaders who have yet to be implicated in scandals are not faring much better than their more corrupt counterparts. In France, socialist Prime Minister Francois Hollande, has proven yet again that socialism doesn’t work by chasing after the wealthy and trying to grow France’s public sector… when the public sector already accounts for 56% of French employment.
France was already suffering from a lack of competitiveness. Now that wealthy businesspeople are fleeing the country (meaning investment will dry up), the economy has begun to positively implode.
As the report goes on to mention, over the past few months the economic numbers coming out of France have been absolutely frightful…
Auto sales for 2012 fell 13% from those of 2011. Sales of existing homes outside of Paris fell 20% year over year for the third quarter of 2012. New home sales fell 25%. Even the high-end real estate markets are collapsing with sales for apartments in Paris that cost over €2 million collapsing an incredible 42% in 2012.
Today, the jobless rate in France is at a 15-year high, and industrial production is headed into the toilet. The wealthy are fleeing France in droves because of the recent tax increases, and the nation is absolutely drowning in debt. Even the French jobs minister recently admitted that France is essentially “bankrupt” at this point…
France’s government was plunged into an embarrassing row yesterday after a minister said the country was ‘totally bankrupt’.
Employment secretary Michel Sapin said cuts were needed to put the damaged economy back on track.
‘There is a state but it is a totally bankrupt state,’ he said.
So what does all of this mean?
It means that the crisis in Europe is just beginning. Things are going to be getting a lot worse.
Perhaps that is one reason why corporate insiders are dumping so much stock right now as I noted in my article yesterday entitled “Do Wall Street Insiders Expect Something Really BIG To Happen Very Soon?” There are a whole host of signs that both the United States and Europe are heading for recession, and a lot of financial experts are warning that stocks are way overdue for a “correction”.
For example, Blackstone’s Byron Wien told CNBC the other day that he expects the S&P 500 to drop by 200 points during the first half of 2013.
Seabreeze Partners portfolio manager Doug Kass recently told CNBC that what is happening right now in the financial markets very much reminds him of the stock market crash of 1987…
“I’m getting the ‘summer of 1987 feeling’ in the U.S. equity market,” Kass told CNBC, “which means we’re headed for a sharp fall.”
Toward the end of 2012 and at the very beginning of 2013 we saw markets both in the U.S. and in Europe move up steadily even though the underlying economic fundamentals did not justify such a move.
In many ways, that move up reminded me of the “head fakes” that we have seen prior to many of the largest “market corrections” of the past. Often financial markets are at their most “euphoric” just before a crash hits.
So get ready.
Even if you don’t have a penny in the financial markets, now is the time to prepare for what is ahead.
We all need to learn from what Europe is going through right now. In Greece, formerly middle class citizens are now trampling one another for food. We all need to prepare financially, mentally, emotionally, spiritually and physically so that we can weather the economic storm that is coming.
Most Americans are accustomed to living paycheck to paycheck and being constantly up to their eyeballs in debt, but that is incredibly foolish. Even in the animal kingdom, animals work hard during the warm months to prepare for the winter months. Even so, we should all be working very hard to prepare during prosperous times so that we will have something stored up for the lean years that are coming.
Unfortunately, if events in Europe are any indication, we may be rapidly running out of time.
Where have we seen this before? Bond yields soar above the 7 percent danger level. Check. The stock market crashes to new lows. Check. Industrial activity plummets like a rock and the economy contracts. Check. The unemployment rate skyrockets to more than 20 percent. Check. The bursting of a massive real estate bubble pushes the banking system to the brink of implosion. Check. Broke local governments beg the broke national government for bailouts. Check. The international community pressures the national government to implement deep austerity measures which will slow down the economy even more and hordes of violent protesters take to the streets. Check. All of this happened in Greece, it is happening right now in Spain, and mark my words it will eventually happen in the United States. Every debt bubble eventually bursts, and right now Spain is experiencing a level of economic pain that very, very few people saw coming. The recession in Spain is rapidly becoming a full-blown economic depression, and at this point there is no hope and no light at the end of the tunnel.
The bad news for the global economy is that Spain is much larger than Greece. According to the United Nations, the Greek economy is the 32nd largest economy in the world. The Spanish economy, on the other hand, is the 4th largest economy in the eurozone and the 12th largest economy on the entire planet. It is nearly five times the size of the Greek economy.
Financial markets all over the globe are very nervous right now because if the Spanish government ends up asking for a full-blown bailout it could spell the end for the eurozone. There simply is not enough money to do the same kind of thing for Spain that is being done for Greece.
Of course European officials are going to do their best to keep the eurozone from collapsing, but what they have completely failed to do is to keep these countries from falling into depression.
As I have written about previously, Greece has already been in an economic depression for some time.
I warned that Spain, Italy, Portugal and a bunch of other European nations were going down the exact same path.
Now we are watching a virtual replay of what happened in Greece take place in Spain.
Unfortunately, the global financial system may not be able to handle a complete implosion of the Spanish economy.
The following are 12 signs that Spain is shifting gears from recession to depression….
#1 At one point on Monday, the IBEX stock market index fell to 5,905, which was the lowest level in nearly ten years. When it hit 5,905 that represented a drop of about 12 percent over just two trading days. If that happened in the United States, it would be the equivalent of the Dow falling by about 1500 points in 48 hours.
#2 So far this year, the Spanish stock market is down more than 25 percent. Back in 2008, the IBEX 35 was well over 15,000. Today it is sitting just above 6,000.
#3 Spain has banned many forms of short selling for 3 months.
#4 The yield on 10 year Spanish bonds is now well above the 7 percent “danger level”.
#5 Thanks to the problems in Spain, the euro continues to fall like a rock. On Monday it hit a new two year low against the U.S. dollar, and it is near a twelve year low against the Japanese yen.
#6 During the first quarter of 2012, the Spanish economy contracted by 0.3 percent. During the second quarter of 2012, the Spanish economy contracted by 0.4 percent.
#7 Local governments all over Spain are flat broke and need to be bailed out by the broke national government. The following is from a recent CNBC article….
Adding to Madrid’s woes, media reports suggested another half a dozen of Spain’s 17 regional authorities, facing an undeclared funding crisis, were ready to follow Valencia in seeking aid from the central government.
#8 The percentage of bad loans on the books of Spanish banks has reached an 18 year high. European officials have already promised a 100 billion euro bailout for Spain’s troubled banking system, but most analysts agree that 100 billion euros will not be nearly enough.
#9 Spanish industrial output declined for the ninth month in a row in May.
#10 The unemployment rate in Spain is up to an astounding 24.6 percent. The unemployment rate in Spain is already higher than it was in the United States at the peak of the Great Depression of the 1930s.
#11 The youth unemployment rate in Spain is now over 52 percent.
#12 The Spanish government has just announced a whole bunch of new tax increases and spending cuts which will cause the Spanish economy to slow down even more. In response to these austerity measures, people are taking to the streets all over Spain. Last week, 100,000 demonstrators poured into the streets to protest in Madrid alone.
Sadly, the nightmare in Spain is just beginning.
If the yield on 10 year Spanish bonds stays above 7 percent, that is going to be a really bad sign. According to the Wall Street Journal, the 7 percent level is key as far as investor confidence is concerned….
Monday’s dramatic market moves suggest Spain may be stuck in a spiral that culminates in a bailout from other euro-zone countries.
“The rise in the 10-year yield well beyond 7% carries a very distinct reminder of events in Greece in April 2010, Ireland in October 2010 and Portugal in February 2011,” said analysts at Bank of New York Mellon. “In each case, a decisive move beyond 7% signaled the start of a collapse in investor confidence that, in each case, led to a bailout within weeks,” they added.
So keep an eye on that number in the weeks ahead.
Meanwhile, the Spanish economy continues to get worse with each passing month.
So just how bad are things in Spain right now?
Just check out this excerpt from a recent article by Mark Grant….
Recently two noted Spanish economists were interviewed. One was always an optimist and one was always a pessimist. The optimist droned on and on about how bad things were in Spain, the dire situation with the regional debt, the huge problems overtaking the Spanish banks and the imminent collapse of the Spanish economy. In the end he said that the situation was so bad that the Spanish people were going to have to eat manure. The pessimist was shocked by the comments of his colleague who had never heard him speak in such a manner. When it was the pessimist’s turn to speak he said that he agreed with the optimist with one exception; the manure would soon run out.
That may make you laugh, but for those in Europe going through these horrific economic conditions it is no laughing matter.
On Sunday, Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras actually told former U.S. president Bill Clinton that Greece is already in a “Great Depression“.
Like Spain, the unemployment rate in Greece is well above 20 percent and the youth unemployment rate is above 50 percent.
The only reason the Greek financial system has not totally collapsed is because of outside assistance, but now there are indications that the assistance may soon be cut off.
At this point there are persistent rumors that the IMF does not plan to give any more aid money to Greece unless Greece “shapes up”.
Meanwhile, the suffering in Greece just gets worse and worse.
Sadly, most Americans pay very little attention to what is going on in Greece and Spain.
Most Americans just assume that we will always have “the greatest economy on earth” and that we can take prosperity for granted.
Unfortunately, the truth is that the United States already has more government debt per capita than either Greece or Spain does.
Just like Greece and Spain, we are also rapidly traveling down the road to economic oblivion, and depression-like conditions will arrive in this country soon enough.
So enjoy these last months of economic prosperity while you still can.
A whole lot of pain is on the horizon.