A Day Of Reckoning For The Euro Has Arrived – 26 TRILLION In Currency Derivatives At Risk

Yanis Varoufakis - posted to Twitter by Utopian FiremanThis is the month when the future of the eurozone will be decided.  This week, Greek leaders will meet with European officials to discuss what comes next for Greece.  The new prime minister of Greece, Alexis Tsipras, has already stated that he will not accept an extension of the current bailout.  Officials from other eurozone countries have already said that they expect Greece to fully honor the terms of the current agreement.  So basically we are watching a giant game of financial “chicken” play out over in Europe, and a showdown is looming.  Adding to the drama is the fact that the Greek government is rapidly running out of money.  According to the Wall Street Journal, Greece is “on course to run out of money within weeks if it doesn’t gain access to additional funds, effectively daring Germany and its other European creditors to let it fail and stumble out of the euro.”  We have witnessed other moments of crisis for Greece before, but things are very different this time because the new Greek government is being run by radical leftists that based their entire campaign on ending the austerity that has been imposed on Greece by the rest of Europe.  If they buckle under the demands of the European financial lords, their credibility will be gone and Syriza will essentially be finished in Greek politics.  But if they don’t compromise, Greece could be forced to leave the eurozone and we could potentially be facing the equivalent of “financial armageddon” in Europe.  If nobody flinches, the eurozone will fall to pieces, the euro will collapse and trillions upon trillions of dollars in derivatives will be in jeopardy.

According to the Bank for International Settlements, 26.45 trillion dollars in currency derivatives are directly tied to the value of the euro.

Let that number sink in for a moment.

To give you some perspective, keep in mind that the U.S. government spends a total of less than 4 trillion dollars a year.

The entire U.S. national debt is just a bit above 18 trillion dollars.

So 26 trillion dollars is an amount of money that is almost unimaginable.  And of course those are just the derivatives that are directly tied to the euro.  Overall, the total global derivatives bubble is more than 700 trillion dollars in size.

Over the past couple of decades, the global financial system has been transformed into the biggest casino in the history of the planet.  And when things are stable, the computer algorithms used by the big banks work quite well and they make enormous amounts of money.  But when unexpected things happen and markets go haywire, the financial institutions that gamble on derivatives can lose massive quantities of money very rapidly.  We saw this in 2008, and we could be on the verge of seeing this happen again.

If no agreement can be reached and Greece does leave the eurozone, the euro is going to fall off a cliff.

When that happens, someone out there is going to lose an extraordinary amount of money.

And just like in 2008, when the big financial institutions start to fail that will plunge the entire planet into another major financial crisis.

So at the moment, it is absolutely imperative that Greece and the rest of the eurozone find some common ground.

Unfortunately, that may not happen.  The new prime minister of Greece certainly does not sound like he is in a compromising mood

Greece’s new leftist prime minister, Alexis Tsipras, said on Sunday he would not accept an extension to Greece’s current bailout, setting up a clash with EU leaders – who want him to do just that – at a summit on Thursday.

Tsipras also pledged his government would heal the “wounds” of austerity, sticking to campaign pledges of giving free food and electricity to those who had suffered, and reinstating civil servants who had been fired as part of bailout austerity conditions.

Prior to the summit on Thursday, eurozone finance ministers are going to get together on Wednesday to discuss what they should do.  If these two meetings don’t go well this week, we could be looking at big trouble right around the corner.  In fact, Greece is being warned that they only have until February 16th to apply for an extension of the current bailout…

Euro zone finance ministers will discuss how to proceed with financial support for Athens at a special session next Wednesday ahead of the first summit of EU leaders with the new Greek prime minister, Alexis Tsipras, the following day.

However, the chairman of the finance ministers said the following meeting of the Eurogroup on Feb. 16 would be Greece’s last chance to apply for a bailout extension because some euro zone countries would need to consult their parliaments.

“Time will become very short if they (Greece) don’t ask for an extension (by then),” said Jeroen Dijsselbloem.

The current bailout for Greece expires on Feb 28. Without it the country will not get financing or debt relief from its lenders and has little hope of financing itself in the markets.

And as I mentioned above, the Greek government is quickly running out of money.

Most analysts believe that because of the enormous stakes that one side or the other will give in at some point.

But what if that does not happen?

Personally, I believe that the eurozone is doomed in the configuration that we see it today, and that it is just a matter of time before it breaks up.

And I am far from alone.  For example, just check out what former Fed chairman Alan Greenspan is saying

Mr Greenspan, chairman of the Federal Reserve from 1987 to 2006, said: “I believe [Greece] will eventually leave. I don’t think it helps them or the rest of the eurozone – it is just a matter of time before everyone recognizes that parting is the best strategy.

The problem is that there there is no way that I can conceive of the euro of continuing, unless and until all of the members of eurozone become politically integrated – actually even just fiscally integrated won’t do it.”

The Greeks are using all of this to their advantage.  They know that if they leave it could break apart the entire monetary union.  So this gives them a tremendous amount of leverage.  Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis has even gone so far as to compare the eurozone to a house of cards

The euro is fragile, it’s like building a castle of cards, if you take out the Greek card the others will collapse.” Varoufakis said according to an Italian transcript of the interview released by RAI ahead of broadcast.

The euro zone faces a risk of fragmentation and “de-construction” unless it faces up to the fact that Greece, and not only Greece, is unable to pay back its debt under the current terms, Varoufakis said.

“I would warn anyone who is considering strategically amputating Greece from Europe because this is very dangerous,” he said. “Who will be next after us? Portugal? What will happen when Italy discovers it is impossible to remain inside the straitjacket of austerity?”

After all this time and after so many bailouts, we have finally reached a day of reckoning.

There is a very real possibility that Greece could leave the eurozone in just a matter of months, and the elite know this.

That is why they are getting prepared for that eventuality.  The following is from a recent Wall Street Journal report

The U.K. government is stepping up contingency planning to prepare for a possible Greek exit from the eurozone and the market instability such a move would create, U.K. Treasury chief George Osborne said on Sunday.

A spokeswoman for the Treasury declined comment on the details of the contingency planning.

The U.K. government has said the standoff between Greece’s new anti-austerity government and the eurozone is increasing the risks to the global and U.K. economy.

“That’s why I’m going tomorrow to the G-20 [Group of 20] to encourage our partners to resolve this crisis. It’s why we’re stepping up the contingency planning here at home,” Mr. Osborne told the BBC in an interview. “We have got to make sure we don’t, at this critical time when Britain is also facing a critical choice, add to the instability abroad with instability at home.”

And if Greece does leave, it will cause panic throughout global financial markets as everyone wonders who is next.

Italy, Spain and Portugal are all in a similar position.  Every one of them could rapidly become “the next Greece”.

But of even greater concern is what a “Grexit” would do to the euro.  If the euro falls below parity with the U.S. dollar, the derivatives losses are going to be absolutely mind blowing.  And coupled with the collapse of the price of oil, we could be looking at some extreme financial instability in the not too distant future.

When big banks collapse, they don’t do it overnight.  But we often learn about it in a single moment.

Just remember Lehman Brothers.  Their problems developed over an extended period of time, but we only learned the full extent of their difficulties on one very disturbing day in 2008, and that day changed the world.

As you read this, big financial troubles are brewing in the background.  At some point, they are going to come to the surface.  When they do, the entire planet is going to be shocked.

 

What In The World Just Happened In Switzerland?

Swiss Francs - Public DomainCentral banks lie.  That is what they do.  Not too long ago, the Swiss National Bank promised that it would defend the euro/Swiss franc currency peg with the “utmost determination”.  But on Thursday, the central bank shocked the financial world by abruptly abandoning it.  More than three years ago, the Swiss National Bank announced that it would not allow the Swiss franc to fall below 1.20 to the euro, and it has spent a mountain of money defending that peg.  But now that it looks like the EU is going to launch a very robust quantitative easing program, the Swiss National Bank has thrown in the towel.  It was simply going to cost way too much to continue to defend the currency floor.  So now there is panic all over Europe.  On Thursday, the Swiss franc rose a staggering 30 percent against the euro, and the Swiss stock market plunged by 10 percent.  And all over the world, investors, hedge funds and central banks either lost or made gigantic piles of money as currency rates shifted at an unprecedented rate.  It is going to take months to really measure the damage that has been done.  Meanwhile, the euro is in greater danger than ever.  The euro has been declining for months, and now the number one buyer of euros (the Swiss National Bank) has been removed from the equation.  As things in Europe continue to get even worse, expect the euro to go to all-time record lows.  In addition, it is important to remember that the Asian financial crisis of the late 1990s began when Thailand abandoned its currency peg.  With this move by Switzerland set off a European financial crisis?

Of course this is hardly the first time that we have seen central banks lie.  In the United States, the Federal Reserve does it all the time.  The funny thing is that most people still seem to trust what central banks have to say.  But at some point they are going to start to lose all credibility.

Financial markets like predictability.  And gigantic amounts of money had been invested based on the repeated promises of the Swiss National Bank to use “unlimited amounts” of money to defend the currency floor.  Needless to say, there are a lot of people in the financial world that feel totally betrayed by the Swiss National Bank today.  The following comes from an analysis of the situation by Bruce Krasting

Thomas Jordan, the head of the SNB has repeated said that the Franc peg would last forever, and that he would be willing to intervene in “Unlimited Amounts” in support of the peg. Jordan has folded on his promise like a cheap suit in the rain. When push came to shove, Jordan failed to deliver.

The Swiss economy will rapidly fall into recession as a result of the SNB move. The Swiss stock market has been blasted, the currency is now nearly 20% higher than it was a day before. Someone will have to fall on the sword, the arrows are pointing at Jordan.

The dust has not settled on this development as of this morning. I will stick my neck out and say that the failure to hold the minimum rate will result in a one time loss for the SNB of close to $100B. That’s a huge amount of money. It comes to 20% of the Swiss GDP!

Most experts are calling this an extremely bad move by the Swiss National Bank.

But in the end, they may have had little choice.

The euro is falling apart, and the Swiss did not want to be married to it any longer.  Unfortunately, when any marriage ends the pain can be enormous.  The following comes from CNBC

How do you know you’re looking at a bad marriage?

Well if one or both of the spouses can’t wait to get out as soon as the smallest crack in the door opens, you have a pretty good clue.

Something like that just happened in Europe as we learned the real reason why so many traders were still invested in the euro: They had nowhere else to go.

As the Swiss National Bank unlocked the doors on its cap on trading euros for Swiss francs, the rush to exit the euro was faster than one of those French bullet trains.

But this move has not been bad for everyone.  In fact, for many of those that live in Switzerland but work in neighboring countries what happened on Thursday was very fortuitous

“I heard the news this morning. I’m so happy!” Vanessa, who refused to give her last name, told AFP outside of one of many mobbed exchange offices in Geneva.

She has reason to be extatic: she is one of some 280,000 people working in Switzerland but living and paying bills in eurozone countries France, Germany or Italy.

These so-called “frontaliers”, or border-crossers, are the biggest winners in Thursday’s Swiss franc surge, seeing their incomes jump 30 percent in the blink of an eye.

In normal times, things like this very rarely happen.

But in times of crisis, things can change very rapidly.  We are moving into a time of great volatility in global financial markets, and great volatility is often a sign that a great crash is coming.

This move by the Swiss National Bank is just the beginning.  Expect more desperate moves on the global economic chessboard in the days ahead.  But in the end, none of those moves is going to prevent what is coming.

And one of these days, another extremely important currency peg is going to end.  Right now, the Chinese have tied their currency very tightly to the U.S. dollar.  This has helped to artificially inflate the value of the dollar.  Unfortunately, as Robert Wenzel has noted, someday the Chinese could suddenly pull the rug out from under our currency, and that would be really bad news for us…

In other words, the SNB is no People’s Bank of China type patsy, where the PBOC has taken on massive amounts of dollar reserves to prop up the dollar.

Will the PBOC learn anything from SNB? If so, this will not be good for the US dollar.

So keep a close eye on what happens in Europe next.

It is going to be a preview of what is eventually coming to America.

Oil Falls Below 50 As Global Financial Markets Begin To Unravel

Crisis Silhouette - Public DomainOn Monday, the price of oil fell below $50 for the first time since April 2009, and the Dow dropped 331 points.  Meanwhile, the stock market declines over in Europe were even larger on a percentage basis, and the euro sank to a fresh nine year low on concerns that the anti-austerity Syriza party will be victorious in the upcoming election in Greece.  These are precisely the kinds of things that we would expect to see happen if a global financial crash was coming in 2015.  Just prior to the financial crisis of 2008, the price of oil collapsed, prices for industrial commodities got crushed and the U.S. dollar soared relative to other currencies.  All of those things are happening again.  And yet somehow many analysts are still convinced that things will be different this time.  And I agree that things will indeed be “different” this time.  When this crisis fully erupts, it will make 2008 look like a Sunday picnic.

Another thing that usually happens when financial markets begin to unravel is that they get really choppy.  There are big ups and big downs, and that is exactly what we have witnessed since October.

So don’t expect the markets just to go in one direction.  In fact, it would not be a surprise if the Dow went up by 300 or 400 points tomorrow.  During the initial stages of a financial crash, there are always certain days when the markets absolutely soar.

For example, did you know that the three largest single day stock market advances in history were right in the middle of the financial crash of 2008?  Here are the dates and the amount the Dow rose each of those days…

October 13th, 2008: +936 points

October 28th, 2008: +889 points

November 13th, 2008: +552 points

Just looking at those three days, you would assume that the fall of 2008 was the greatest time ever for stocks.  But instead, it was the worst financial crash that we have seen since the days of the Great Depression.

So don’t get fooled by the volatility.  Choppy markets are almost always a sign of big trouble ahead.  Calm waters usually mean that the markets are going up.

In order to avoid a major financial crisis in the near future, we desperately need the price of oil to rebound in a substantial way.

Unfortunately, it does not look like that is going to happen any time soon.  There is just way too much oil being produced right now.  The following is an excerpt from a recent CNBC article

The Morgan Stanley strategists say there are new reports of unsold West and North African cargoes, with much of the oil moving into storage. They also note that new supply has entered the global market with additional exports coming from Russia and Iraq, which is reportedly seeing production rising to new highs.

Since June, the price of oil has plummeted close to 55 percent.  If the price of oil stays where it is right now, we are going to see large numbers of small producers go out of business, the U.S. economy will lose millions of jobs, billions of dollars of junk bonds will go bad and trillions of dollars of derivatives will be in jeopardy.

And the lower the price of oil goes, the worse our problems are going to get.  That is why it is so alarming that some analysts are now predicting that the price of oil could hit $40 later this month

Some traders appeared certain that U.S. crude will hit the $40 region later in the week if weekly oil inventory numbers for the United States on Wednesday show another supply build.

‘We’re headed for a four-handle,’ said Tariq Zahir, managing member at Tyche Capital Advisors in Laurel Hollow in New York. ‘Maybe not today, but I’m sure when you get the inventory numbers that come out this week, we definitely will.’

Open interest for $40-$50 strike puts in U.S. crude have risen several fold since the start of December, while $20-$30 puts for June 2015 have traded, said Stephen Schork, editor of Pennsylvania-based The Schork Report.

The only way that the price of oil has a chance to move back up significantly is if global production slows down.  But instead, production just continues to increase in the short-term thanks to projects that were already in the works.  As a result, analysts from Morgan Stanley say that the oil glut is only going to intensify

Morgan Stanley analysts said new production will continue to ramp up at a number of fields in Brazil, West Africa, Canada and in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico as well as U.S. shale production. Also, the potential framework agreement with Iran could mean more Iranian oil on the market.

Yes, lower oil prices mean that we get to pay less for gasoline when we fill up our vehicles.

But as I have written about previously, anyone that believes that lower oil prices are good for the U.S. economy or for the global economy as a whole is crazy.  And these sentiments were echoed recently by Jeff Gundlach

Oil is incredibly important right now. If oil falls to around $40 a barrel then I think the yield on ten year treasury note is going to 1%. I hope it does not go to $40 because then something is very, very wrong with the world, not just the economy. The geopolitical consequences could be – to put it bluntly – terrifying.

If the price of oil does not recover, we are going to see massive financial problems all over the planet and the geopolitical stress that this will create will be unbelievable.

To expand on this point, I want to share an excerpt from a recent Zero Hedge article.  As you can see, a rapid rise or fall in the price of oil almost always correlates with a major global crisis of some sort…

Large and rapid rises and falls in the price of crude oil have correlated oddly strongly with major geopolitical and economic crisis across the globe. Whether driven by problems for oil exporters or oil importers, the ‘difference this time’ is that, thanks to central bank largesse, money flows faster than ever and everything is more tightly coupled with that flow.

Oil Crisis Chart - Zero Hedge

So is the 45% YoY drop in oil prices about to ’cause’ contagion risk concerns for the world?

And without a doubt, we are overdue for another stock market crisis.

Between December 31st, 1996 and March 24th, 2000 the S&P 500 rose 106 percent.

Then the dotcom bubble burst and it fell by 49 percent.

Between October 9th, 2002 and October 9th, 2007 the S&P 500 rose 101 percent.

But then that bubble burst and it fell by 57 percent.

Between March 9th, 2009 and December 31st, 2014 the S&P 500 rose an astounding 204 percent.

When this bubble bursts, how far will it fall this time?

 

It’s Currency War! – And Japan Has Fired The First Shot

Currency War - Public DomainThis is the big problem with fiat currency – eventually the temptation to print more of it when you are in a jam becomes too powerful to resist.  In a surprise move on Friday, the Bank of Japan dramatically increased the size of the quantitative easing program that it has been conducting.  This sent Japanese stocks soaring and the Japanese yen plunging.  The yen had already fallen by about 11 percent against the dollar over the last year before this announcement, and news of the BOJ’s surprise move caused the yen to collapse to a seven year low.  Essentially what the Bank of Japan has done is declare a currency war.  And as you will see below, in every currency war there are winners and there are losers.  Let’s just hope that global financial markets do not get shredded in the crossfire.

Without a doubt, the Japanese are desperate.  Their economic decline has lasted for decades, and their debt levels are off the charts.  In such a situation, printing more money seems like such an easy solution.  But as history has shown us, wild money printing always ends badly.  Just remember what happened in the Weimar Republic and in Zimbabwe.

At this point, the Bank of Japan is already behaving so recklessly that it is making the Federal Reserve look somewhat responsible in comparison.  The following is how David Stockman summarized what just happened…

This is just plain sick. Hardly a day after the greatest central bank fraudster of all time, Maestro Greenspan, confessed that QE has not helped the main street economy and jobs, the lunatics at the BOJ flat-out jumped the monetary shark. Even then, the madman Kuroda pulled off his incendiary maneuver by a bare 5-4 vote. Apparently the dissenters——Messrs. Morimoto, Ishida, Sato and Kiuchi—-are only semi-mad.

Never mind that the BOJ will now escalate its bond purchase rate to $750 billion per year—-a figure so astonishingly large that it would amount to nearly $3 trillion per year if applied to a US scale GDP. And that comes on top of a central bank balance sheet which had previously exploded to nearly 50% of Japan’s national income or more than double the already mind-boggling US ratio of 25%.

The Japanese are absolutely destroying the credibility of their currency in a last ditch effort to boost short-term economic growth.

So why would they want to devalue their currency?

Well, there are too main reasons why nations do this.

One reason is that it makes it easier to pay off debt.  The government debt to GDP ratio in Japan is approximately 250 percent at the moment, and the total debt to GDP ratio is approximately 600 percent.  When you have lots more money floating around, servicing crippling levels of debt becomes more feasible.

Secondly, nations like to devalue their currencies because it makes their products less expensive on the world stage.

In other words, it helps them sell more stuff to other people.

But in the process, this hurts other exporters.  For example, what the Bank of Japan just did is already having serious consequences for South Korean automakers

In Seoul, shares of auto makers Hyundai Motor and Kia Motors fell 5.9% and 5.6%, respectively, on Monday.

South Korean and Japanese companies often compete head-to-head in the same product groups in global markets, notably cars and electronics goods.

From the Bank of Japan’s standpoint, “you’re giving your industry a head start relative to someone else’s,” said Markus Rosgen, regional head of equity strategy at Citi in Hong Kong. “The perception in the equity market will be that they [South Korea] will have to take a hit from the lack of competitiveness versus the Japanese.”

This is why I said that there are winners and there are losers in every currency war.

If you boost your exports by devaluing your currency, you take away business from someone else.  And ultimately other nations start devaluing their currencies in an attempt to stay competitive.  That is why they call it a currency war.

For now, the Japanese are celebrating.  On Friday, Japanese stocks surged almost five percent for the day and reached a seven year high.  Investors tend to love quantitative easing, and they were very pleasantly surprised by what the Bank of Japan decided to do.

But of course rising stock prices are not always a good thing.  As Kyle Bass recently explained, wild money printing caused Zimbabwe’s stock market to skyrocket to unprecedented heights as well and that turned out very, very badly…

Amid the euphoria… Kyle Bass provided a few minutes of sanity this morning in an interview with CNBC’s Gary Kaminsky. Bass starts by reflecting on the ongoing (and escalating) money-printing (or balance sheet expansion as we noted here) as the driver of stock movements currently and would not be surprised to see them move higher still (given the ongoing printing expected).

However, he caveats that nominally bullish statement with a critical point, “Zimbabwe’s stock market was the best performer this decade – but your entire portfolio now buys you 3 eggs” as purchasing power is crushed. Investors, he says, are “too focused on nominal prices” as the rate of growth of the monetary base is destroying true wealth. Bass is convinced that cost-push inflation is coming (as the velocity of money will move once psychology shifts) and investors must not take their eye off the insidious nature of underlying inflation – no matter what we are told by the government (as they will always lie when its critical). Own ‘productive assets’, finance them at low fixed rates (thank you Ben)…

And just like we have experienced with quantitative easing in the United States, Japan’s money printing has done very little to help the real economy.  Here is more from David Stockman

Notwithstanding the massive hype of Abenomics, Japan’s real GDP is lower than it was in early 2013, while its trade accounts have continued to deteriorate and real wages have headed sharply south.

So up to this point Japan’s experiment in crazy money printing has been a dismal failure.

Will printing even more money turn things around?

We shall see, but I wouldn’t hold your breath.

Meanwhile, there are reports that the European Central Bank is getting ready for more quantitative easing.  Central banks all over the planet are becoming increasingly desperate for answers, and the temptation to print, print and print some more is extremely strong.

Nobody is quite sure how this currency war will play out, but I have a feeling that it isn’t going to be pretty.

Who Needs The United States? Not Russia And China

Vladimir PutinRussia and China have just signed what is being called “the gas deal of the century”, and the two countries are discussing moving away from the U.S. dollar and using their own currencies to trade with one another.  This has huge implications for the future of the U.S. economy, but the mainstream media in the United States is being strangely quiet about all of this.  For example, I searched CNN’s website to see if I could find something about this gas deal between Russia and China and I did not find anything.  But I did find links to “top stories” entitled “Celebs who went faux red” and “Adorable kid tugs on Obama’s ear“.  Is it any wonder why the mainstream media is dying?  If a particular story does not fit their agenda, they will simply ignore it.  But the truth is that this new agreement between Russia and China is huge.  It could end up fundamentally changing the global financial system, and not in a way that would be beneficial for the United States.

Russia and China had been negotiating this natural gas deal for ten years, and now it is finally done.  Russia is the largest exporter of natural gas on the entire planet, and China is poised to become the world’s largest economy in just a few years.  This new $400 billion agreement means that these two superpowers could potentially enjoy a mutually beneficial relationship for the next 30 years

Russia reached a $400 billion deal to supply natural gas to China through a new pipeline over 30 years, a milestone in relations between the world’s largest energy producer and the biggest consumer.

President Vladimir Putin is turning to China to bolster Russia’s economy as relations sour with the U.S. and European Union because of the crisis in Ukraine. Today’s accord, signed after more than a decade of talks, will allow state-run gas producer OAO Gazprom (GAZP) to invest $55 billion developing giant gas fields in eastern Siberia and building the pipeline, Putin said.

It’s an “epochal event,” Putin said in Shanghai after the contract was signed. Both countries are satisfied with the price, he said.

Of course countries sell oil and natural gas to each other all the time.  But what makes this deal such a potential problem for the U.S. is the fact that Russia and China are working on cutting the U.S. dollar out of the entire equation.  Just check out the following excerpt from a recent article in a Russian news source

Russia and China are planning to increase the volume of direct payments in mutual trade in their national currencies, according to a joint statement on a new stage of comprehensive partnership and strategic cooperation signed during high-level talks in Shanghai on Tuesday.

“The sides intend to take new steps to increase the level and expansion of spheres of Russian-Chinese practical cooperation, in particular to establish close cooperation in the financial sphere, including an increase in direct payments in the Russian and Chinese national currencies in trade, investments and loan services,” the statement said.

In my recent article entitled “De-Dollarization: Russia Is On The Verge Of Dealing A Massive Blow To The Petrodollar“, I warned about what could happen if the petrodollar monopoly ends.  In the United States, our current standard of living is extremely dependent on the rest of the world continuing to use our currency to trade with one another.  If Russia starts selling natural gas to China without the U.S. dollar being involved, that would be a monumental blow to the petrodollar.  And if other nations started following the lead of Russia and China, that could result in an avalanche from which the petrodollar may never recover.

And it isn’t just the national governments of Russia and China that are discussing moving away from the U.S. dollar.  For example, the second largest bank in Russia just signed a deal with the Bank of China “to pay each other in domestic currencies”

VTB, Russia’s second biggest lender, has signed a deal with Bank of China, which includes an agreement to pay each other in domestic currencies.

“Under the agreement, the banks plan to develop their partnership in a number of areas, including cooperation on ruble and renminbi settlements, investment banking, inter-bank lending, trade finance and capital-markets transactions,” says the official VTB statement.

The deal underlines VTB Group’s growing interest in Asian markets and will help grow trade between Russia and China that are already close trading partners, said VTB Bank Management Board Vasily Titov.

You can almost feel the power of the U.S. dollar fading.

A few months ago, when I wrote about how China had announced that it no longer planned to stockpile more U.S. dollars, I speculated that it may be evidence that China planned to start making a big move away from the U.S. dollar.

Well, now China’s intentions have become even more clear.

The Chinese do not plan to allow the United States to indefinitely dominate the globe financially.  In the long run, the Chinese plan to be the ones calling the shots, and that means that the power of the U.S. dollar must decline.

These days, instead of piling up mountains of U.S. currency, China has started accumulating hard assets instead.  In the past, I have written about how China is rapidly stockpiling gold, and it turns out that the Chinese have also been very busy stockpiling oil as well

China is stockpiling oil for its strategic petroleum reserve at a record pace, intervening on a scale large enough to send a powerful pulse through the world crude market.

The move comes as tensions mount in the South China Sea and the West prepares possible oil sanctions against Russia over the crisis in eastern Ukraine. Analysts believe China is quietly building up buffers against a possible spike in oil prices or disruptions in supply.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) said in its latest monthly report that China imported 6.81m barrels per day (bpd) in April, an all-time high.

Once upon a time, China was extremely dependent on the United States economically.  The same was true with most of the rest of the world.

But now economic power has shifted so dramatically that nations such as Russia and China are realizing that they don’t really need to be dependent on the United States any longer.

And with each passing year, the relationship between Russia and China is becoming stronger.  As Pepe Escobar recently observed, this emerging alliance is causing quite a bit of consternation in Washington…

And no wonder Washington is anxious. That alliance is already a done deal in a variety of ways: through the BRICS group of emerging powers (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa); at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, the Asian counterweight to NATO; inside the G20; and via the 120-member-nation Non-Aligned Movement (NAM). Trade and commerce are just part of the future bargain. Synergies in the development of new military technologies beckon as well. After Russia’s Star Wars-style, ultra-sophisticated S-500 air defense anti-missile system comes online in 2018, Beijing is sure to want a version of it. Meanwhile, Russia is about to sell dozens of state-of-the-art Sukhoi Su-35 jet fighters to the Chinese as Beijing and Moscow move to seal an aviation-industrial partnership.

Meanwhile, the relationship that the U.S. has with both nations is quickly going sour.  The crisis in Ukraine has caused relations with Russia to drop to the lowest point since the end of the Cold War, and now China is deeply offended by charges that Chinese military officers have been involved in cyberspying on the United States

China on Tuesday warned the United States was jeopardizing military ties by charging five Chinese officers with cyberspying and tried to turn the tables on Washington by calling it “the biggest attacker of China’s cyberspace.”

China announced it was suspending cooperation with the United States in a joint cybersecurity task force over Monday’s charges that officers stole trade secrets from major American companies. The Foreign Ministry demanded Washington withdraw the indictment.

The testy exchange marked an escalation in tensions over U.S. complaints that China’s military uses its cyber warfare skills to steal foreign trade secrets to help the country’s vast state-owned industrial sector.

The divide between the East and the West is growing.

But the Obama administration has not figured out that we need the East more than they need us.

Right now, the number one U.S. export is U.S. dollars.  Our massively inflated standard of living is very heavily dependent on the rest of the world using our currency to trade with one another and lending it to us at super low interest rates.

If the rest of the world quits playing our game, our debt-based financial system will quickly fall apart.

Unfortunately, nobody in the Obama administration seems to have much understanding of global economics, and they will probably continue to antagonize Russia and China.

In the end, the consequences for antagonizing them could end up being far greater than any of us ever imagined.

De-Dollarization: Russia Is On The Verge Of Dealing A Massive Blow To The Petrodollar

The U.S. Dollar - Photo by Pen WaggenerIs the petrodollar monopoly about to be shattered?  When U.S. politicians started slapping economic sanctions on Russia, they probably never even imagined that there might be serious consequences for the United States.  But now the Russian media is reporting that the Russian Ministry of Finance is getting ready to pull the trigger on a “de-dollarization” plan.  For decades, virtually all oil and natural gas around the world has been bought and sold for U.S. dollars.  As I will explain below, this has been a massive advantage for the U.S. economy.  In recent years, there have been rumblings by nations such as Russia and China about the need to change to a new system, but nobody has really had a big reason to upset the status quo.  However, that has now changed.  The struggle over Ukraine has caused Russia to completely reevaluate the financial relationship that it has with the United States.  If it starts trading a lot of oil and natural gas for currencies other than the U.S. dollar, that will be a massive blow for the petrodollar, and it could end up dramatically changing the global economic landscape.

The fact that the Russian government has held a meeting to discuss “getting rid of the US dollar in Russian export operations” should be front page news on every mainstream news website in the United States.  That is how big this is.  But instead, we have heard nothing from the big mainstream news networks about this so far.  Instead, we have only heard about this from Russian news sources such as the Voice of Russia

Russian press reports that the country’s Ministry of Finance is ready to greenlight a plan to radically increase the role of the Russian ruble in export operations while reducing the share of dollar-denominated transactions. Governmental sources believe that the Russian banking sector is “ready to handle the increased number of ruble-denominated transactions”.

According to the Prime news agency, on April 24th the government organized a special meeting dedicated to finding a solution for getting rid of the US dollar in Russian export operations. Top level experts from the energy sector, banks and governmental agencies were summoned and a number of measures were proposed as a response for American sanctions against Russia.

The “de-dollarization meeting” was chaired by First Deputy Prime Minister of the Russian Federation Igor Shuvalov, proving that Moscow is very serious in its intention to stop using the dollar.

So will Russia go through with this?

After all, this wouldn’t just be a slap in the face.  This would essentially be like slamming an economic fist into our nose.

You see, Russia is not just a small player when it comes to trading oil and natural gas.  The truth is that Russia is the largest exporter of natural gas and the second largest exporter of oil in the world.

If Russia starts asking for payment in currencies other than the U.S. dollar, that will essentially end the monopoly of the petrodollar.

In order to do this, Russia will need trading partners willing to go along.  In the article quoted above, the Voice of Russia listed Iran and China as two nations that would potentially be willing to make the switch…

Of course, the success of Moscow’s campaign to switch its trading to rubles or other regional currencies will depend on the willingness of its trading partners to get rid of the dollar. Sources cited by Politonline.ru mentioned two countries who would be willing to support Russia: Iran and China. Given that Vladimir Putin will visit Beijing on May 20, it can be speculated that the gas and oil contracts that are going to be signed between Russia and China will be denominated in rubles and yuan, not dollars.

And the reality of the matter is that China has seemed ready to move away from the U.S. dollar for quite some time.  In a previous article, I included a quote from a French news source that discussed how China’s official news agency has even called for a “new international reserve currency… to replace the dominant US dollar”…

For decades the US has benefited to the tune of trillions of dollars-worth of free credit from the greenback’s role as the default global reserve unit.

But as the global economy trembled before the prospect of a US default last month, only averted when Washington reached a deal to raise its debt ceiling, China’s official Xinhua news agency called for a “de-Americanised” world.

It also urged the creation of a “new international reserve currency… to replace the dominant US dollar”.

For much more on what China is thinking, please see my previous article entitled “9 Signs That China Is Making A Move Against The U.S. Dollar“.

So why is the petrodollar so important?

Well, it creates a tremendous amount of demand for the U.S. dollar all over the globe.  Since everyone has needed it to trade with one another, that has created an endless global appetite for the currency.  That has kept the value of the dollar artificially high, and it has enabled us to import trillions of dollars of super cheap products from other countries.  If other nations stopped using the dollar to trade with one another, the value of the dollar would plummet dramatically and we would have to pay much, much more for the trinkets that we buy at the dollar store and Wal-Mart.

In addition, since the U.S. dollar is essentially the de facto global currency, this has also increased demand for our debt.  Major exporting nations such as China and Saudi Arabia end up with giant piles of our dollars.  Instead of just letting them sit there and do nothing, those nations often reinvest their dollars into securities that can rapidly be changed back into dollars if needed.  One of the most popular ways to do this has been to invest those dollars in U.S. Treasuries.  This has driven down interest rates on U.S. debt over the years and has enabled the U.S. government to borrow trillions upon trillions of dollars for next to nothing.

But if the rest of the world starts moving away from the U.S. dollar, all of this could change.

In order for our current standard of living to continue, it is absolutely imperative that everyone else around the globe continues to use our currency.

So if Russia really does pull the trigger on a “de-dollarization” strategy, that would be huge – especially if the rest of the planet started following their lead.

The U.S. economy is already teetering on the brink of another major downturn, and there are a whole host of indications that big trouble is on the horizon.  For much more on this, please see the article that I posted on Monday entitled “If Economic Cycle Theorists Are Correct, 2015 To 2020 Will Be Pure Hell For The United States“.

Just about the last thing that we need right now is for our petrodollar monopoly to be threatened.

It would be nice if things would calm down in Ukraine and the relationship between the United States and Russia could go back to normal.

Sadly, that does not appear likely any time soon.

In fact, the Ukrainian government has already admitted that “we are essentially at war“, and on Tuesday six Ukrainian soldiers were killed and eight were wounded in a convoy attack in eastern Ukraine.

The regions in eastern Ukraine that have just declared independence have given the government in Kiev until Wednesday to pull their forces out of eastern Ukraine or else face war.

If a full blown civil war does erupt in Ukraine, it is going to take this crisis to a completely new level.

Unfortunately, most Americans are incredibly apathetic at this point and know very little about what is going on.

But in the end, this could have dramatic implications for all of us.

The Growing Rift With Saudi Arabia Threatens To Severely Damage The Petrodollar

Are You Ready For The Death Of The Petrodollar - Photo By RevisorwebThe number one American export is U.S. dollars.  It is paper currency that is backed up by absolutely nothing, but the rest of the world has been using it to trade with one another and so there is tremendous global demand for our dollars.  The linchpin of this system is the petrodollar.  For decades, if you have wanted to buy oil virtually anywhere in the world you have had to do so with U.S. dollars.  But if one of the biggest oil exporters on the planet, such as Saudi Arabia, decided to start accepting other currencies as payment for oil, the petrodollar monopoly would disintegrate very rapidly.  For years, everyone assumed that nothing like that would happen any time soon, but now Saudi officials are warning of a “major shift” in relations with the United States.  In fact, the Saudis are so upset at the Obama administration that “all options” are reportedly “on the table”.  If it gets to the point where the Saudis decide to make a major move away from the petrodollar monopoly, it will be absolutely catastrophic for the U.S. economy.

The biggest reason why having good relations with Saudi Arabia is so important to the United States is because the petrodollar monopoly will not work without them.  For decades, Washington D.C. has gone to extraordinary lengths to keep the Saudis happy.  But now the Saudis are becoming increasingly frustrated that the U.S. military is not being used to fight their wars for them.  The following is from a recent Daily Mail report

Upset at President Barack Obama’s policies on Iran and Syria, members of Saudi Arabia’s ruling family are threatening a rift with the United States that could take the alliance between Washington and the kingdom to its lowest point in years.

Saudi Arabia’s intelligence chief is vowing that the kingdom will make a ‘major shift’ in relations with the United States to protest perceived American inaction over Syria’s civil war as well as recent U.S. overtures to Iran, a source close to Saudi policy said on Tuesday.

Prince Bandar bin Sultan told European diplomats that the United States had failed to act effectively against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, was growing closer to Tehran, and had failed to back Saudi support for Bahrain when it crushed an anti-government revolt in 2011, the source said.

Saudi Arabia desperately wants the U.S. military to intervene in the Syrian civil war on the side of the “rebels”.  This has not happened yet, and the Saudis are very upset about that.

Of course the Saudis could always go and fight their own war, but that is not the way that the Saudis do things.

So since the Saudis are not getting their way, they are threatening to punish the U.S. for their inaction.  According to Reuters, the Saudis are saying that “all options are on the table now”…

Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest oil exporter, ploughs much of its earnings back into U.S. assets. Most of the Saudi central bank’s net foreign assets of $690 billion are thought to be denominated in dollars, much of them in U.S. Treasury bonds.

“All options are on the table now, and for sure there will be some impact,” the Saudi source said.

Sadly, most Americans have absolutely no idea how important all of this is.  If the Saudis break the petrodollar monopoly, it would severely damage the U.S. economy.  For those that do not fully understand the importance of the petrodollar, the following is a good summary of how the petrodollar works from an article by Christopher Doran

In a nutshell, any country that wants to purchase oil from an oil producing country has to do so in U.S. dollars. This is a long standing agreement within all oil exporting nations, aka OPEC, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries. The UK for example, cannot simply buy oil from Saudi Arabia by exchanging British pounds. Instead, the UK must exchange its pounds for U.S. dollars. The major exception at present is, of course, Iran.

This means that every country in the world that imports oil—which is the vast majority of the world’s nations—has to have immense quantities of dollars in reserve. These dollars of course are not hidden under the proverbial national mattress. They are invested. And because they are U.S. dollars, they are invested in U.S. Treasury bills and other interest bearing securities that can be easily converted to purchase dollar-priced commodities like oil. This is what has allowed the U.S. to run up trillions of dollars of debt: the rest of the world simply buys up that debt in the form of U.S. interest bearing securities.

This arrangement works out very well for the United States because we can wildly print money and run up gigantic amounts of debt and the rest of the world gobbles it all up.

In 2012, the United States ran a trade deficit of about $540,000,000,000 with the rest of the planet.  In other words, about half a trillion more dollars left the country than came into the country.  These dollars represent the number one “product” that the U.S. exports.  We make dollars and exchange them for the things that we need.  Major exporting countries (such as Saudi Arabia) take many of those dollars and “invest” them in our debt at ultra-low interest rates.  It is this system that makes our massively inflated standard of living possible.

When this system ends, the era of cheap imports and super low interest rates will be over and the “adjustment” to our standard of living will be excruciatingly painful.

And without a doubt, the day is rapidly approaching when the petrodollar monopoly will end.

Today, Russia is the number one exporter of oil in the world.

China is now the number one importer of oil in the world, and at this point they are actually importing more oil from Saudi Arabia than the United States is.

So why should Russia, China and virtually everyone else continue to be forced to use U.S. dollars to trade oil?

That is a very good question.

In fact, China has been making a whole lot of noise recently about the fact that it is time to start becoming less dependent on the U.S. dollar.  The following comes from a recent CNBC article authored by Michael Pento

Our addictions to debt and cheap money have finally caused our major international creditors to call for an end to dollar hegemony and to push for a “de-Americanized” world.

China, the largest U.S. creditor with $1.28 trillion in Treasury bonds, recently put out a commentary through the state-run Xinhua news agency stating that, “Such alarming days when the destinies of others are in the hands of a hypocritical nation have to be terminated.”

For much more on all of this, please see my previous article entitled “9 Signs That China Is Making A Move Against The U.S. Dollar“.

But you very rarely hear anything about this on the evening news, and most Americans do not understand these things at all.  The fact that the U.S. produces the de facto reserve currency of the planet is an absolutely massive advantage for us.  According to John Mauldin, this advantage allows us to consume far more wealth than we actually produce…

What that means in practical terms is that the United States can purchase more with its currency than it produces and sells. In theory those accounts should balance. But the world’s reserve currency, for all intent and purposes, becomes a product. The world needs dollars in order to conduct its trade. Today, if someone in Peru wants to buy something from Thailand, they first convert their local currency into US dollars and then purchase the product with those dollars. Those dollars eventually wind up at the Central Bank of Thailand, which includes them in its reserve balance. When someone in Thailand wants to purchase an imported product, their bank accesses those dollars, which may go anywhere in the world that will take the US dollar, which is to say pretty much anywhere.

And as Mauldin went on to explain in that same article, a significant amount of the money that we ship out to the rest of the globe ends up getting reinvested in U.S. government debt…

That privilege allows US citizens to purchase goods and services at prices somewhat lower than those people in the rest of the world must pay. We can produce electronic fiat dollars, and the rest of the world accepts them because they need them to in order to trade with each other. And they do so because they trust the dollar more than they do any other currency that is readily available. You can take those dollars and come to the United States and purchase all manner of goods, including real estate and stocks. Just this week a Chinese company spent $600 million to buy a building in New York City. Such transactions happen all the time.

And there is one other item those dollars are used to pay for: US Treasury bonds. We buy oil and all manner of goods with our electronic dollars, and those dollars typically end up on the reserve balance sheets of other central banks, which buy our government bonds. It’s hard to quantify the exact amount, but these transactions significantly lower the cost of borrowing for the US government. On a $16 trillion debt, every basis point (1/10 of 1%) means a saving of $16 billion annually. So 5 basis points would be $80 billion a year. There are credible estimates that the savings are well in excess of $100 billion a year. Thus, as the debt grows, the savings also grow! That also means the total debt compounds at a lower rate.

Unfortunately, this system only works if the rest of the planet has faith in it, and right now the United States is systematically destroying the faith that the rest of the world has in our financial system.

One way that this is being done is by our reckless accumulation of debt.  The U.S. national debt is now 37 times larger than it was 40 years ago, and we are on pace to accumulate more new debt under the 8 years of the Obama administration than we did under all of the other presidents in U.S. history combined.  The rest of the world is watching this and they are beginning to wonder if we are going to be able to pay them back the money that we owe them.

Quantitative easing is another factor that is severely damaging worldwide faith in the U.S. financial system.  The rest of the globe is watching as the Federal Reserve wildly prints up money and monetizes our debt.  They are beginning to wonder why they should continue to loan us gobs of money at super low interest rates when we are beginning to resemble the Weimar Republic.

The long-term damage that we are doing to the “U.S. brand” far, far outweighs any short-term benefits of quantitative easing.

And as Richard Koo has brilliantly demonstrated, quantitative easing is going to cause long-term interest rates to eventually rise much higher than they normally should have.

What all of this means is that the U.S. government and the Federal Reserve are systematically destroying the financial system that has enabled us to enjoy such a high standard of living for the past several decades.

Yes, the U.S. economy is not doing well at the moment, but we haven’t seen anything yet.  When the monopoly of the petrodollar is broken, it is going to be absolutely devastating.

And as I wrote about the other day, when the next great economic crisis strikes it is going to pull back the curtain and reveal the rot and decay that have been eating away at the social fabric of America for a very long time.

Just check out what happened in Detroit recently.  The new police chief was almost carjacked while he was sitting in a clearly marked police vehicle…

Just four months on the job, Detroit’s new police chief got an early taste of the city’s hardscrabble streets.

While in his patrol car at an intersection on Jefferson two weeks ago, Police Chief James Craig was nearly carjacked, police spokeswoman Kelly Miner confirmed today.

Craig said he was in a marked police car with mounted lights when a man quickly tried to approach the side of his car. Craig, who became police chief in June, retold the story Monday during a program designed to crack down on carjackings.

Isn’t that crazy?

These days, the criminals are not even afraid to go after the police while they are sitting in their own vehicles.

And this is just the beginning.  Things are going to get much, much worse than this.

So let us hope that this period of relative stability that we are enjoying right now will last for as long as possible.

The times ahead are going to be extremely challenging, and I hope that you are getting ready for them.

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