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The South American Financial Crisis Of 2015

South America - Public DomainMost nations in South America are either already experiencing an economic recession or are right on the verge of one.  In general, South American economies are very heavily dependent on exports, and right now they are being absolutely shredded by the twin blades of a commodity price collapse and a skyrocketing U.S. dollar.  During the boom times in South America, governments and businesses loaded up on tremendous amounts of debt.  Since much of that debt was denominated in U.S. dollars, South American borrowers are now finding that it takes much more of their own local currencies to service and pay back those debts.  At the same time, there is much less demand for commodities being produced by South American nations in the international marketplace.  As a result, South America is heading into a full-blown financial crisis which will cause years of pain for the entire continent.

If you know your financial history, then you know that we have seen this exact same scenario play out before in various parts of the world.  The following comes from a recent CNN article

The dollar’s gains should make history nerds shake in their boots. Its rally in the early 1980s helped trigger Latin America’s debt crisis. Fifteen years later, the greenback surged quickly again, causing Southeast Asian economies, such as Thailand, to collapse after a run on the banks ensued.

In particular, what is going on right now is so similar to what took place back in the early 1980s.  At that time, Latin American governments were swimming in debt, the U.S. dollar was surging and commodity prices were falling.  The conditions were perfect for a debt crisis in Latin America, and that is precisely what happened

When the world economy went into recession in the 1970s and 80s, and oil prices skyrocketed, it created a breaking point for most countries in the region. Developing countries also found themselves in a desperate liquidity crunch. Petroleum exporting countries – flush with cash after the oil price increases of 1973-74 – invested their money with international banks, which ‘recycled’ a major portion of the capital as loans to Latin American governments. The sharp increase in oil prices caused many countries to search out more loans to cover the high prices, and even oil producing countries wanted to use the opportunity to develop further. These oil producers believed that the high prices would remain and would allow them to pay off their additional debt.

As interest rates increased in the United States of America and in Europe in 1979, debt payments also increased, making it harder for borrowing countries to pay back their debts. Deterioration in the exchange rate with the US dollar meant that Latin American governments ended up owing tremendous quantities of their national currencies, as well as losing purchasing power. The contraction of world trade in 1981 caused the prices of primary resources (Latin America’s largest export) to fall.

Sadly, the same mistakes have been repeated once again.  In recent years South American nations have loaded up on vast amounts of debt, and now that commodity prices are tanking and the U.S. dollar is surging, all of that debt is creating tremendous headaches.

For instance, just consider what is happening in Brazil

Brazil’s real plummeted to a 12-year low of 3.34 to the dollar, reflecting the country’s heavy reliance on exports of iron ore and other raw materials to China.

The devaluation tightens the noose on Brazilian companies saddled with $188bn in dollar debt taken out during the glory days of the commodity boom. The oil group Petrobras alone raised $52bn on the US bond markets.

Today, Brazil has the 7th largest economy on the entire planet.

So a major financial crisis in Brazil would be extremely significant.

And that is precisely what is starting to happen.  It is being projected that Brazilian government debt will soon be reduced to junk status, Brazilian stocks have already entered “correction territory“, and economic forecasters say that the Brazilian economy is heading into its worst recession in at least 25 years

Brazil needs to brace itself for some very tough times. Brazilian banks are currently forecasting another economic contraction for the South American country in 2016, marking the first time that Brazil’s economy has shrunk in two consecutive years since the Great Depression.

Last Friday, economist Nelson Teixeira of Switzerland-based financial services holding company Credit Suisse released a revision of his already dour forecast for the Brazilian GDP, moving this year’s numbers from -1.8 percent to -2.4 percent.

The IMF is also projecting that 2015 will be a year of recession for the second largest economy in South America (Argentina) and the third largest economy in South America (Venezuela).

And actually Venezuela is in the deepest trouble of all.  According to a recent Bloomberg article, it appears to be inevitable that there will be a debt default by the Venezuelan government in the very near future…

Harvard University Professor Ricardo Hausmann last year questioned Venezuela’s decision to keep paying bondholders as the country sank deeper into crisis and suggested it stop honoring the debt.

Now, he’s saying Venezuela will have no choice but to default next year.

Hausmann’s comments come as a deepening collapse in oil prices and a shortage of dollars stoke concern Venezuela is fast running out of money to stay current on debt. The country’s bonds plunged last year after Hausmann, who served as Venezuelan planning minister after Hugo Chavez’s failed 1992 coup, raised the specter of default, saying he found “no moral grounds” for the government to pay debt at a time when Venezuelans were facing shortages of everything from basic medicine to toilet paper.

The inflation rate in Venezuela today is an astounding 68.5 percent, and the country is plunging into full-blown economic collapse.  The following comes from Zero Hedge

As we recently warned, the hyperinflationary collapse in Venezuela is reaching its terminal phase. With inflation soaring at least 65%, murder rates the 2nd highest in the world, and chronic food (and toilet paper shortages), the following disturbing clip shows what is rapidly becoming major social unrest in the Maduro’s socialist paradise… and perhaps more importantly, Venezuela shows us what the end game for every fiat money system looks like (and perhaps Janet and her colleagues should remember that).

Here is the video that was mentioned in the excerpt above.  As you watch this, please keep in mind that the United States is on the exact same path that Venezuela has gone down…

Economic chaos is beginning to erupt all over the planet, and the depression that we are entering into will truly be global in scope.

For the moment, many in the United States still believe that what is going on in the rest of the world will not affect us.  But the truth is that we are also right on the verge of a major financial crisis, and it is going to be even worse than what we experienced back in 2008.

So what do you think about what is going on down in South America?

Please feel free to add to the discussion by posting a comment below…

The President Of France Wants Eurozone Members To Transfer Their Sovereignty To A United States Of Europe

EU Poster Tower Of BabelThe President of France has come up with a very creative way of solving the European debt crisis.  On Sunday, a piece authored by French President Francois Hollande suggested that the ultimate solution to the problems currently plaguing Europe would be for every member of the eurozone to transfer all of their sovereignty to a newly created federal government.  In other words, it would essentially be a “United States of Europe”.  This federal government would have a prime minister, a parliament, a federal budget and a federal treasury.  Presumably, the current national governments in Europe would continue to function much like state governments in the U.S. do.  In the end, there may be some benefits to such a union – particularly for the weaker members of the eurozone.  But at what cost would those benefits come?

When I first learned that French President Francois Hollande had proposed that the members of the eurozone should create their own version of a federal government, I was quite stunned.  But I shouldn’t have been surprised.  For the global elite, the answer to just about any problem is more centralization.  The following comes from a Bloomberg article that was posted on Sunday…

French President Francois Hollande said that the 19 countries using the euro need their own government complete with a budget and parliament to cooperate better and overcome the Greek crisis.

“Circumstances are leading us to accelerate,” Hollande said in an opinion piece published by the Journal du Dimanche on Sunday. “What threatens us is not too much Europe, but a lack of it.”

So precisely what would “more Europe” look like?

Hollande envisions a central government that has both a parliament and a federal budget

“I have proposed taking up Jacques Delors’ idea about euro government, with the addition of a specific budget and a parliament to ensure democratic control,” Hollande said.

His remarks touched on what analysts have seen as a major flaw in the euro.

Under the 1992 Treaty of Maastricht, countries which share a common currency must obey rules on borrowing and deficit spending.

But the Greek crisis saw one of the 19 eurozone members notch up successive worsening deficits and amass a mountain of debt. The problems were only addressed by bailouts from the European institutions and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Critics say the problem stems from a lack of centralised control over national fiscal policies, which today are jealously guarded areas of sovereignty.

In addition, this eurozone government would have its own prime minister.  In essence, he would be the European version of the president of the United States.  The following comes from the Independent

There would be a eurozone government with its own prime minister, the officials said. This government would have its own budget – separate from the EU budget – to aid and invest in more fragile countries, It would try to harmonise corporation and pay-roll taxes to ensure fair competition in the eurozone.

Of course Hollande is not the only one calling for more centralization.  Last month, European Central Bank President Mario Draghi, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and Eurogroup President Jeroen Dijsselbloem proposed a plan that would create a shared European treasury

Draghi called for the creation of a shared treasury within 10 years in a joint proposal with politicians including European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and Eurogroup President Jeroen Dijsselbloem last month.

I don’t anticipate that we will see any of these things implemented immediately.

However, what is important is the fact that this is where the European elite plan to take Europe.  And when the next great European financial crisis erupts, these proposals will be offered as the “solutions” necessary to end the crisis.

During times of emergency, the elite are often able to push things through that they would never be able to accomplish under normal circumstances.  At the moment, it would be extremely difficult to get everyone to agree to a full-blown “United States of Europe”.  But if things were to start spinning wildly out of control and people were suddenly desperately clamoring for solutions, the environment would be quite different.

What that time arrives, the key will be to get Germany and France to agree on what a “United States of Europe” should look like.  If Germany and France can agree, it is inevitable that most of the other members of the eurozone would ultimately fall in line.

One potential hurdle for the creation of this new government would be the euro.  The current treaty agreements concerning the euro are quite complicated and quite restrictive.  If Germany and France decided that they did want to create a “United States of Europe”, they might have to create an entirely new currency in order to accomplish that.

I know that sounds kind of crazy right now, but at one time the concept of “the euro” sounded really crazy too.

For the moment, the debt crisis in Europe just continues to get even worse.  Greece, Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Spain, Belgium and France are all drowning in debt.  Whether or not we see a “Grexit” in the short-term, I fully expect that European bond yields will continue to rise and European stocks will take quite a tumble in the months ahead.

I believe that we are right on the verge of a very significant European financial crisis.  In particular, keep on eye on the big banks.  Just like in the United States, the “too big to fail” banks in Europe are massively overleveraged and are tremendously exposed to derivatives.

In fact, the bank with the most exposure to derivatives on the entire planet is Deutsche Bank.  It has been reported that Deutsche Bank has a whopping 75 trillion dollars worth of exposure to derivatives, their co-CEOs were recently forced to resign, and there are all sorts of rumblings about troubles going on behind the scenes at the bank.

What do you think would happen if the biggest and most important bank in Germany suddenly became the next Lehman Brothers?

That is something to think about.

Meanwhile, the euro continues to fall.  For a long time, I have been repeating my prediction that the euro would fall to parity with the U.S. dollar.

One year ago, the EUR/USD was sitting at 1.35.

Today, it has come all the way down to 1.08.

There will be more ups and downs, but we are almost there.

A time of great chaos is coming to Europe, and the eurozone will be deeply shaken.

But whether or not there is a break up of the eurozone in the short-term, in the long-term the goal of the European elite is even more integration and even more centralization.

So even though there will be significant bumps in the road, I fully expect to see the “United States of Europe” that French President Francois Hollande has proposed.

Do you agree?

What do you think the future holds for Europe?

Please feel free to join the discussion by posting a comment below…

The ‘Greek Debt Deal’ Is Already Starting To Fall Apart

Puzzle Pieces - Public DomainThe “deal that was designed to fail” has already begun to unravel.  The IMF, which was expected to provide a big chunk of the financing, has indicated that it may walk away from the deal unless Greece is granted extensive debt relief.  This is something that the Germans and their allies have resolutely refused to do.  Meanwhile, outrage is pouring in from all over Europe regarding what the Greek government is being forced to do to their own people.  Most of this anger is being directed at the Germans, but the truth is that without German money the Greek banking system and the Greek economy will completely and utterly collapse.  So even though Greek Prime Minister Alex Tsipras admits that this is a deal that he does not believe in, he is attempting to get it pushed through the Greek parliament, and we should know on Wednesday whether he was successful or not.  But even if the Greek parliament approves it, we could still see either the German or the Finnish parliaments reject it.  It seems as though nobody is really happy with this deal, and these negotiations have exposed very deep divisions within Europe.  Could this be the beginning of the end for the eurozone?

The Germans appear to believe that they can push the Greeks out of the eurozone and that everything will be okay somehow.  This is something that I wrote about extensively yesterday, and it turns out that a lot of other prominent voices agree with me.  For example, just consider what Paul Krugman of the New York Times had to say about this.  I am kind of amazed that he finally got something right…

Suppose you consider Tsipras an incompetent twerp. Suppose you dearly want to see Syriza out of power. Suppose, even, that you welcome the prospect of pushing those annoying Greeks out of the euro.

Even if all of that is true, this Eurogroup list of demands is madness. The trending hashtag ThisIsACoup is exactly right. This goes beyond harsh into pure vindictiveness, complete destruction of national sovereignty, and no hope of relief. It is, presumably, meant to be an offer Greece can’t accept; but even so, it’s a grotesque betrayal of everything the European project was supposed to stand for.

Greece desperately wants to stay in the euro, and they desperately want money from the rest of Europe to keep coming in.  At this point, they will agree to just about anything to keep from getting booted out of the common currency.  That is why the Germans and their allies had to make the deal so horrible.  They were attempting to find some way to make things so harsh on the Greeks that they would finally choose to walk away.

And to a certain extent it seems to be working.  Even some members of Syriza are publicly declaring that they are going to vote against this package.  The following comes from the Washington Post

Greek Energy Minister Panagiotis Lafazanis, who leads a hard-line leftist faction within Syriza, said in a statement Tuesday that the country’s creditors had “acted like cold-blooded blackmailers and economic assassins.”

Yet he also took indirect aim at Tsipras, calling on the Greek prime minister to reverse himself and tear up the agreement, which he described as a violation of the party’s ideals.

Even if Tsipras can pass the deal in Parliament, as he is expected to do, Lafazanis vowed that the Greek people would “annul it through their unity and struggle.”

Right now, the vote looks like it could be quite close.  Even though Greek Prime Minister Alex Tsipras has publicly admitted that this is a deal that “I do not believe in“, he is really pushing hard to get the votes that he needs.  In fact, according to Reuters he has been actively reaching out to opposition parties to secure votes…

Having staved off a financial meltdown, Tsipras has until Wednesday night to pass measures tougher than those rejected in a referendum days ago. With as many as 30-40 hardliners in his own ranks expected to mutiny, Tsipras will likely need the support of pro-European opposition parties to muster the 151 votes he needs to pass the law in parliament.

But even if this deal gets through parliament, it is highly questionable whether Greece will actually be able to do what is being required of them.  For instance, the 50 billion euro “privatization fund” seems to be something of a pipe dream

Privatisation agency Taiped has put out to tender assets with a nominal value of 7.7 billion euros since 2011, but has cashed in only just over 3.0 billion euros, according to 2014 figures.

On June 26 even the International Monetary Fund (IMF), one of Greece’s creditors, raised eyebrows over the idea of raking in lots of money from privatisations.

It stressed that the sale of public banking assets was supposed to raise tens of billions of euros but it was “highly unlikely that these proceeds will materialise” considering the high levels of nonperforming loans in the banking system.

It said that realistically only 500 million euros of proceeds were likely to materialise each year — at which rate it would take around 100 years to reach the 50 billion euro goal.

For the moment, though, let’s assume that the Greek parliament agrees to these demands and that by some miracle the Greek government can find a way to do everything that is being required of them.

And for the moment, let’s assume that this deal is approved by both the German and Finnish parliaments.

Even if everything else goes right, this deal can still be killed by the IMF

The International Monetary Fund has sent its strongest signal that it may walk away from Greece’s new bailout programme, arguing in a confidential analysis that the country’s debt is skyrocketing and budget surplus targets set by Athens cannot be achieved, reports FT.

In the three-page memo, sent to EU authorities at the weekend and obtained by FT, the IMF said the recent turmoil in the Greek economy would lead debt to peak at close to 200 percent of economic output over the next two years. At the start of the eurozone crisis, Athens’ debt stood at 127 percent.

In order for the IMF to participate in this new Greek bailout, the IMF must deem Greek debt to be sustainable.  And at this point that does not appear to be the case

Under its rules, the IMF is not allowed to participate in a bailout if a country’s debt is deemed unsustainable and there is no prospect of it returning to private bond markets for financing. The IMF has bent its rules to participate in previous Greek bailouts, but the memo suggests it can no longer do so.

But the Germans made it very clear that there would be no bailout unless the IMF was involved.

So what would satisfy the IMF?

The IMF study seems to indicate that massive debt relief for Greece would be required.  The following comes from Reuters

The study, seen by Reuters, said European countries would have to give Greece a 30-year grace period on servicing all its European debt, including new loans, and a dramatic maturity extension. Or else they must make annual transfers to the Greek budget or accept “deep upfront haircuts” on existing loans.

Needless to say, those kinds of concessions are anathema to the Germans.  There is no way that anything like that could ever get through the German parliament.

But to be honest, the Germans never intended for this deal to be successful anyway.  Just consider what German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schauble told reporters on Tuesday

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schauble made clear in Brussels on Tuesday that some members of the Berlin government think it would make more sense for Athens to leave the euro zone temporarily rather than take another bailout.

This is what Schauble and his allies have wanted all along.  This entire “deal” was crafted with the intent of creating conditions under which Greece could be forced out of the euro.

By this time tomorrow, we should know what the Greek parliament is going to do.  However, that won’t be the end of the story.  One way or another, the Germans are going to get their wish.  But once they do, I think that they will be quite surprised by the chaos that is unleashed.

3 Big Reasons Why The ‘Greek Debt Deal’ Is Really A German Trap

Trap - Public DomainGreece is saved? All over the planet, news headlines are boldly proclaiming that a “deal” has been reached which will give Greece the money that it needs and keep it in the eurozone.  But as you will see below, this is not true at all.  Yesterday, when I wrote that “there never was going to be any deal“, I was not exaggerating.  This “deal” was not drafted with the intention of “saving Greece”.  As I explained in my previous article, these negotiations were all about setting up Greece for eviction from the euro.  You see, the truth is that Greece desperately wants to stay in the euro, but Germany (and allies such as Finland) want Greece out.  Since Germany can’t simply order Greece to leave the euro, they need some sort of legal framework which will make it possible, and that is what this new “deal” provides.  As I am about to explain, there are all kinds of conditions that must be satisfied and hurdles that must be crossed before Greece ever sees a single penny.  If there is a single hiccup along the way, and this is what the Germans are counting on, Greece will be ejected from the eurozone.  This “deal” has been designed to fail so that the Germans can get what they have wanted all along.  I think that three very famous words from Admiral Ackbar sum up the situation very well: “It’s a trap!

So why is this “Greek debt deal” really a German trap?

The following are three big reasons…

#1 The “Deal” Is Designed To Be Rejected By The Greek Parliament

If Germany really wanted to save Greece, they would have already done so.  Instead, now they have forced Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to agree to much, much harsher austerity terms than Greek voters overwhelmingly rejected during the recent referendum by a vote of 61 percent to 39 percent.  Tsipras has only been given until Wednesday to pass a whole bunch of new laws, and another week to make another series of major economic changes.  The following comes from CNN

Greece has to swiftly pass a series of new laws. Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has until Wednesday to convince Parliament to pass the first few, including pension cuts and higher taxes.

Assuming that happens, Greek lawmakers have another week, until July 22, to enact another batch of economic changes. These include adopting European Union rules on how to manage banks in crisis, and do a major overhaul to make Greece’s civil courts faster and more efficient.

Can Tsipras actually get all this done in such a short amount of time?

The Germans are hoping that he can’t.  And already, two of Syriza’s coalition partners have publicly declared that they have no intention of voting in favor of this “deal”.  The following is from a Bloomberg report

Discontent brewed as Tsipras arrived back in the Greek capital. Left Platform, a faction within Syriza, and his coalition partners, the Independent Greeks party, both signaled they won’t be able to support the deal. That opposition alone would wipe out Tsipras’s 12-seat majority in parliament, forcing him to rely on opposition votes to carry the day.

The terms of the “deal” are not extremely draconian because the Germans want to destroy Greek sovereignty as many are suggesting.  Rather, they are designed to provoke an overwhelmingly negative reaction in Greece so that the Greeks will willingly choose to reject the deal and thus be booted out of the euro.

And this is what we are seeing.  So far, the response of the Greek public toward this deal has been overwhelmingly negative

Haralambos Rouliskos, a 60-year-old economist who was out walking in Athens, described the deal as “misery, humiliation and slavery”.

Katerina Katsaba, a 52-year-old working for a pharmaceutical company, said: “I am not in favour of this deal. I know they (the eurozone creditors) are trying to blackmail us.”

On Wednesday, the union for Greek public workers has even called a 24 hour strike to protest this “agreement”

Greece’s public workers are being called to stage a 24-hour strike on Wednesday, the day their country’s parliament is to vote on reforms needed to unlock the bankster eurozone plan agreed to by Greek Prime Minster Alex Tsipras.

Their union, Adedy, called for the stoppage in a statement issued today, saying it was against the agreement reached with the eurozone.

The Greek government is not guaranteed any money right now.

According to Bloomberg, the Greek government must pass all of the laws being imposed upon them by the EU “before Greece can even begin negotiations with creditors to access a third international bailout in five years.”

The Germans and their allies are actually hoping that there is a huge backlash in Greece and that Tsipras fails to get this package pushed through the Greek parliament.  If that happens, Greece gets ejected from the euro, and Germany doesn’t look like the bad guy.

#2 Even If The “Deal” Miraculously Gets Through The Greek Parliament, It May Not Survive Other European Parliaments

The Greek parliament is not the only legislative body that must approve this new deal.  The German and Finnish parliaments (among others) must also approve it.  According to USA Today, it is being projected that the German and Finnish parliaments will probably vote on this new deal on Thursday or Friday…

Thursday/Friday, July 16/17: Eurozone parliaments must also agree to the plan for Greece’s $95 billion bailout. The biggest tests may come from Finland and Germany, two nations especially critical of Greece’s handling of the crisis. Berlin has contributed the most to Greece’s loans.

Either Germany or Finland could kill the entire “deal” with a single “no” vote.

Finnish Finance Minister Alexander Stubb has already stated that Finland “cannot agree” with a new bailout for Greece, and it is highly questionable whether or not the German parliament will give it approval.

I think that the Germans and their allies would much prefer for the Greeks to reject the deal and walk away, but it may come down to one of these parliaments drawing a line in the sand.

#3 The Deal Makes Implementation Extraordinarily Difficult

If Greece fails to live up to each and every one of the extremely draconian measures demanded in the “deal”, they will be booted from the eurozone.

And if you take a look at what is being demanded of them, it is extremely unrealistic.  Here is just one example…

For instance, the Greek government agreed to transfer up to 50 billion euros worth of Greek assets to an independent fund that will raise money from privatization.

According to the document, 25 billion euros from this fund will be poured into the banks, 12.5 billion will be used to pay off debt, and the remaining 12.5 billion to boost the economy through investment.

The fund will be based in Greece and run by the Greeks, but with supervision from European authorities.

Where in the world is the Greek government going to find 50 billion euros worth of assets at this point?  The Greek government is flat broke and the banks are insolvent.

But if they don’t find 50 billion euros worth of assets, they have violated the agreement and they get booted.

This whole thing is about setting up Greece for failure so that there is a legal excuse to boot them out of the euro.

And it actually almost happened very early on Monday morning.  The following comes from Business Insider

As the FT tells it, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras rose from their chairs at 6 a.m. on Monday and headed for the door, resigned to a Greek exit from the euro.

“Sorry, but there is no way you are leaving this room,” European Council president Donald Tusk reportedly said.

And so a Grexit was avoided.

For the moment, Greece has supposedly been “saved”.

But anyone that believes that this crisis is “over” is just being delusional.

The Germans and their allies have successfully lured the Greek government into a trap. Thanks to Tsipras, they have been handed a legal framework for getting rid of Greece.

All they have to do now is wait for just the right moment to spring the trap, and it might just happen a lot sooner than a lot of people may think.

European Leaders Promise The Greek Debt Crisis Will Be Resolved One Way Or Another On Sunday

The End - Public DomainThe wait will soon be over.  Greece submitted a final compromise plan to its eurozone creditors on Thursday, European finance ministers will meet on Saturday to discuss the proposal, and an emergency summit of all 28 EU nations on Sunday will make a final decision on what to do.  The summit on Sunday is being billed as a “final deadline” and a “last chance” by EU officials.  In essence, Greece is being given one more opportunity to embrace the austerity measures that are being demanded of them by their creditors.  So has Greece gone far enough with this new proposal?  We shall find out on Sunday.

For months, the entire planet has been following this seemingly endless Greek debt saga.  Global financial markets have gyrated with every twist and turn of this ongoing drama, and many people have wondered if it would ever come to an end.  But now European leaders are promising us that the uncertainty is finally going to be over this weekend

This time, the leaders’ summit called for Sunday is being billed by all concerned as the definitive moment that will determine Greece’s future in the euro. It’s “really and truly the final wake-up call for Greece, but also for us — our last chance,” EU President Donald Tusk said on Wednesday, the day after the most recent emergency session.

So what is the general mood of European leaders as they head into this summit?

Overall, it does not appear to be overly optimistic.

For example, just consider what the head of the Bundesbank is saying

Bundesbank Chief Jens Weidmann, meanwhile, said that central banks have no mandate to safeguard the solvency of banks or governments, and stressed that emergency liquidity to Greece should not be increased.

And even normally upbeat leaders such as ECB President Mario Draghi are sounding quite sullen

Just how uncertain the coming days are was highlighted when ECB President Mario Draghi voiced highly unusual doubts about the chances of rescuing Greece.

Italian daily Il Sole 24 Ore quoted the ECB chief, under growing fire in Germany for keeping Greek banks afloat, as saying he was not sure a solution would be found for Greece and he did not believe Russia would come to Athens’ rescue.

Asked if a deal to save Greece could be wrapped up, Draghi said: “I don’t know, this time it’s really difficult.

That certainly does not sound promising.

It isn’t as if the Greeks are not trying to find a compromise.  Their latest offer reportedly contains some very painful austerity measures

Greece is seeking another bailout totaling at least 50 billion euros ($55 billion) from its European creditors and offering to make painful spending cuts and tax increases as it races to avert a financial meltdown, according to government sources.

Under a 10-page blueprint completed late Thursday, the country said it would undertake austerity measures worth between 12 billion and 13 billion euros ($13 billion to $14 billion), including raising taxes on cafes, bars and restaurants.

But once again, it appears that pensions may be a major sticking point.  The following comes from a Zero Hedge report about the latest Greek proposal…

The biggest surprise is once again in the biggest hurdle: pensions. Recall that as we accurately predicted two weeks ago, it was the government’s unwillingness to directly cut pensions that led to the IMF refusing to even negotiate the Greek proposal.

As a further reminder, this is what IMF’s chief economist Olivier Blanchard said almost a month ago on the topic:

Why insist on pensions? Pensions and wages account for about 75% of primary spending; the other 25% have already been cut to the bone.  Pension expenditures account for over 16% of GDP, and transfers from the budget to the pension system are close to 10% of GDP.  We believe a reduction of pension expenditures of 1% of GDP (out of 16%) is needed, and that it can be done while protecting the poorest pensioners

Fast forward to today when MNI reports that “there are no pension cuts in the draft of the proposal.”

And if recent experience is indicative, this likely means that the Troika will once again refuse to move on with the draft.

We shall see what happens on Sunday.

I have a feeling that it is all going to come down to what Germany wants to do.  At this point, the Greeks owe the Germans approximately 86.7 billion euros.  The German people are overwhelmingly against pouring more money down a financial black hole, and German leaders have taken a very hard line with Greece in recent days.

If Germany does not like this new Greek proposal, it will almost certainly fail.  And if there is no deal, Greek government finances will totally freeze up, the Greek banking system will utterly collapse, and the Greeks will probably be forced to switch back to the drachma.

Speaking of the drachma, check out what Bloomberg is reporting

Between June 28 and July 4 at a Hilton hotel in Athens, transactions on a Bloomberg reporter’s Visa credit card issued by Citigroup Inc. were posted as being carried out in “Drachma EQ.”

The inexplicable notation — bear in mind, the euro remains Greece’s official currency — flummoxed two very polite customer service representatives and spokesmen for the companies involved. It depicts a currency changeover that the Greek government and European officials have been working for over six months to avoid.

Banks around the world are bracing for the increasingly real possibility that Greece may be forced to abandon the euro, a currency it shares with 18 other European countries.

Could plans to roll out the drachma already be in motion behind the scenes?

The next few days promise to be extremely interesting.

Meanwhile, there are all sorts of other indications that big economic trouble is ahead for the entire planet.  For instance, global commodity prices have been plunging big time

While market commentators worry whether an economic collapse in Greece could trigger turmoil in financial markets, a slump in commodity markets may be signaling the world is already in a deep recession.

The slump in the Chinese stock market and concern over the Greek debt crisis sent commodities towards multiyear lows. The S&P GSCI—an index which represents a diversified basket of commodities—has been down nearly 40% over the past year and had slumped by more than six percent as of Wednesday, July 8th.

We witnessed a similar pattern just prior to the financial crisis of 2008.

And in addition to the problems that have erupted in China, Greece and Puerto RicoCNN is reporting that every major economy in Latin America “is slowing down or shrinking”…

Every major Latin American economy is slowing down or shrinking. The World Bank predicts this will be Latin America’s worst year of growth since the financial crisis. As if that’s not dire enough, the world’s two worst performing stock markets are in the region as well.

Very few people are talking about Latin America right now, but the truth is that the region is in the midst of a slow-motion economic implosion.  Here is more from CNN

Venezuela is arguably the world’s worst economy with sky-high inflation. Next door, Colombia has the world’s worst stock market this year. Its index is down 13% so far this year. The second worst is Peru, down 12.5%.

Right now, trouble signs are emerging all over the planet.  That is why we shouldn’t just focus on Greece.  Yes, if Greece is kicked out of the euro that is going to greatly accelerate things.  But no matter what happens with Greece, the truth is that we are steamrolling toward another major worldwide financial crisis.  Perhaps you didn’t notice, but I purposely did not use the word “Greece” once in my recent article entitled “The Economic Collapse Blog Has Issued A RED ALERT For The Last Six Months Of 2015“.

Yes, I am taking what is happening over in Europe very seriously.  I believe that we are about to see some things happen over there that we have never seen before.

But the Greek crisis is only part of the picture.  Everywhere on the globe that you look, red flags are going up.

Sadly, just like in 2008, most people have chosen to be willingly blind to what is happening right in front of their eyes.

Why The Puerto Rico Debt Crisis Is Such A Huge Threat To The U.S. Financial System

Puerto Rico Map On A Globe - Photo by TUBSThe debt crisis in Puerto Rico could potentially cost financial institutions in the United States tens of billions of dollars in losses.  This week, Puerto Rico Governor Alejandro Garcia Padilla publicly announced that Puerto Rico’s  73 billion dollar debt is “not payable,” and a special adviser that was recently appointed to help straighten out the island’s finances said that it is “insolvent” and will totally run out of cash very shortly.  At this point, Puerto Rico’s debt is approximately 15 times larger than the per capita median debt of the 50 U.S. states.  Yes, the Greek debt crisis is larger, as Greece currently owes about $350 billion to the rest of the planet.  But only about $14 billion of that total is owed to U.S. financial institutions.  But with Puerto Rico, things are very different.  Just about the entire 73 billion dollar debt is owed to U.S. financial institutions, and this could potentially cause massive problems for some extremely leveraged Wall Street firms.

There is a reason why Puerto Rico is called “America’s Greece”.  In Puerto Rico today, more than 40 percent of the population is living in poverty, the unemployment rate is over 12 percent, and the economy of the small island nation has continually been in recession since 2006.

Yet all this time Puerto Rico has continued to pile up even more debt.  Finally, it has gotten to the point where all of this debt is simply unpayable

Steven Rhodes, the retired U.S. bankruptcy judge who oversaw Detroit’s historic bankruptcy and has now been retained by Puerto Rico to help solve its problems, gave a blunt assessment on Monday.

Puerto Rico “urgently needs our help,” Rhodes said. “It can no longer pay its debts, it will soon run out of cash to operate, its residents and businesses will suffer,” he added.

This is why I hammer on the danger of U.S. government debt so often.  As we see with the examples of Greece and Puerto Rico, eventually a day of reckoning always arrives.  And when the day of reckoning arrives, power shifts into the hands of those that you owe the money too.

It would be hard to understate just how severe the debt crisis in Puerto Rico has become.  Former IMF economist Anne Krueger has gone so far as to say that it is “really dire”

The situation is dire, and I mean really dire,” said former IMF economist Anne Krueger, co-author of the report commissioned by the U.S. territory, which recommended debt restructuring, tax hikes and spending cuts. “The needed measures may face political resistance but failure to address the issues would affect even more the people of Puerto Rico.”

So who is going to get left holding the bag?

As I mentioned at the top of this article, major U.S. financial institutions are very heavily exposed.  Income from Puerto Rican bonds is exempt from state and federal taxation, and so that made them very attractive to many U.S. investors.  According to USA Today, there are 180 mutual funds that have “at least 5% of their portfolios in Puerto Rican bonds”…

The inability of the U.S. territory to repay its debt, combined with the financial crisis in Greece, would have far-reaching implications for financial markets and unsuspecting American investors. Morningstar, an investment research firm based in Chicago, estimated in 2013 that 180 mutual funds in the United States and elsewhere have at least 5% of their portfolios in Puerto Rican bonds.

It is important to keep in mind that many of these financial institutions are very highly leveraged.  So just a “couple of percentage points” could mean the different between life and death for some of these firms.

And unlike what is happening with Greece, the private financial institutions that hold Puerto Rican bonds are not likely to be very eager to “negotiate”.  In fact, the largest holder of Puerto Rican debt has already stated that it is very much against any kind of restructuring

U.S. fund manager OppenheimerFunds, the largest holder of Puerto Rico debt among U.S. municipal bond funds, warned the island it stands ready to defend the terms of bonds it holds, a day after the governor said he wanted to restructure debt and postpone bond payments.

What Oppenheimer is essentially saying is that it does not plan to give Puerto Rico any slack at all.  Here is more from the article that I just quoted above

OppenheimerFunds, with about $4.5 billion exposure to Puerto Rico according to Morningstar, said it believed the island could repay bondholders while providing essential services to citizens and growing the economy. It said it stood ready “to defend the previously agreed to terms in each and every bond indenture.”

“We are disheartened that Governor Padilla, in a public forum, has called for negotiations with other creditors, representing and including the millions of individual Americans that hold Puerto Rico municipal bonds,” a spokesman for Oppenheimer said in a statement.

But Puerto Rico simply does not have the money to meet all of their debt obligations.

So somebody is not going to get paid at some point.

When that happens, those that insure Puerto Rican bonds are also going to take tremendous losses.  The following comes from a recent piece by Stephen Flood

Now, bondholders are at risk as are the funds which hold Puerto Rican bonds and, more importantly, those who insure them in the derivatives market.

Dave Kranzler, from Investment Research Dynamics has warned that there are signs that the Puerto Rico situation may not remain a local crisis for much longer.

He points out that share prices of MBIA, the bond insurers, have been plummeting. MBIA are valued at $3.9 billion whereas their exposure to Puerto Rican debt is around $4.5 billion. Kranzler reckons their exposure could even be multiples of that figure. A default could wipe them out.

He also points out that the firm’s largest shareholders are Warburg Pincus, the firm to which Timothy Geithner went after his stint as Treasury Secretary, when he helped paper over the chasms opening up in the financial system.

Did you notice the word “derivatives” in that quote?

Hmmm – who has been writing endless articles warning about the danger of derivatives for years?

Who has been warning that “this gigantic time bomb is going to go off and absolutely cripple the entire global financial system“?

When Puerto Rico defaults, bond insurers are going to be expected to step up and make huge debt service payments to investors.

But this just might bankrupt some of these big bond insurers.  In fact, we have already started to see the stock prices of some of these bond insurers begin to plummet.  The following comes from the Wall Street Journal

Bond insurers MBIA Inc. and Ambac Financial Group Inc. are down again Tuesday as concerns over Puerto Rico’s ability to repay its debt multiply.

Investors fear that both firms face the potential for steep losses on their promises to backstop billions of Puerto Rico’s $72 billion of debt.

MBIA’s stock closed down 23% Monday, and fell more than 10% before rebounding Tuesday. By late afternoon, the stock was down 6%. Ambac’s stock fell 12% Monday and was off 14% Tuesday.

Of course Puerto Rico is just the tip of the iceberg of the coming debt crisis in the western hemisphere, just like Greece is just the tip of the iceberg of the coming debt crisis in Europe.

So stay tuned, because the second half of 2015 has now begun, and the remainder of this calendar year promises to be extremely “interesting”.

16 Facts About The Tremendous Financial Devastation That We Are Seeing All Over The World

Fireball - Devastation - Public DomainAs we enter the second half of 2015, financial panic has gripped most of the globe.  Stock prices are crashing in China, in Europe and in the United States.  Greece is on the verge of a historic default, and now Puerto Rico and Ukraine are both threatening to default on their debts if they do not receive concessions from their creditors.  Not since the financial crisis of 2008 has so much financial chaos been unleashed all at once.  Could it be possible that the great financial crisis of 2015 has begun?  The following are 16 facts about the tremendous financial devastation that is happening all over the world right now…

1. On Monday, the Dow fell by 350 points.  That was the biggest one day decline that we have seen in two years.

2. In Europe, stocks got absolutely smashed.  Germany’s DAX index dropped 3.6 percent, and France’s CAC 40 was down 3.7 percent.

3. After Greece, Italy is considered to be the most financially troubled nation in the eurozone, and on Monday Italian stocks were down more than 5 percent.

4. Greek stocks were down an astounding 18 percent on Monday.

5. As the week began, we witnessed the largest one day increase in European bond spreads that we have seen in seven years.

6. Chinese stocks have already met the official definition of being in a “bear market” – the Shanghai Composite is already down more than 20 percent from the high earlier this year.

7. Overall, this Chinese stock market crash is the worst that we have witnessed in 19 years.

8. On Monday, Standard & Poor’s slashed Greece’s credit rating once again and publicly stated that it believes that Greece now has a 50 percent chance of leaving the euro.

9. On Tuesday, Greece is scheduled to make a 1.6 billion euro loan repayment.  One Greek official has already stated that this is not going to happen.

10. Greek banks have been totally shut down, and a daily cash withdrawal limit of 60 euros has been established.  Nobody knows when this limit will be lifted.

11. Yields on 10 year Greek government bonds have shot past 15 percent.

12. U.S. investors are far more exposed to Greece than most people realize.  The New York Times explains…

But the question of what happens when the markets do open is particularly acute for the hedge fund investors — including luminaries like David Einhorn and John Paulson — who have collectively poured more than 10 billion euros, or $11 billion, into Greek government bonds, bank stocks and a slew of other investments.

Through the weekend, Nicholas L. Papapolitis, a corporate lawyer here, was working round the clock comforting and cajoling his frantic hedge fund clients.

“People are freaking out,” said Mr. Papapolitis, 32, his eyes red and his voice hoarse. “They have made some really big bets on Greece.”

13. The Governor of Puerto Rico has announced that the debts that the small island has accumulated are “not payable“.

14. Overall, the government of Puerto Rico owes approximately 72 billion dollars to the rest of the world.  Without debt restructuring, it is inevitable that Puerto Rico will default.  In fact, CNN says that it could happen by the end of this summer.

15. Ukraine has just announced that it may “suspend debt payments” if their creditors do not agree to take a 40 percent “haircut”.

16. This week the Bank for International Settlements has just come out with a new report that says that central banks around the world are “defenseless” to stop the next major global financial crisis.

Without a doubt, we are overdue for another major financial crisis.  All over the planet, stocks are massively overvalued, and financial markets have become completely disconnected from economic reality.  And when the next crash happens, many believe that it will be even worse than what we experienced back in 2008.  For example, just consider the words of Jim Rogers

“In the United States, we have had economic slowdowns every four to seven years since the beginning of the Republic. It’s now been six or seven years since our last stock market problem. We’re overdue for another problem.”

In Rogers’ view, low interest rates caused stock prices to increase significantly. He believes many assets are priced beyond their fundamentals thanks to the ultra-easy monetary policies by the Federal Reserve. Fed supporters argue such measures are good for investors, but Rogers takes a different view.

The Fed might tell us we don’t have to worry and that a correction or crash will never happen again. That’s balderdash! When this artificial sea of liquidity ends, we’re going to pay a terrible price. When the next economic problem occurs, it will be much worse because the debt is so much higher.”

Of course Rogers is far from alone.  A recent article by Paul B. Farrell expressed similar sentiments…

America’s 95 million investors are at huge risk. Remember the $10 trillion losses in the crash and recession of 2007-2009? The $8 trillion lost after the dot-com technology crash and recession of 2000-2003? This is the third big recession of the century. Yes, America will lose trillions again.

Especially with dead-ahead predictions like Mark Cook’s 4,000-point Dow correction. And Jeremy Grantham’s warning of a 50% crash around election time, with negative stock returns through the first term of the next president, beyond 2020. Starting soon.

Why is America so vulnerable when the next recession hits? Simple: The Fed’s cheap-money giveaway is killing America. When the downturn, correction, crash hits, it will compare to the 2008 crash. The Economist warns: “the world will be in a rotten position to do much about it. Rarely have so many large economies been so ill-equipped to manage a recession,” whatever the trigger.

Things have been relatively quiet in the financial world for so long that many have been sucked into a false sense of security.

But the underlying imbalances were always there, and they have been getting worse over time.

I believe that we are heading into a global financial collapse that will make what happened in 2008 look like a Sunday picnic by the time it is all said and done.

Global debt levels are at all-time highs, big banks all over the planet have been behaving more recklessly than ever, and financial markets are absolutely primed for a huge crash.

Hopefully things will calm down a bit as the rest of this week unfolds, but I wouldn’t count on it.

We have entered uncharted territory, and what comes next is going to shock the world.

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