Can you feel the panic in the air? CNN Money’s Fear & Greed Index measures the amount of fear in the financial world on a scale from 0 to 100. The closer it is to zero, the higher the level of fear. Last Monday, the index was sitting at a reading of 36. As I write this article, it has fallen to 7. The financial turmoil which began last week is threatening to turn into an avalanche. On Sunday night, we witnessed the second largest one day stock market collapse in China ever, and this pushed stocks all over the planet into the red. Meanwhile, the twin blades of an emerging market currency crisis and a commodity price crash are chewing up economies that are dependent on the export of natural resources all over the globe. For a long time, I have been warning about what would happen in the second half of 2015, and now it is here. The following is a summary of the financial carnage that we have seen over the past 24 hours…
-On Sunday night, the Shanghai Composite Index plunged 8.5 percent. It was the largest one day stock market crash in China since 2007, and it was the second largest in history. The Chinese government is promising to directly intervene in order to prevent Chinese stocks from going down even more.
-Over 1,500 stocks in China fell by their 10 percent daily maximum. This list includes giants such as China Unicom, Bank of Communications and PetroChina.
-Ever since peaking in June, the Shanghai Composite Index has dropped by a total of 28 percent.
-Even Chinese stocks that are listed on U.S. stock exchanges are being absolutely hammered. The following comes from USA Today…
The 144 China-based stocks with primary listings on major U.S. exchanges have erased nearly $40 billion in paper wealth since the Shanghai Composite index peaked on June 12. It’s an enormous destruction of wealth that in effects wipes out the market value of a company the size of cruise ship operator Carnival.
The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 provisionally closed 2.1 percent lower, while the Germany’s DAX and France’s CAC closed respectively 2.4 percent and 2.5 percent lower.
The U.K.’s benchmark FTSE outperformed its euro zone peers, but still closed unofficially down 1.0 percent.
-Overall, European stocks have been falling steadily since the beginning of last week. To get an idea of how much damage has been done already, just check out this chart.
-As I mentioned above, an emerging market currency crisis is causing havoc for economies all over the planet. The following comes from an article that was published by the Telegraph…
The currencies of Brazil, Mexico, South Africa and Turkey have all crashed to multi-year lows as investors flee emerging markets and commodity prices crumble.
The drastic moves came as fears of imminent monetary tightening by the US Federal Reserve combined with shockingly weak figures from China, which stoked fears that the country may be sliding into a deeper downturn and sent tremors through East Asia, Latin America and Africa.
-The government of Puerto Rico has announced that it does not have enough cash to make a scheduled debt payment of 169 million dollars on August 1st. The Obama administration says that there are no plans in the works to bail out Puerto Rico.
-On Monday, the Dow was down another 127 points. It was the fifth day in a row that the Dow and the S&P 500 have both declined.
-Overall, the Dow is now down more than 650 points since July 20th.
-480 stocks on the New York Stock Exchange have hit new 52-week lows. Many analysts consider this to be a very, very ominous sign.
-On Monday, the price of U.S. oil hit a 52-week low of $46.92.
-So far, the price of U.S. oil has fallen about 20 percent this month.
-Back in June 2014, the price of a barrel of West Texas Intermediate crude was above 107 dollars. Since then, the price of U.S. oil has fallen an astounding 56 percent.
-Thanks in large part to the collapse in energy prices, junk bonds are cratering. This is something that happened just before the financial crisis of 2008, and now it is happening again. The following comes from Wolf Street…
Among the bonds: Cliffs Natural Resources down 27.6%, SandBridge down 30%, Murray Energy down 21.2%, and Linn Energy down 22.3%, according to Bloomberg.
For example, Linn Energy 6.25% notes due in 2019 were trading at 78 cents on the dollar at the beginning of July and at 58 on Friday, according to LCD. There was bloodshed beyond energy, such as AK Steel’s 7.625% notes due in 2021. They were trading at 62 cents on the dollar, down 22% from the beginning of July.
“The performance is a disappointment to investors who purchased about $40 billion of junk-rated bonds from energy companies this year, thinking that the worst of the slump was over,” Bloomberg noted.
This is exactly what we would expect to see during the early stages of a financial crisis.
Of course global financial markets may bounce back somewhat tomorrow. If you will remember, some of the largest one day gains in stock market history happened right in the middle of the stock market collapse of 2008. So don’t get fooled by what happens on any one particular day.
With so much fear in the air, literally anything could happen in the weeks and months ahead of us. One month ago, I issued a red alert for the last six months of this year. I warned that a major financial crisis was imminent and that people needed to start protecting themselves immediately.
As I write this article on Monday evening, financial markets are already opening up over in Asia. Japanese stocks are already down 251 points even though the market has only been open for about an hour over there.
We have entered a time when what is happening to global stock markets will once again be headline news. We are right on the precipice of another great financial crisis, only this one is going to ultimately end up being much worse than the last one.
The Chinese do not plan to live in a world dominated by the U.S. dollar for much longer. Chinese leaders have been calling for the U.S. dollar to be replaced as the primary global reserve currency for a long time, but up until now they have never been very specific about what they would put in place of it. Many have assumed that the Chinese simply wanted some new international currency to be created. But what if that is not what the Chinese had in mind? What if they have always wanted their own currency to become the single most dominant currency on the entire planet? What you are about to see is rather startling, but it shouldn’t be a surprise. When it comes to economics and finance, the Chinese have always been playing chess while the western world has been playing checkers. Sadly, we have gotten to the point where checkmate is on the horizon.
On Wednesday, I came across an excellent article by Simon Black. What he had to say in that article just about floored me…
When I arrived to Bangkok the other day, coming down the motorway from the airport I saw a huge billboard—and it floored me.
The billboard was from the Bank of China. It said: “RMB: New Choice; The World Currency”
Given that the Bank of China is more than 70% owned by the government of the People’s Republic of China, I find this very significant.
It means that China is literally advertising its currency overseas, and it’s making sure that everyone landing at one of the world’s busiest airports sees it. They know that the future belongs to them and they’re flaunting it.
This is the photograph of that billboard that he posted with his article…
Everyone knows that China is rising.
And most everyone has assumed that Chinese currency would soon play a larger role in international trade.
But things have moved so rapidly in recent years that now a very large chunk of the financial world actually expects the renminbi to replace the dollar as the primary reserve currency of the planet someday. The following comes from CNBC…
The tightly controlled Chinese yuan will eventually supersede the dollar as the top international reserve currency, according to a new poll of institutional investors.
The survey of 200 institutional investors – 100 headquartered in mainland China and 100 outside of it – published by State Street and the Economist Intelligence Unit on Thursday found 53 percent of investors think the renminbi will surpass the U.S. dollar as the world’s major reserve currency.
Optimism was higher within China, where 62 percent said they saw a redback world on the horizon, compared with 43 percent outside China.
And without a doubt we are starting to see the beginnings of a significant shift.
China’s yuan broke into the top five as a world payment currency in November, overtaking the Canadian dollar and the Australian dollar, global transaction services organization SWIFT said on Wednesday.
The U.S. dollar won’t be replaced overnight, but things are changing.
Of course the truth is that the Chinese have been preparing for this for a very long time. The Chinese refuse to tell the rest of the world exactly how much gold they have, but everyone knows that they have been accumulating enormous amounts of it. And even if they don’t explicitly back the renminbi with gold, the massive gold reserves that China is accumulating will still give the rest of the planet a great deal of confidence in Chinese currency.
But don’t just take my word for it. Consider what Alan Greenspan has had to say on the matter…
Alan Greenspan, who served at the helm of the Federal Reserve for nearly two decades, recently penned an op-ed for the Council on Foreign Relations discussing gold and its possible role in China, the world’s second-largest economy. He notes that if China converted only a “relatively modest part of its $4 trillion foreign exchange reserves into gold, the country’s currency could take on unexpected strength in today’s international financial system.”
Meanwhile, the Chinese have also been accumulating a tremendous amount of U.S. debt. At this point, the Chinese own approximately 1.3 trillion dollars worth of our debt, and that gives them a lot of power over our currency and over our financial system.
Someday if the Chinese wanted to undermine confidence in the U.S. dollar and in the U.S. financial system, they have a lot of ammunition at their disposal.
And it isn’t just all of that debt that gives China leverage. In recent years, the Chinese have been buying up real estate, businesses and energy assets all over the United States at a staggering pace. For a small taste of what has been taking place, check out the YouTube video posted below…
For much, much more on this trend, please see the following articles…
On a purchasing power basis, the size of the Chinese economy has already surpassed the size of the U.S. economy.
And there are lots of signs of trouble ahead for the U.S. economy at this point. I like how Brandon Smith put it in one recent article…
We are only two months into 2015, and it has already proven to be the most volatile year for the economic environment since 2008-2009. We have seen oil markets collapsing by about 50 percent in the span of a few months (just as the Federal Reserve announced the end of QE3, indicating fiat money was used to hide falling demand), the Baltic Dry Index losing 30 percent since the beginning of the year, the Swiss currency surprise, the Greeks threatening EU exit (and now Greek citizens threatening violent protests with the new four-month can-kicking deal), and the effects of the nine-month-long West Coast port strike not yet quantified. This is not just a fleeting expression of a negative first quarter; it is a sign of things to come.
In addition, things continue to look quite bleak for Europe. Once upon a time, many expected the euro to overtake the U.S. dollar as the primary global reserve currency, but that didn’t happen. And in recent months the euro has been absolutely crashing. On Wednesday, it hit the lowest point that we have seen against the dollar in more than a decade…
The euro last stood at $1.1072, off 0.90 percent for the day and below a key support level, Sutton said. It fell to as little as $1.1066, which was the lowest level for the euro against the dollar since September 2003, according to Thomson Reuters data.
The euro also declined to one-month lows against the Japanese yen, which was flat against the dollar at 119.72 yen to the dollar.
As the U.S. and Europe continue to struggle, China is going to want a significantly larger role on the global stage.
And as the billboard in Thailand suggests, they are more than willing to step up to the plate.
So will the road to the future be paved with Chinese currency? Please feel free to share what you think by posting a comment below…
This 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.
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.
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.
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.
The absolutely stunning decision by the Swiss National Bank to decouple from the euro has triggered billions of dollars worth of losses all over the globe. Citigroup and Deutsche Bank both say that their losses were somewhere in the neighborhood of 150 million dollars, a major hedge fund that had 830 million dollars in assets at the end of December has been forced to shut down, and several major global currency trading firms have announced that they are now insolvent. And these are just the losses that we know about so far. It will be many months before the full scope of the financial devastation caused by the Swiss National Bank is fully revealed. But of course the same thing could be said about the crash in the price of oil that we have witnessed in recent weeks. These two “black swan events” have set financial dominoes in motion all over the globe. At this point we can only guess how bad the financial devastation will ultimately be.
But everyone agrees that it will be bad. For example, one financial expert at Boston University says that he believes the losses caused by the Swiss National Bank decision will be in the billions of dollars…
“The losses will be in the billions — they are still being tallied,” said Mark T. Williams, an executive-in-residence at Boston University specializing in risk management. “They will range from large banks, brokers, hedge funds, mutual funds to currency speculators. There will be ripple effects throughout the financial system.”
Citigroup, the world’s biggest currencies dealer, lost more than $150 million at its trading desks, a person with knowledge of the matter said last week. Deutsche Bank lost $150 million and Barclays less than $100 million, people familiar with the events said, after the Swiss National Bank scrapped a three-year-old policy of capping its currency against the euro and the franc soared as much as 41 percent that day versus the euro. Spokesmen for the three banks declined to comment.
And actually, if the total losses from this crisis are only limited to the “billions” I think that we will be extremely fortunate.
As I mentioned above, a hedge fund that had 830 million dollars in assets at the end of December just completely imploded. Everest Capital’s Global Fund had heavily bet against the Swiss franc, and as a result it now has lost “virtually all its money”…
Marko Dimitrijevic, the hedge fund manager who survived at least five emerging market debt crises, is closing his largest hedge fund after losing virtually all its money this week when the Swiss National Bank unexpectedly let the franc trade freely against the euro, according to a person familiar with the firm.
Everest Capital’s Global Fund had about $830 million in assets as of the end of December, according to a client report. The Miami-based firm, which specializes in emerging markets, still manages seven funds with about $2.2 billion in assets. The global fund, the firm’s oldest, was betting the Swiss franc would decline, said the person, who asked not to be named because the information is private.
This is how fast things can move in the financial marketplace when things start getting crazy.
It can seem like you are on top of the world one day, but just a short while later you can be filing for bankruptcy.
Consider what just happened to FXCM. It is one of the largest retail currency trading firms on the entire planet, and the decision by the Swiss National Bank instantly created a 200 million dollar hole in the company that desperately needed to be filled…
The magnitude of the crisis for U.S. currency traders became clear Friday when New York-based FXCM, a publicly traded U.S. currency broker, and the largest so far to announce it was in financial trouble after suffering a 90-percent drop in the firm’s stock price, reported the firm would need a $200-$300 million bailout to prevent capital requirements from being breached. Highly leveraged currency traders, including retail customers, were unable to come up with sufficient capital to cover the losses suffered in their currency trading accounts when the Swiss franc surged.
Currency traders worldwide allowed to leverage their accounts 100:1, meaning the customer can bet $100 in the currency exchange markets for every $1.00 the customer has on deposit in its account, can result in huge gains from unexpected currency price fluctuations or massive and devastating losses, should the customer bet wrong.
Fortunately for FXCM, another company called Leucadia came riding to the rescue with a 300 million dollar loan.
But other currency trading firms were not so lucky.
For example, Alpari has already announced that it is going into insolvency…
Retail broker Alpari UK filed for insolvency on Friday.
The move “caused by the SNB’s unexpected policy reversal of capping the Swiss franc against the euro has resulted in exceptional volatility and extreme lack of liquidity,” Alpari, the shirt sponsor of English Premier League soccer club West Ham, said in a statement.
“This has resulted in the majority of clients sustaining losses which exceeded their account equity. Where a client cannot cover this loss, it is passed on to us. This has forced Alpari (UK) Limited to confirm that it has entered into insolvency.”
And Alpari is far from alone. Quite a few other smaller currency trading firms all over the world are in the exact same boat.
Unfortunately, this could potentially just be the beginning of the currency chaos.
All eyes are on the European Central Bank right now. If a major round of quantitative easing is announced, that could unleash yet another wave of crippling losses for financial institutions. The following is from a recent CNBC article…
One of Europe’s most influential economists has warned that the quantitative easing measures seen being unveiled by the European Central Bank (ECB) this week could create deep market volatility, akin to what was seen after the Swiss National Bank abandoned its currency peg.
“There was so much capital flight in anticipation of the QE to Switzerland, that the Swiss central bank was unable to stem the tide, and there will be more effects of that sort,” the President of Germany’s Ifo Institute for Economic Research, Hans-Werner Sinn, told CNBC on Monday.
As I have written about previously, we are moving into a time of greatly increased financial volatility. And when we start to see tremendous ups and downs in the financial world, that is a sign that a great crash is coming. We witnessed this prior to the financial crisis of 2008, and now we are watching it happen again.
And this is not just happening in the United States. Just check out what happened in China on Monday…
Chinese shares plunged about 8% Monday after the country’s securities regulator imposed margin trading curbs on several major brokerages, a sign that authorities are trying to rein in the market’s big gains. It was China’s largest drop in six years.
Sadly, most Americans have absolutely no idea what is coming.
They just trust that Barack Obama, Congress and the “experts” at the Federal Reserve have it all figured out.
So when the next great financial crisis does arrive, most people are going to be absolutely blindsided by it, even though anyone that is willing to look at the facts honestly should be able to see it steamrolling directly toward us.
Over the past couple of years, we have been blessed to experience a period of relative stability.
But that period of relative stability is now ending.
I hope that you are getting ready for what comes next.
Central 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.
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.
This 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.
The numbers that you are about to see are likely to shock you. They prove that the global financial Ponzi scheme is far more extensive than most people would ever dare to imagine. As you will see below, the total amount of debt in the world is now more than three times greater than global GDP. In other words, you could take every single good and service produced on the entire planet this year, next year and the year after that and it still would not be enough to pay off all the debt. But even that number pales in comparison to the exposure that big global banks have to derivatives contracts. It is hard to put into words how reckless they have been. At the low end of the estimates, the total exposure that global banks have to derivatives contracts is 710 trillion dollars. That is an amount of money that is almost unimaginable. And the reality of the matter is that there is really not all that much actual “money” in circulation today. In fact, as you will read about below, there is only a little bit more than a trillion dollars of U.S. currency that you can actually hold in your hands in existence. If we all went out and tried to close our bank accounts and investment portfolios all at once, that would create a major league crisis. The truth is that our financial system is little more than a giant pyramid scheme that is based on debt and paper promises. It is literally a miracle that it has survived for so long without collapsing already.
When Americans think about the financial crisis that we are facing, the largest number that they usually can think of is the size of the U.S. national debt. And at over 17 trillion dollars, it truly is massive. But it is actually the 2nd-smallest number on the list below. The following are 12 numbers about the global financial Ponzi scheme that should be burned into your brain…
–$1,280,000,000,000 – Most people are really surprised when they hear this number. Right now, there is only 1.28 trillion dollars worth of U.S. currency floating around out there.
–$17,555,165,805,212.27 – This is the size of the U.S. national debt. It has grown by more than 10 trillion dollars over the past ten years.
–$32,000,000,000,000 – This is the total amount of money that the global elite have stashed in offshore banks (that we know about).
–$48,611,684,000,000 – This is the total exposure that Goldman Sachs has to derivatives contracts.
–$59,398,590,000,000 – This is the total amount of debt (government, corporate, consumer, etc.) in the U.S. financial system. 40 years ago, this number was just a little bit above 2 trillion dollars.
–$70,088,625,000,000 – This is the total exposure that JPMorgan Chase has to derivatives contracts.
–$75,000,000,000,000 – This is approximately the total exposure that German banking giant Deutsche Bank has to derivatives contracts.
–$100,000,000,000,000 – This is the total amount of government debt in the entire world. This amount has grown by $30 trillion just since mid-2007.
–$223,300,000,000,000 – This is the approximate size of the total amount of debt in the entire world.
–$236,637,271,000,000 – According to the U.S. government, this is the total exposure that the top 25 banks in the United States have to derivatives contracts. But those banks only have total assets of about 9.4 trillion dollars combined. In other words, the exposure of our largest banks to derivatives outweighs their total assets by a ratio of about 25 to 1.
–$710,000,000,000,000 to $1,500,000,000,000,000 – The estimates of the total notional value of all global derivatives contracts generally fall within this range. At the high end of the range, the ratio of derivatives exposure to global GDP is about 21 to 1.
Most people tend to assume that the “authorities” have fixed whatever caused the financial world to almost end back in 2008, but that is not the case at all.
In fact, the total amount of government debt around the globe has grown by about 40 percent since then, and the “too big to fail banks” have collectively gotten 37 percent larger since then.
Our “authorities” didn’t fix anything. All they did was reinflate the bubble and kick the can down the road for a little while.
I don’t know how anyone can take an honest look at the numbers and not come to the conclusion that this is completely and totally unsustainable.
How much debt can the global financial system take before it utterly collapses?
How recklessly can the big banks behave before the house of cards that they have constructed implodes underneath them?
For the moment, everything seems fine. Stock markets around the world have been setting record highs and credit is flowing like wine.
But at some point a day of reckoning is coming, and when it arrives it is going to be the most painful financial crisis the world has ever seen.
If you plan on getting ready before it strikes, now is the time to do so.