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Day Of Reckoning: The Collapse Of The Too Big To Fail Banks In Europe Is Here

Europe Lightning - Public DomainThere is so much chaos going on that I don’t even know where to start.  For a very long time I have been warning my readers that a major banking collapse was coming to Europe, and now it is finally unfolding.  Let’s start with Deutsche Bank.  The stock of the most important bank in the “strongest economy in Europe” plunged another 8 percent on Monday, and it is now hovering just above the all-time record low that was set during the last financial crisis.  Overall, the stock price is now down a staggering 36 percent since 2016 began, and Deutsche Bank credit default swaps are going parabolic.  Of course my readers were alerted to major problems at Deutsche Bank all the way back in September, and now the endgame is playing out.  In addition to Deutsche Bank, the list of other “too big to fail” banks in Europe that appear to be in very serious trouble includes Commerzbank, Credit Suisse, HSBC and BNP Paribas.  Just about every major bank in Italy could fall on that list as well, and Greek bank stocks lost close to a quarter of their value on Monday alone.  Financial Armageddon has come to Europe, and the entire planet is going to feel the pain.

The collapse of the banks in Europe is dragging down stock prices all over the continent.  At this point, more than one-fifth of all stock market wealth in Europe has already been wiped out since the middle of last year.  That means that we only have four-fifths left.  The following comes from USA Today

The MSCI Europe index is now down 20.5% from its highest point over the past 12 months, says S&P Global Market Intelligence, placing it in the 20% decline that unofficially defines a bear market.

Europe’s stock implosion makes the U.S.’ sell-off look like child’s play. The U.S.-centric Standard & Poor’s 500 Monday fell another 1.4% – but it’s only down 13% from its high. Some individual European markets are getting hit even harder. The Milan MIB 30, Madrid Ibex 35 and MSCI United Kingdom indexes are off 29%, 23% and 20% from their 52-week highs, respectively as investors fear the worse could be headed for the Old World.

These declines are being primarily driven by the banks.  According to MarketWatch, European banking stocks have fallen for six weeks in a row, and this is the longest streak that we have seen since the heart of the last financial crisis…

The region’s banking gauge, the Stoxx Europe 600 Banks Index FX7, -5.59% has logged six straight weeks of declines, its longest weekly losing stretch since 2008, when banks booked 10 weeks of losses, beginning in May, according to FactSet data.

The current environment for European banks is very, very bad. Over a full business cycle, I think it’s very questionable whether banks on average are able to cover their cost of equity. And as a result that makes it an unattractive investment for long-term investors,” warned Peter Garnry, head of equity strategy at Saxo Bank.

Overall, Europe’s banking stocks are down 23 percent year to date and 39 percent since the peak of the market in the middle of last year.

The financial crisis that began during the second half of 2015 is picking up speed over in Europe, and it isn’t just Deutsche Bank that could implode at any moment.  Credit Suisse is the most important bank in Switzerland, and they announced a fourth quarter loss of 5.8 billion dollars.  The stock price has fallen 34 percent year to date, and many are now raising questions about the continued viability of the bank.

Similar scenes are being repeated all over the continent.  On Monday we learned that Russia had just shut down two more major banks, and the collapse of Greek banks has pushed Greek stock prices to a 25 year low

Greek stocks tumbled on Monday to close nearly eight percent lower, with bank shares losing almost a quarter of their market value amid concerns over the future of government reforms.

The general index on the Athens stock exchange closed down 7.9 percent at 464.23 points — a 25-year-low — while banks suffered a 24.3-percent average drop.

This is what a financial crisis looks like.

Fortunately things are not this bad here in the U.S. quite yet, but we are on the exact same path that they are.

One of the big things that is fueling the banking crisis in Europe is the fact that the too big to fail banks over there have more than 100 billion dollars of exposure to energy sector loans.  This makes European banks even more sensitive to the price of oil than U.S. banks.  The following comes from CNBC

The four U.S. banks with the highest dollar amount of exposure to energy loans have a capital position 60 percent greater than European banks Deutsche Bank, UBS, Credit Suisse and HSBC, according to CLSA research using a measure called tangible common equity to tangible assets ratio. Or, as Mayo put it, “U.S. banks have more quality capital.”

Analysts at JPMorgan saw the energy loan crisis coming for Europe, and highlighted in early January where investors might get hit.

“[Standard Chartered] and [Deutsche Bank] would be the most sensitive banks to higher default rates in oil and gas,” the analysts wrote in their January report.

There is Deutsche Bank again.

It is funny how they keep coming up.

In the U.S., the collapse of the price of oil is pushing energy company after energy company into bankruptcy.  This has happened 42 times in North America since the beginning of last year so far, and rumors that Chesapeake Energy is heading that direction caused their stock price to plummet a staggering 33 percent on Monday

Energy stocks continue to tank, with Transocean (RIG) dropping 7% and Baker Hughes (BHI) down nearly 5%. But those losses pale in comparison with Chesapeake Energy (CHK), the energy giant that plummeted as much as 51% amid bankruptcy fears. Chesapeake denied it’s currently planning to file for bankruptcy, but its stock still closed down 33% on the day.

And let’s not forget about the ongoing bursting of the tech bubble that I wrote about yesterday.

On Monday the carnage continued, and this pushed the Nasdaq down to its lowest level in almost 18 months

Technology shares with lofty valuations, including those of midcap data analytics company Tableau Software Inc and Internet giant Facebook Inc, extended their losses on Monday following a gutting selloff in the previous session.

Shares of cloud services companies such as Splunk Inc and Salesforce.com Inc had also declined sharply on Friday. They fell again on Monday, dragging down the Nasdaq Composite index 2.4 percent to its lowest in nearly 1-1/2 years.

Those that read my articles regularly know that I have been warning this would happen.

All over the world we are witnessing a financial implosion.  As I write this article, the Japanese market has only been open less than an hour and it is already down 747 points.

The next great financial crisis is already here, and right now we are only in the early chapters.

Ultimately what we are facing is going to be far worse than the financial crisis of 2008/2009, and as a result of this great shaking the entire world is going to fundamentally change.

Greece Has Defaulted – Which Country In Europe Is Next?

Well, it is official.  The restructuring deal between Greece and private investors has been pushed through and the International Swaps and Derivatives Association has ruled that this is a credit event which will trigger credit-default swap contracts.  The ISDA is saying that there are approximately $3.2 billion in credit-default swap contracts on Greek debt outstanding, and most analysts expect that the global financial system will be able to absorb these losses.  But still, 3.2 billion dollars is nothing to scoff at, and some of these financial institutions that wrote a lot of these contracts on Greek debt are going to be hurting.  This deal with private investors may have “rescued” Greece for the moment, but the consequences of this deal are going to be felt for years to come.  For example, now that Greece has gotten a sweet “haircut” from private investors, politicians in Portugal, Italy, Spain and other European nations are going to wonder why they shouldn’t get some “debt forgiveness” too.  Also, private investors are almost certainly going to be less likely to want to loan money to European nations from now on.  If they will be required to take a massive haircuts at some point, then why in the world would they want to lend huge amounts of money to European governments at super low interest rates?  It simply does not make sense.  Now that Greece has defaulted, the whole game is going to change.  This is just the beginning.

The “restructuring deal” was approved by approximately 84 percent of all Greek bondholders, but the key to triggering the payouts on the credit-default swaps was the fact that Greece decided to activate the “collective action clauses” which had been retroactively inserted into these bonds.  These collective action clauses force most of the rest of the bondholders to go along with this restructuring deal.

A recent article by Ambrose Evans-Pritchard explained why so many people were upset about these “collective action clauses”….

The Greek parliament’s retroactive law last month to insert collective action clauses (CACs) into its bonds to coerce creditor hold-outs has added a fresh twist. These CAC’s are likely to be activated over coming days. Use of retroactive laws to change contracts is anathema in credit markets.

If a government can go in and retroactively change the terms of a bond just before it is ready to default, then why should private investors invest in them?

That is a very good question.

But for now the buck has been passed on to those that issued the credit-default swaps.  As mentioned above, the ISDA says that there are approximately $3.2 billion in Greek credit-default swaps that will need to be paid out.

However, that number assumes that a lot of hedges and offsetting swaps cancel each other out.  When you just look at the raw total of swaps outstanding, the number is much, much higher.  The following is from a recent article in The Huffington Post….

If you remove all hedges and offsetting swaps, there’s about $70 billion in default-insurance exposure to Greece out there, which is a little bit bigger pill for the banking system to swallow. Is it possible that some banks won’t be able to pay on their default policies? We’ll find out.

Yes, indeed.  We will find out very soon.

If some counterparties are unable to pay we could soon see some big problems cascade through the financial system.

But even with this new restructuring deal with private investors, Greece is still in really bad shape.

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble told reporters recently that it “would be a big mistake to think we are out of the woods”.

Even with this new deal, Greek debt is still projected to be only reduced to 120 percent of GDP by the year 2020.  And that number relies on projections that are almost unbelievably optimistic.

In addition, there are still a whole host of very strict conditions that the Greek government must meet in order to continue getting bailout money.

Also, the upcoming Greek elections in just a few weeks could bring this entire process to an end in just a single day.

So the crisis in Greece is a long way from over.

The Greek economy has been in recession for five years in a row and it continues to shrink at a frightening pace.  Greek GDP was 7.5 percent smaller during the 4th quarter of 2011 than it was during the 4th quarter of 2010.

Unemployment in Greece also continues to get worse.

The average unemployment rate in Greece in 2010 was 12.5 percent.  During 2011, the average unemployment rate was 17.3 percent, and in December the unemployment rate in Greece was 21.0 percent.

Young people are getting hit the hardest.  The youth unemployment rate in Greece is up to an all-time record of 51.1 percent.

The suicide rate in Greece is also at an all-time record high.

Unfortunately, there is no light at the end of the tunnel for Greece at this point.  The latest round of austerity measures that are now being implemented will slow the economy down even more.

Sadly, several other countries in Europe are going down the exact same road that Greece has gone.

Investors all over the globe are wondering which one will be the “next Greece”.

Some believe that it will be Portugal.  The following is from a recent article in The Telegraph….

“The rule of law has been treated with contempt,” said Marc Ostwald from Monument Securities. “This will lead to litigation for the next ten years. It has become a massive impediment for long-term investors, and people will now be very wary about Portugal.”

Right now, the combination of all public and private debt in Portugal comes to a grand total of 360 percent of GDP.

In Greece, the combined total of all public and private debt is about 100 percentage points less than that.

So yes, Portugal is heading for a world of hurt.  The following is more about Portugal from the recent Telegraph article mentioned above….

Citigroup expects the economy to contract by 5.7pc this year, warning that bondholders may face a 50pc haircut by the end of the year. Portugal’s €78bn loan package from the EU-IMF Troika is already large enough to crowd out private creditors, reducing them to ever more junior status.

So why should anyone invest in Portuguese debt at this point?

Or Italian debt?

Or Spanish debt?

Or any European debt at all?

The truth is that the European financial system is a house of cards that could come crashing down at any time.

German economist Hans-Werner Sinn is even convinced that the European Central Bank itself could collapse.

There is a Der Spiegel article that everyone out there should read.  It is entitled “Euro-Zone Central Bank System Massively Imbalanced“. It is quite technical, but if this German economist is correct, the implications are staggering.

The following is from the first paragraph of the article….

More than a year ago, German economist Hans-Werner Sinn discovered a gigantic risk on the balance sheets of Germany’s central bank. Were the euro zone to collapse, Bundesbank losses could be half a trillion euros — more than one-and-a-half times the size of the country’s annual budget.

So no, the European debt crisis is not over.

It is just getting warmed up.

Get ready for a wild ride.

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