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Venezuela Defaults On A Debt Payment – Is This The First Domino To Fall?

Did you know that Venezuela just went into default?  This should be an absolutely enormous story, but the mainstream media is being very quiet about it.  Wall Street and other major financial centers around the globe could potentially be facing hundreds of millions of dollars in losses, and the ripple effects could be felt for years to come.  Sovereign nations are not supposed to ever default on debt payments, and so this is a very rare occurrence indeed.  I have been writing about Venezuela for years, and now the crisis that has been raging in that nation threatens to escalate to an entirely new level.

Things are already so bad in Venezuela that people have been eating dogs, cats and zoo animals, but now that Venezuela has officially defaulted, there will be no more loans from the rest of the world and the desperation will grow even deeper…

Venezuela, a nation spiraling into a humanitarian crisis, has missed a debt payment. It could soon face grim consequences.

The South American country defaulted on its debt, according to a statement issued Monday night by S&P Global Ratings. The agency said the 30-day grace period had expired for a payment that was due in October.

A debt default risks setting off a dangerous series of events that could exacerbate Venezuela’s food and medical shortages.

So what might that “dangerous series of events” look like?

Well, Venezuela already has another 420 million dollars of debt payments that are overdue.  Investors around the world are facing absolutely catastrophic losses, and the legal wrangling over this crisis could take many years to resolve.  The following comes from Forbes

S&P says that it expects Venezuela to default on other bond payments. This comes as absolutely no surprise. A further $420m of bond payments are already overdue: unless Venezuela finds some dollars in a hurry, these will also go into default very soon.

S&P also warns that Venezuela could embark on a coercive debt restructuring that would in effect be default. Indeed, it has already announced its intention to do so, though as yet it has produced no plan. But we can imagine what such a debt restructuring might look like: in 2012, Greece imposed a coercive debt restructuring on private sector investors, and Argentina has restructured its dollar-denominated debt twice this century, the second time to sort out the dog’s breakfast Argentina made of the first restructuring. Investors could take substantial losses, and there would no doubt be lawsuits lasting for years. The biggest winners from distressed debt restructurings are always lawyers.

When you add this to all of the other bad news that has been coming out lately, it is easy to understand why things are starting to shift in the financial markets.

In fact, CNBC says that there is “a different tone to the markets in the last week or so”…

Another day, another down open. There’s a different tone to the markets in the last week or so.

It started last Tuesday, when an initial rally faded into a hard sell-off mid-morning. The next five trading sessions generally opened down.

Peter Tchir of Academy Securities, checked off a short list of concerns. There is progress on tax reform “but the reality is it’s not going to be as great as everyone hoped,” he said. There are questions about what the flatter yield curve means. And the recent arrests of high-ranking Saudis in an anti-corruption initiative created uncertainty in the last week and a half.

I keep writing about all of the experts that are warning of an imminent market crash, and yet most investors do not appear to be listening.

In fact, one survey found that the number of fund managers that “are taking higher-than-normal risk” is at an all-time high

According to Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s latest monthly fund-manager survey, which includes 206 panelists who manage $610 billion, investors are opting for the latter.

The firm finds that a record number of survey responders are taking higher-than-normal risk. That comes at a time when US stock market valuations are sitting close to their highest in history, creating a precarious situation in which investors are feeling emboldened at a time when they should be exhibiting caution.

This reminds me so much of what we have witnessed just prior to other market crashes.

During the euphoria of the original dotcom bubble, we were being told that Internet stocks would never go down because this was the beginning of an entirely new revolution.

And then investors lost trillions upon trillions of dollars when the market finally crashed.

Just prior to the financial crisis of 2008, we were being assured that there was nothing unusual going on with housing prices.

And then the market crashed and we were suddenly facing the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.

Every bubble eventually bursts, and this one will burst too.  Those that do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it, and it is likely that more money will be lost during this coming crisis than during any other crisis in our entire history.

Michael Snyder is a Republican candidate for Congress in Idaho’s First Congressional District, and you can learn how you can get involved in the campaign on his official website. His new book entitled “Living A Life That Really Matters” is available in paperback and for the Kindle on Amazon.com.

Corporations Are Defaulting On Their Debts Like It’s 2008 All Over Again

Corporate Debt Defaults - Public DomainThe Dow closed above 18,000 on Monday for the first time since July.  Isn’t that great news?  I truly wish that it was.  If the Dow actually reflected economic reality, I could stop writing about “economic collapse” and start blogging about cats or football.  Unfortunately, the stock market and the economy are moving in two completely different directions right now.  Even as stock prices soar, big corporations are defaulting on their debts at a level that we have not seen since the last financial crisis.  In fact, this wave of debt defaults have become so dramatic that even USA Today is reporting on it

Get ready to step over some landmines, investors. The number of companies defaulting on their debt is hitting levels not seen since the financial crisis, and it’s not just a problem for bondholders.

So far this year, 46 companies have defaulted on their debt, the highest level since 2009, according to S&P Ratings Services. Five companies defaulted this week, based on the latest data available from S&P Ratings Services. That includes New Jersey-based specialty chemical company Vertellus Specialties and Ohio-based iron ore producer Cliffs Natural. Of the world’s defaults this year, 37 are of companies based in the U.S.

Meanwhile, coal producer Peabody Energy (BTU) and surfwear seller Pacific Sunwear (PSUN) this week filed plans for bankruptcy protection. Shares of Peabody have dropped 97% over the past year to $2 a share and Pacific Sunwear stock is off 98% to 4 cents a share.

A lot of big companies in this country have fallen on hard times, and it looks like bankruptcy attorneys are going to be absolutely swamped with work for the foreseeable future.

So why are stock prices soaring right now?  After all, it doesn’t seem to make any sense whatsoever.

And it isn’t just a few bad apples that we are talking about.  All across the spectrum, corporate revenues and corporate earnings are down.  At this point, earnings for companies on the S&P 500 have plunged a total of 18.5 percent from their peak in late 2014, and it is being projected that corporate earnings overall will be down 8.5 percent for the first quarter of 2016 compared to one year ago.

As earnings decline, a lot of big companies are getting into trouble with debt, and we have already seen a very large number of corporate debt downgrades.  In recent interviews, I have been bringing up the fact that the average rating on U.S. corporate debt has now fallen to “BB”, which is already lower than it was at any point during the last financial crisis.

A lot of people don’t seem to believe me when I share that fact, but it is absolutely true.

One of the big reasons why corporate debt is being downgraded is because a lot of these big companies have been going into enormous amounts of debt in order to buy back their own stock.  The following comes from Wolf Richter

Downgrades ascribed to “shareholder compensation,” as Moody’s calls share buybacks and dividends, have been soaring, according to John Lonski, Chief Economist at Moody’s Capital Markets Research. The moving 12-month sum of Moody’s credit rating downgrades of US companies, jumped from 32 in March 2015, to 48 in December 2015, and to 61 in March 2016, nearly doubling within a year.

The last time the number of downgrades attributed to financial engineering reached 61 was in early 2007. It would hit its peak of 79 in mid- 2007, a few months before the beginning of the Great Recession in Q4 2007. At the time, stocks were on the verge of commencing their epic crash.

When corporations go into the market and buy back their own stock, they are slowly cannibalizing themselves.  But we have seen these stock buybacks soar to record levels for a couple of reasons.  Number one, big investors want to see stock prices go up, and so big investors tend to really like these stock buybacks and will generally support corporate executives that wish to engage in doing this.  Number two, if you are a greedy corporate executive that is heavily compensated by stock options, you very much want to see the stock price go up as well.

So the name of the game is greed, and stock buybacks have been fueling much of the rise in U.S. stock prices that we have been seeing recently.

However, the truth is that nothing in the financial world lasts forever, and this irrational bubble will ultimately come to an end as well.

Earlier today, I am across an article that included a comment from Michael Hartnett of Bank of America Merrill Lynch.  He believes that there are a lot of parallels between what is happening today and the period of time that immediately preceded the bursting of the dotcom bubble

Back then, as could be the case today, a bull market & a US-led economic recovery was rudely interrupted by a crisis in Emerging Markets. The crisis threatened to hurt Main Street via Wall Street (the Nasdaq fell 33% between Jul-Oct 1998, when [Long-Term Capital Management] went under). Policy makers panicked and monetary policy was eased (with hindsight unnecessarily). Fresh liquidity combined with apocalyptic investor sentiment very quickly morphed into a violent but narrow equity bull market/bubble in 1998/99, one which ultimately took valuations & interest rates sharply higher to levels that eventually caused a “pop”.

Like Hartnett, I definitely believe that a major “pop” is on the way, although I would like for it to be delayed for as long as possible.

Someday we will look back on these times with utter amazement.  It has been absolutely incredible how the financial markets have been able to defy economic reality for so long.

But they can’t do it forever, and according to a brand new CNN survey Americans are becoming increasingly pessimistic about where the real economy is heading…

In a new CNNMoney/E*Trade survey of Americans who have at least $10,000 in an online trading account, over half (52%) gave the U.S. economy as a “C” grade. Another 15% rated the economy a “D” or “F.”

This gloom persists despite the fact that the stock market is on the upswing again. The Dow topped 18,000 Monday for the first time since July 2015.

If some Americans think that the U.S. economy deserves a “D” or an “F” grade right now, just wait until they see what is in our immediate future.

Personally, I give our economy an “A” for being able to maintain our unsustainable debt-fueled standard of living for as long as it has.  Somehow we have managed to consume far more than we produce for decades, and the largest debt bubble in the history of the planet just keeps getting bigger and bigger and bigger.

Of course we are very much living on borrowed time at this point, but I truly hope that the bubble economy can keep going for at least a little while longer, because nobody should want to see what is coming afterwards.

*About the author: Michael Snyder is the founder and publisher of The Economic Collapse Blog. Michael’s controversial new book about Bible prophecy entitled “The Rapture Verdict” is available in paperback and for the Kindle on Amazon.com.*

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.

Does The IMF Actually Want To Cause A Greek Debt Default?

Question Marks - Public DomainWhen it comes to geopolitics, there are often wheels working within wheels that are working within wheels.  Once in a while we get a peek behind the scenes, but for the most part the machinations of the global elite remain shrouded in mystery most of the time.  And sometimes the global elite appear to be doing things that, on the surface, do not seem to make much sense at all.  What is going on in Europe is a perfect example of this.  If everyone was negotiating honestly, I believe that a Greek debt deal would have been reached by now.  As this endless crisis has stretched on month after month, it has become increasingly apparent that more is going on here than meets the eye.  In particular, the IMF has been standing in the way of a deal time after time.  So what do IMF officials want?  Are they looking for the “unconditional surrender” of this new Greek government in order to send a message to other governments that would potentially defy them?  Or could it be possible that the IMF actually wants a Greek debt default for some other insidious reason?

When the latest Greek proposal was embraced with enthusiasm by EU officials, many hoped that this meant that the crisis would soon be resolved.  But it turns out that there is still one very important player that is not happy, and that is the IMF.  The following comes from the Wall Street Journal

But the IMF is still unhappy with key aspects of Greece’s new economic proposals and German officials were irritated by the speed with which the commission welcomed them, warning that much work needs to be done.

Greece’s plan calls for reducing the deficits in its pension system and government budget by relying heavily on raising taxes and social-security contributions, whereas the IMF wanted bigger spending cuts.

The Washington-based IMF has said Greece’s economy is already too heavily taxed and that too many additional tax increases would hurt economic growth, making it harder to pay down Greece’s debt.

It is still short of everything that should be expected,” IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde said Monday, suggesting Greece will have to modify its proposals significantly to win the IMF’s backing.

So what would make the IMF “happy”?

Would anything short of total capitulation by the Greek government suffice?

Meanwhile, members of Syriza are expressing a high level of frustration with the compromises that Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has already agreed to.  At this point, there is even doubt whether the current Greek proposal could get through the Greek parliament.  The following comes from Bloomberg

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is facing the first signs of dissent within his own party over his latest plan to end a five-month standoff with creditors.

Some of Syriza’s more radical and populist lawmakers expressed opposition Tuesday to the proposal as the deal’s backers called on members to see the bigger picture.

Personally, I cannot support such an agreement that is contrary to our election promises,” Dimitris Kodelas, a Syriza lawmaker associated with former Maoists, said in an interview. “I do not care about the consequences of my decision.

Despite all of the optimism that we have seen this week, the odds of a Greek debt deal getting pushed through are looking slimmer by the day.

And even if a deal somehow miraculously happens, all it would really mean is that the can has been kicked down the road for a few more months

Assuming Tsipras can force the deal through the Greek parliament, and that key creditors such as the IMF and Germany accept it too, it will do little more than buy time for negotiations on yet another rescue.

The final tranche of cash from the existing bailout should be enough to meet repayments due to the IMF and European Central Bank through the end of August. But the Greek government will then have to find more than two billion euros for both institutions in September and October.

If this week concludes with agreement between Greece and its creditors, it won’t be long before the next chapter in this drama,” said Angus Campbell, senior analyst at FxPro.

And no matter what happens by the end of this month, it is a virtual certainty that the economic depression in Greece will just continue to deepen.

At this point, normal economic activity in the nation has pretty much ground to a halt.  Just consider the following excerpt from a recent Zero Hedge article

“Business-to-business payments have almost been paused,” one Athens businessman says. “They are just rolling over postdated cheques.”

For Greek banks, mortgage loans left unserviced by strategic defaulters have become a particular headache, especially since the Syriza-led government says it is committed to protecting low-income homeowners from foreclosures on their properties

“There’s a real issue of moral hazard . . . Around 70 percent of restructured mortgage loans aren’t being serviced because people think foreclosures will only be applied to big villa owners,” one banker said.

For a long time, I have been warning that the next major economic crisis would begin in Europe before spreading across the entire globe.

Greece has a relatively small economy, but Italy, Spain and France are going down the exact same road that Greece has gone.

And what IMF officials are doing right now is that they are setting a precedent for future debt negotiations that they know are almost certainly coming with other countries in the future.

Sadly, most of my readers (being Americans) don’t really grasp the importance of what is going on over in Europe.  We are watching a horrific train wreck unfold in slow-motion, and what is going to happen over the next few weeks is going to have massive implications for the entire planet.

The Next Great European Financial Crisis Has Begun

European Financial CrisisThe Greek financial system is in the process of totally imploding, and the rest of Europe will soon follow.  Neither the Greeks nor the Germans are willing to give in, and that means that there is very little chance that a debt deal is going to happen by the end of June.  So that means that we will likely see a major Greek debt default and potentially even a Greek exit from the eurozone.  At this point, credit default swaps on Greek debt have risen 456 percent in price since the beginning of this year, and the market has priced in a 75 percent chance that a Greek debt default will happen.  Over the past month, the yield on two year Greek bonds has skyrocketed from 20 percent to more than 30 percent, and the Greek stock market has fallen by a total of 13 percent during the last three trading days alone.  This is what a financial collapse looks like, and if Greece does leave the euro, we are going to see this kind of carnage happen all over Europe.

Officials over in Europe are now openly speaking of the need to prepare for a “state of emergency” now that negotiations have totally collapsed.  At one time, it would have been unthinkable for Greece to leave the euro, but now it appears  that this is precisely what will happen unless a miracle happens…

Greece is heading for a state of emergency and an exit from the euro following the collapse of talks to agree a bailout deal, senior EU officials warned last night.

Europe must be prepared to step in otherwise Greek society would face an unprecedented crisis with power blackouts, medicine shortages and no money to pay for police, they said.

In the past, the Greeks have always buckled under pressure.  But this new Greek government was elected with a mandate to end austerity, and so far they have shown a remarkable amount of resolve.  In order for a debt deal to happen, one side is going to have to blink, and at this point it does not look like it will be the Greeks

The world’s financial markets are facing up to the possibility that Greece could soon become the first country to crash out of Europe’s single currency. Talks between Athens and its eurozone creditors have collapsed in acrimony just days before a final deadline for Greece to unlock the €7.2bn (£5.2bn) in bailout funds it needs to avoid a catastrophic debt default.

The Greek Prime Minister, Alexis Tsipras, accused the creditor powers of hidden “political motives” in their demands that Greece make further cuts to public pension payments in return for the financial aid. “We are shouldering the dignity of our people, as well as the hopes of the people of Europe,” Mr Tsipras said in a defiant statement. “We cannot ignore this responsibility. This is not a matter of ideological stubbornness. This is about democracy.”

As we approach the point of no return, both sides are preparing for the endgame.

In Greece, members of parliament have been studying what happened in Iceland a few years ago.  Many of them believe that a Greek debt default combined with a nationalization of Greek banks and a Greek exit from the euro could set the nation back on the path to prosperity fairly rapidly.  The following comes from the Telegraph

The radical wing of Greece’s Syriza party is to table plans over coming days for an Icelandic-style default and a nationalisation of the Greek banking system, deeming it pointless to continue talks with Europe’s creditor powers.

Syriza sources say measures being drafted include capital controls and the establishment of a sovereign central bank able to stand behind a new financial system. While some form of dual currency might be possible in theory, such a structure would be incompatible with euro membership and would imply a rapid return to the drachma.

The confidential plans were circulating over the weekend and have the backing of 30 MPs from the Aristeri Platforma or ‘Left Platform’, as well as other hard-line groupings in Syriza’s spectrum. It is understood that the nationalist ANEL party in the ruling coalition is also willing to force a rupture with creditors, if need be.

Meanwhile, in a desperate attempt to get the Greeks to give in at the last moment, Greek’s creditors are preparing to pull out all the stops in order to put as much financial pressure on Greece as possible

Germany’s Suddeutsche Zeitung reported that the creditors are drawing an ultimatum to the Greeks, threatening to cut off Greek access to the European payments system and forcing capital controls on the country as soon as this weekend. The plan would lead to the temporary closure of the banks, followed by a rationing of cash withdrawals.

For a long time, most in the financial world assumed that a debt deal would eventually happen.  But now reality is setting in.  As I mentioned at the top of this article, the cost to insure Greek debt has risen by an astounding 456 percent since the beginning of this year

Given these dramatic stakes, the risk of a Greek default has gone way up. One way to measure that risk is by looking at the skyrocketing price of insurance policies that would pay out if Greek bonds go bust. The cost to insure Greek debt for one year against the risk of default has skyrocketed 456% since the start of the 2015, according to FactSet data.

These insurance-like contracts, known as credit default swaps, imply there is a 75% to 80% probability of Greece defaulting on its debt, according to Jigar Patel, a credit strategist at Barclays.

The probability of a Greek default soars to a whopping 95% for five-year CDS, Patel said.

“Default is looking more and more likely,” Peter Boockvar, chief market analyst at The Lindsey Group, wrote in a note to clients on Tuesday.

And in recent days, we have also seen Greek stocks and Greek bonds totally crash.  The following comes from CNN

The Greek stock market has plummeted 13% over the past three trading days, including a 3% drop on Tuesday alone.

In the bond market, the yield on Greek two-year debt has skyrocketed to 30.2%. A month ago, the yield was only 20%. Yields rise as bond prices fall.

Of course if there is a Greek debt default and Greece does leave the euro, it won’t just be Greece that pays the price.

As I have written about previously, there are tens of trillions of dollars in derivatives that are directly tied to currency exchange rates and 505 trillion dollars in derivatives that are directly tied to interest rates.  A “Grexit” would cause the euro to drop like a rock and interest rates all over the continent would start to go crazy.  The financial chaos that a “Grexit” would cause should not be underestimated.

And there are signs that some of Europe’s biggest banks are already on the verge of collapse.  For example, just consider what has been going on at the biggest bank in Germany.  Both of the co-CEOs at Deutsche Bank recently resigned, and it is increasingly looking as if it could soon become Europe’s version of Lehman Brothers.  The following summary of the recent troubles at Deutsche Bank comes from an article that was posted on NotQuant

Here’s a re-cap of what’s happened at Deutsche Bank over the past 15 months:

  • In April of 2014,  Deutsche Bank was forced to raise an additional 1.5 Billion of Tier 1 capital to support it’s capital structure.  Why?
  • 1 month later in May of 2014, the scramble for liquidity continued as DB announced the selling of 8 billion euros worth of stock – at up to a 30% discount.   Why again?  It was a move which raised eyebrows across the financial media.  The calm outward image of Deutsche Bank did not seem to reflect their rushed efforts to raise liquidity.  Something was decidedly rotten behind the curtain.
  • Fast forwarding to March of this year:   Deutsche Bank fails the banking industry’s “stress tests” and is given a stern warning to shore up it’s capital structure.
  • In April,  Deutsche Bank confirms it’s agreement to a joint settlement with the US and UK regarding the manipulation of LIBOR.   The bank is saddled with a massive $2.1 billion payment to the DOJ.  (Still, a small fraction of their winnings from the crime). 
  • In May,  one of Deutsche Bank’s CEOs, Anshu Jain is given an enormous amount of new authority by the board of directors.  We guess that this is a “crisis move”.  In times of crisis the power of the executive is often increased.
  • June 5:  Greece misses it’s payment to the IMF.   The risk of default across all of it’s debt is now considered acute.   This has massive implications for Deutsche Bank.
  • June 6/7:  (A Saturday/Sunday, and immediately following Greece’s missed payment to the IMF) Deutsche Bank’s two CEO’s announce their surprise departure from the company.  (Just one month after Jain is given his new expanded powers).   Anshu Jain will step down first at the end of June.  Jürgen Fitschen will step down next May.
  • June 9: S&P lowers the rating of Deutsche Bank to BBB+  Just three notches above “junk”.  (Incidentally,  BBB+ is even lower than Lehman’s downgrade – which preceded it’s collapse by just 3 months)

And that’s where we are now.  How bad is it?  We don’t know because we won’t be permitted to know.  But these are not the moves of a healthy company.

For a very long time, I have been warning that a major financial crisis was coming to Europe, and for a very long time the authorities in Europe have been able to successfully kick the can down the road.

But now it looks like we have reached the end of the road, and a day of reckoning is finally here.

Nobody is quite sure what is going to happen next, but almost everyone agrees that it isn’t going to be pretty.

So you better buckle up, because it looks like we are all in for a wild ride as we enter the second half of this year.

The Global Liquidity Squeeze Has Begun

Squeeze Globe - Public DomainGet ready for another major worldwide credit crunch.  Today, the entire global financial system resembles a colossal spiral of debt.  Just about all economic activity involves the flow of credit in some way, and so the only way to have “economic growth” is to introduce even more debt into the system.  When the system started to fail back in 2008, global authorities responded by pumping this debt spiral back up and getting it to spin even faster than ever.  If you can believe it, the total amount of global debt has risen by $35 trillion since the last crisis.  Unfortunately, any system based on debt is going to break down eventually, and there are signs that it is starting to happen once again.  For example, just a few days ago the IMF warned regulators to prepare for a global “liquidity shock“.  And on Friday, Chinese authorities announced a ban on certain types of financing for margin trades on over-the-counter stocks, and we learned that preparations are being made behind the scenes in Europe for a Greek debt default and a Greek exit from the eurozone.  On top of everything else, we just witnessed the biggest spike in credit application rejections ever recorded in the United States.  All of these are signs that credit conditions are tightening, and once a “liquidity squeeze” begins, it can create a lot of fear.

Over the past six months, the Chinese stock market has exploded upward even as the overall Chinese economy has started to slow down.  Investors have been using something called “umbrella trusts” to finance a lot of these stock purchases, and these umbrella trusts have given them the ability to have much more leverage than normal brokerage financing would allow.  This works great as long as stocks go up.  Once they start going down, the losses can be absolutely staggering.

That is why Chinese authorities are stepping in before this bubble gets even worse.  Here is more about what has been going on in China from Bloomberg

China’s trusts boosted their investments in equities by 28 percent to 552 billion yuan ($89.1 billion) in the fourth quarter. The higher leverage allowed by the products exposes individuals to larger losses in the event of stock-market drops, which can be exaggerated as investors scramble to repay debt during a selloff.

In umbrella trusts, private investors take up the junior tranche, while cash from trusts and banks’ wealth-management products form the senior tranches. The latter receive fixed returns while the former take the rest, so private investors are effectively borrowing from trusts and banks.

Margin debt on the Shanghai Stock Exchange climbed to a record 1.16 trillion yuan on Thursday. In a margin trade, investors use their own money for just a portion of their stock purchase, borrowing the rest. The loans are backed by the investors’ equity holdings, meaning that they may be compelled to sell when prices fall to repay their debt.

Overall, China has seen more debt growth than any other major industrialized nation since the last recession.  This debt growth has been so dramatic that it has gotten the attention of authorities all over the planet

Wolfgang Schaeuble, Germany’s finance minister says that “debt levels in the global economy continue to give cause for concern.”

Singling out China in particular, Schaeuble noted that “debt has nearly quadrupled since 2007″, adding that it’s “growth appears to be built on debt, driven by a real estate boom and shadow banks.”

According to McKinsey’s research, total outstanding debt in China increased from $US7.4 trillion in 2007 to $US28.2 trillion in 2014. That figure, expressed as a percentage of GDP, equates to 282% of total output, higher than the likes of other G20 nations such as the US, Canada, Germany, South Korea and Australia.

This credit boom in China has been one of the primary engines for “global growth” in recent years, but now conditions are changing.  Eventually, the impact of what is going on in China right now is going to be felt all over the planet.

Over in Europe, the Greek debt crisis is finally coming to a breaking point.  For years, authorities have continued to kick the can down the road and have continued to lend Greece even more money.

But now it appears that patience with Greece has run out.

For instance, the head of the IMF says that no delay will be allowed on the repayment of IMF loans that are due next month…

IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde roiled currency and bond markets on Thursday as reports came out of her opening press conference saying that she had denied any payment delay to Greece on IMF loans falling due next month.

Unless Greece concludes its negotiations for a further round of bailout money from the European Union, however, it is not likely to have the money to repay the IMF.

And we are getting reports that things are happening behind the scenes in Europe to prepare for the inevitable moment when Greece will finally leave the euro and go back to their own currency.

For example, consider what Art Cashin told CNBC on Friday

First, “there were reports in the media [saying] that the ECB and/or banking authorities suggested to banks to get rid of any sovereign Greek debt they had, which suggests that maybe the next step will be Greece exiting,” Cashin told CNBC.

Also, one of Greece’s largest newspapers is reporting that neighboring countries are forcing subsidiaries of Greek banks that operate inside their borders to reduce their risk to a Greek debt default to zero

According to a report from Kathimerini, one of Greece’s largest newspapers, central banks in Albania, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Romania, Serbia, Turkey and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia have all forced the subsidiaries of Greek banks operating in those countries to bring their exposure to Greek risk — including bonds, treasury bills, deposits to Greek banks, and loans — down to zero.

Once Greece leaves the euro, that is going to create a tremendous credit crunch in Europe as fear begins to spread like wildfire.  Everyone will be wondering which nation will be “the next Greece”, and investors will want to pull their money out of perceived danger zones before they get hammered.

In the past, other European nations have been willing to bend over backwards to accommodate Greece and avoid this kind of mess, but those days appear to be finished.  In fact, the finance minister of France openly admits that the French “are not sympathetic to Greece”

Greece isn’t winning much sympathy from its debt-wracked European counterparts as the country draws closer to default for failing to make bailout repayments.

“We are not sympathetic to Greece,” French Finance Minister Michael Sapin said in an interview at the International Monetary Fund-World Bank spring meetings here.

“We are demanding because Greece must comply with the European (rules) that apply to all countries,” Sapin said.

Yes, it is possible that another short-term deal could be reached which could kick the can down the road for a few more months.

But either way, things in Europe are going to continue to get worse.

Meanwhile, very disappointing earnings reports in the U.S. are starting to really rattle investors.

For example, we just learned that GE lost 13.6 billion dollars in the first quarter…

One week following the announcement that it would dismantle most of its GE Capital financing operations to instead focus on its industrial roots, General Electric reported a first quarter loss of $13.6 billion.

The results were impacted by charges relating to the conglomerate’s strategic shift. A year ago GE reported a first quarter profit of $3 billion.

That is a lot of money.

How in the world does a company lose 13.6 billion dollars in a single quarter during an “economic recovery”?

Other big firms are reporting disappointing earnings numbers too

In earnings news, American Express Co. late Thursday said its results were hurt by the strong U.S. dollar, which reduced revenue booked in other countries. Chief Executive Kenneth Chenault reiterated the company’s forecast that 2015 earnings will be flat to modestly down year over year. Shares fell 4.6%.

Advanced Micro Devices Inc. said its first-quarter loss widened as revenue slumped. The company said it was exiting its dense server systems business, effective immediately. Revenue and the loss excluding items missed expectations, pushing shares down 13%.

And just like we saw just before the financial crisis of 2008, Americans are increasingly having difficulty meeting their financial obligations.

For instance, the delinquency rate on student loans has reached a very frightening level

More borrowers are failing to make payments on their student loans five years after leaving college, painting a grim picture for borrowers, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

Student debt continues to increase, especially for people who took out loans years ago. Those who left school in the Great Recession, which ended in 2009, had particular difficulty with repayment, with many defaulting, becoming seriously delinquent or not being able to reduce their balances, the New York Fed said today.

Only 37 percent of borrowers are current on their loans and are actively paying them down, and 17 percent are in default or in delinquency.

At this point, the American consumer is pretty well tapped out.  If you can believe it, 56 percent of all Americans have subprime credit today, and as I mentioned above, we just witnessed the biggest spike in credit application rejections ever recorded.

We have reached a point of debt saturation, and the credit crunch that is going to follow is going to be extremely painful.

Of course the biggest provider of global liquidity in recent years has been the Federal Reserve.  But with the Fed pulling back on QE, this is creating some tremendous challenges all over the globe.  The following is an excerpt from a recent article in the Telegraph

The big worry is what will happen to Russia, Brazil and developing economies in Asia that borrowed most heavily in dollars when the Fed was still flooding the world with cheap liquidity. Emerging markets account to roughly half of the $9 trillion of offshore dollar debt outside US jurisdiction.

The IMF warned that a big chunk of the debt owed by companies is in the non-tradeable sector. These firms lack “natural revenue hedges” that can shield them against a double blow from rising borrowing costs and a further surge in the dollar.

So what is the bottom line to all of this?

The bottom line is that we are starting to see the early phases of a liquidity squeeze.

The flow of credit is going to begin to get tighter, and that means that global economic activity is going to slow down.

This happened during the last financial crisis, and during this next financial crisis the credit crunch is going to be even worse.

This is why it is so important to have an emergency fund.  During this type of crisis, you may have to be the source of your own liquidity.  At a time when it seems like nobody has any cash, those that do have some will be way ahead of the game.

Greece Rejects Bailout Deal – Deadline To Avoid Financial Chaos In Europe Is March 1st

No - Public DomainEurope is on the verge of a horrifying financial meltdown, and there are only a few short weeks left to avert total disaster.  On Monday, talks that were supposed to bring about yet another temporary “resolution” to the Greek debt crisis completely fell apart.  The new Greek government has entirely rejected the idea of a six month extension of the current bailout.  The Greeks want a new deal which would enable them to implement the promises that have been made to the voters.  But that is not going to fly with the Germans, among others.  They expect the Greeks to fulfill the obligations that were agreed to previously.  The two sides are not even in the same ballpark at this point, and things are starting to get very personal.  It is no secret that the new Greek government does not like the Germans, and the Germans are not particularly fond of the Greeks at this point.  But unless they can find a way to work out a deal, things could get quite messy very rapidly.  The Greek government has about three weeks of cash left, and any changes to the current bailout arrangement would have to be approved by parliaments all over Europe by March 1st.  And the stakes are incredibly high.  If there is no deal, we could see a Greek debt default, Greece could be forced to leave the eurozone and go back to the drachma, the euro could collapse to all time lows, all the banks all over Europe that are exposed to Greek government debt could be faced with absolutely massive losses, and the 26 trillion dollars in derivatives that are directly tied to the value of the euro could start to unravel.  In essence, if things go badly this could be enough to push us into a global financial crisis.

On Monday, eurozone officials tried to get the Greeks to extend the current bailout package for six months with the current austerity provisions in place.  Greek government officials responded by saying that “those who bring this back are wasting their time” and that those negotiating on behalf of the eurozone are being “unreasonable”

A Greek government official said that a draft text presented to eurozone finance ministers meeting in Brussels on Monday spoke of Greece extending its current bailout package and as such was “unreasonable” and would not be accepted.

Without specifying who put forward the text to the meeting chaired by Dutch Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem, the official said: “Some people’s insistence on the Greek government implementing the bailout is unreasonable and cannot be accepted.”

Most observers have speculated that the new Greek government would give in to the demands of the rest of the eurozone when push came to shove.

But these new Greek politicians are a different breed.  They are not establishment lackeys.  Rather, they are very principled radicals, and they are not about to be pushed around.  I certainly do not agree with their politics, but I admire the fact that they are willing to stand up for what they believe.  That is a very rare thing these days.

On Monday, Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis shared the following in the New York Times

I am often asked: What if the only way you can secure funding is to cross your red lines and accept measures that you consider to be part of the problem, rather than of its solution? Faithful to the principle that I have no right to bluff, my answer is: The lines that we have presented as red will not be crossed.

Does that sound like a man that is going to back down to you?

Meanwhile, the other side continues to dig in as well.

Just consider the words of the German finance minister

Wolfgang Schaeuble, the German finance minister, accused the Greek government of “behaving irresponsibly” by threatening to tear up agreements made with the eurozone in return for access to the loans which are all that stand between Greece and financial collapse.

“It seems like we have no results so far. I’m quite skeptical. The Greek government has not moved, apparently,” he said.

“As long as the Greek government doesn’t want a program, I don’t have to think about options.”

Global financial markets are still acting as if they fully expect a deal to get done eventually.

I am not so sure.

And without a doubt, time is running short.  As I mentioned above, something has got to be finalized by March 1st.  The following comes from the Wall Street Journal

Any changes to the content or expiration date of Greece’s existing €240 billion ($273 billion) bailout have to be decided by Friday, to give national parliaments in Germany, Finland and the Netherlands enough time to approve them before the end of the month. Without such a deal, Greece will be on its own on March 1, cut loose from the rescue loans from the eurozone and the International Monetary Fund that have sustained it for almost five years.

So what happens if there is no deal and Greece is forced to leave the eurozone?

Below, I have shared an excerpt from an article that details what Capital Economics believes would happen in the event of a “Grexit”…

  • The drachma would be back. The euro would be effectively abandoned, and Greece would return to the drachma, its previous currency (it might take a new name). The drachma would likely tumble in value against the euro as soon as it was issued, and how much the government could print quickly would be a big issue.
  • It would have to be fast, with capital controls. There would be people trying to pull their money out of Greece’s banks en masse. The Greek government would have to make that illegal pretty quickly. The European Central Bank drew up Grexit plans in 2012, and might be dusting them off now.
  • European life support for Greek banks would be withdrawn. Greek banks can currently access emergency liquidity assistance from the ECB, which would be removed if Greece left the euro.
  • Likely unrest and disorder. Barclays expects that this sudden economic collapse would “aggravate social unrest”, and notes that historically similar moves have caused a 45-85% devaluation of the currency. Capital Economics suggests that the drop could be more mild, closer to 20%, and Oxford Economics says 30%.
  • Greece would resume economic policymaking. Greece’s central bank would probably start doing its own QE programme, and the government would likely return to running deficits, no longer restrained by bailout rules (though investors would probably want large returns, given the risk of another default).
  • Inflation would spike immediately, but both Capital Economics and Oxford Economics say that should be temporary. It might look a bit like Russia this year — with the new currency in freefall until it finds its level against the euro, prices inside Greece would rise at dramatic speed. The inflation might be temporary, however, because with unemployment above 20%, Greece has plenty of spare labour slack to produce more.

That certainly does not sound good.

And once Greece leaves, everyone would be wondering who is next, because there are quite a few other deeply financially troubled nations in the eurozone.

David Stockman believes that Spain is a prime candidate…

In spite of the “recovery” in Spain, close to 24% are still unemployed. That statistic explains Pessimism in the Streets.

The crisis is here to stay according to significant majority of Spaniards. The general perception is that the current situation in which the country is negative and far from getting better, can only stay stagnant or even worse.

A Metroscopia poll published in El País makes it clear that the Spanish are unhappy with the current state of the country. Five out of six (83%) see the economic situation as “bad”, while more than half of the remaining perceive “regular”.

Right now, Europe is already teetering on the brink of an economic depression.

If this Greek debt crisis is not resolved, it could set in motion a chain of events which could start collapsing financial institutions all over Europe.

Yes, we have been here before and a deal has always emerged in the end.

But this time is different.  This time very idealistic radicals are running things in Greece, and the “old guard” in Europe has no intention of giving in to them.

So let’s watch and see how this game of “chicken” plays out.

I have a feeling that it is not going to end well.

Power Mad Obama Offers Two Choices: Unconditional Surrender Or Default

Obama SleepingBarack Obama is warning that if he does not get everything that he wants that he will force the U.S. government into a devastating debt default which will cripple the entire global economy.  In essence, Obama has become so power mad that he is actually willing to take the entire planet hostage in order to achieve his goals.  A lot of people are blaming the government shutdown on the Republicans, but they have already voted to fund the entire government except for Obamacare.  The U.S. Constitution requires that all spending bills originate in the House of Representatives, and the House did their duty by passing a spending bill.  If the Senate or the President do not like the bill that the House has passed, then negotiations need to take place.  That is how our system works.  And the weak-kneed Republicans have already indicated that they are willing to give up virtually all of their prior demands.  In fact, if Obama offered all of them 20 dollar gift certificates to Denny’s to end this crisis they would probably jump at that deal.  But that is not good enough for Obama.  He has made it clear that he will settle for nothing less than the complete and unconditional surrender of the Republican Party.

Why is Obama doing this?  Why is Obama willing to bring the country to the brink of financial disaster?

It isn’t hard to figure out.  Just check out what one senior Obama administration official said last week

“We are winning…. It doesn’t really matter to us” how long the shutdown lasts “because what matters is the end result,” a senior Obama Administration official told the Wall Street Journal last week.

This is all about a political victory and crushing the Republicans.  Obama doesn’t really care how long this crisis lasts because he believes that he is getting the end result that he wants.

According to Obama, the Republican Party is just supposed to roll over and give him the exact spending bill that he wants and also give him another trillion dollar increase in the debt limit.

If the Republicans do not give him that, he is willing to plunge us into financial oblivion.

The funny thing is that most Americans do not want the debt limit increased.  According to one new poll, 58 percent of all Americans do not even want the debt ceiling to be increased by a single penny.

And recent polls show that Americans are against Obamacare by an average margin of about 10 percent.

But the pathetic Republican Party is actually willing to hand Obama a trillion dollar debt ceiling increase and fully fund Obamacare if Obama will at least give them something.

Unfortunately, Obama won’t even give them the time of day.

So don’t blame the Republicans for what is happening.  The Republicans have already compromised themselves to the point of utter disgrace.  If Obama had been willing to even compromise a couple of inches this entire crisis would already be over.

And nobody should be claiming that the Republicans won’t vote to end this shutdown.  They have already voted to end it.  The following is from a recent article by Thomas Sowell

There is really nothing complicated about the facts. The Republican-controlled House of Representatives voted all the money required to keep all government activities going — except for ObamaCare.

This is not a matter of opinion. You can check the Congressional Record.

As for the House of Representatives’ right to grant or withhold money, that is not a matter of opinion either. You can check the Constitution of the United States. All spending bills must originate in the House of Representatives, which means that Congressmen there have a right to decide whether or not they want to spend money on a particular government activity.

Whether ObamaCare is good, bad or indifferent is a matter of opinion. But it is a matter of fact that members of the House of Representatives have a right to make spending decisions based on their opinion.

Once again, the Republicans have already indicated that they are willing to fund Obamacare.  They just want Obama to throw them a bone.

And Obama will not do it.

So either the Republicans are going to cave in completely (a very real possibility) or we are going to pass the “debt ceiling deadline”.

What happens then?

Well, we would have more of a “real government shutdown” than the fake shutdown that we are having right now.

Once the federal government cannot borrow any more money, it will only be able to spend what it actually has on hand.  That means that a lot more government functions will have to shut down.

Money will still be coming in to the government, but it won’t be enough to fund everything.  According to the Wall Street Journal, the federal government will still have enough money to pay interest on the debt, make Social Security payments, make Medicare payments, make Medicaid payments, provide food stamp benefits and pay the military if they cut almost everything else out.

The other day, I suggested that the federal government could potentially start defaulting on interest payments on the debt as early as November.  But that would only happen if the federal government manages their money foolishly.

If the federal government managed their money smartly and saved cash for the interest payments as they came due, they would not have to miss any.

But when was the last time the federal government ever did anything “smartly”?

For the sake of argument, however, let’s assume that the federal government can manage money wisely and can save up enough cash ahead of time for large interest payments as they come due.

If that could somehow be managed, then according to Paul Mampilly the government would never need to actually default…

The U.S. Treasury always has money coming into its accounts. So its always got some amount of cash that it can use to pay interest on bonds. That’s especially true right now because the government is partially shutdown and there’s no cash going out from its accounts.

In fact, when you look at it the U.S. Treasury should simply have no trouble making interest payments on bonds that it has issued.

And there’s no restriction on the U.S. Treasury prioritizing interest payments. Why?

The obligation to pay interest is set by the 1917 Second Liberty Bond Act and laws that commanded the Treasury to pay interest on the debt. You can look this up in section 3123 of Title 31 of the U.S. Code and section 4 of the 14th Amendment of the Constitution and in Supreme Court precedent (Perry v. United States). It’s all there in black and white.

So the only possible way the U.S. defaults on its debt is if Barack Obama, President of the United States, instructs his Treasury secretary Jack Lew to default on the debt.

And according to the Washington Post, Moody’s has just issued a memo that also indicates that the federal government should be able to make all interest payments even if the debt limit is not increased…

In a memo being circulated on Capitol Hill Wednesday, Moody’s Investors Service offers “answers to frequently asked questions” about the government shutdown, now in its second week, and the federal debt limit. President Obama has said that, unless Congress acts to raise the $16.7 trillion limit by next Thursday, the nation will be at risk of default.

Not so, Moody’s says in the memo dated Oct. 7.

“We believe the government would continue to pay interest and principal on its debt even in the event that the debt limit is not raised, leaving its creditworthiness intact,” the memo says. “The debt limit restricts government expenditures to the amount of its incoming revenues; it does not prohibit the government from servicing its debt. There is no direct connection between the debt limit (actually the exhaustion of the Treasury’s extraordinary measures to raise funds) and a default.”

Of course the federal government would have to stop throwing money around like a drunk gambler at a casino in Las Vegas in order for this to work.

On the very first day of the government shutdown, the feds gave $445 million to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.  Apparently Elmo is considered to be “essential personnel” by the Obama administration.

And according to CNS News, the U.S. Army has committed more than $47,000 to buy a mechanical bull during this “shutdown”…

The government shutdown may be keeping furloughed federal workers at home, but on Monday the U.S. Army contracted to buy a mechanical bull.

The $47,174 contract was awarded on Oct. 7 to Mechanical Bull Sales Inc. of State College, Penn.

So needless to say, there is some serious doubt about whether the federal government would be able to manage their money effectively in the event that the debt ceiling deadline passes.

And if the U.S. did start defaulting on debt payments, it would be absolutely disastrous for the global economy as I discussed in a previous article

“A U.S. debt default would cause stocks to crash, would cause bonds to crash, would cause interest rates to soar wildly out of control, would cause a massive credit crunch, and would cause a derivatives panic that would be absolutely unprecedented.  And that would just be for starters.”

Other nations that we depend upon to lend us money would stop lending to us and would start dumping U.S. debt instead.

Could you imagine what would happen if China started dumping a large portion of the 1.3 trillion dollars in U.S. debt that they are holding?

It would be a total nightmare.  The collapse of Lehman Brothers would pale in comparison.

And already some banks are stuffing their ATM machines with extra cash just in case the general public starts to panic.

But none of this has to happen.

If Obama decides to negotiate with the Republicans, this crisis will likely end very rapidly.

If not, and we pass the “debt ceiling deadline”, the federal government will still have enough money to make interest payments on the debt as long as they manage their money correctly.

Unfortunately, Obama seems far more interested in playing political games than he is in solving our problems.

In fact, Park Service rangers have been ordered to “make life as difficult for people as we can” during this government shutdown.  Obama has apparently decided to punish the American people in order to get leverage on the Republicans.  Just check out the following example from a new Weekly Standard article

There’s a cute little historic site just outside of the capital in McLean, Virginia, called the Claude Moore Colonial Farm. They do historical reenactments, and once upon a time the National Park Service helped run the place. But in 1980, the NPS cut the farm out of its budget. A group of private citizens set up an endowment to take care of the farm’s expenses. Ever since, the site has operated independently through a combination of private donations and volunteer workers.

The Park Service told Claude Moore Colonial Farm to shut down.

The farm’s administrators appealed this directive​—​they explained that the Park Service doesn’t actually do anything for the historic site. The folks at the NPS were unmoved. And so, last week, the National Park Service found the scratch to send officers to the park to forcibly remove both volunteer workers and visitors.

Think about that for a minute. The Park Service, which is supposed to serve the public by administering parks, is now in the business of forcing parks they don’t administer to close. As Homer Simpson famously asked, did we lose a war?

The hypocrisy that Obama has demonstrated during this “government shutdown” has been astounding.

He has barricaded open air war memorials to keep military veterans from visiting them, but he temporarily reopened the National Mall so that a huge pro-immigration rally that would benefit him politically could be held.

He has continued to fund al-Qaeda rebels in Syria that are trying to overthrow the Syrian government, but he has been withholding death benefits from families of fallen U.S. soldiers.

The conduct of the Obama administration during this shutdown has been so egregious that is hard to put into words.  Obama has chosen to purposely harm the American people in order to score political points.

But this is how our politicians view us these days.  As Monty Pelerin recently explained, most of our politicians have absolutely no problem with exploiting us for their own purposes…

The concept of political service has been replaced by that of masked exploitation. The public is no longer viewed as clients or constituents to be served. Instead they have become political prey. Politicians see the public as a collection of wallets and votes, fair game to be hunted as the means to expand power and wealth. Constituents are now the Soylent Green of the political food chain.

The political class assumes the public exists to serve them, not the other way around. Public participation beyond the lightening of wallets or the provision of votes is unwelcome. It is considered “interference” that must be deterred by the ruling class.

The political class is now a huge, voracious parasite. Like the plant in the Little Shop of Horrors, its needs have grown to the point where it threatens anything productive. Its needs now exceed the willingness for continued sacrifice on the part of the productive. The parasite threatens the very existence of the host.

The political Ponzi scheme of tax, borrow and spend has reached its limit. Either it will die when citizens turn on it or it will kill the productive, ensuring its own destruction.

It perishes in the end. Whether it takes civilization with it is the bigger question.

Is there anyone out there that still does not believe that our system is broken?

Hopefully cooler heads will prevail and power mad Obama will decide to toss the Republicans a few crumbs and this crisis will be resolved.

Because if this crisis is not resolved soon, it could have consequences that are far beyond what any of us could possibly imagine.

12 Very Ominous Warnings About What A U.S. Debt Default Would Mean For The Global Economy

Ominous Clouds - Photo posted on Instagram by annekejongA U.S. debt default that lasts for more than a couple of days could potentially cause a financial crash unlike anything that the world has ever seen before.  If the U.S. government purposely wanted to damage the global financial system, the best way that they could do that would be to default on U.S. debt obligations.  A U.S. debt default would cause stocks to crash, would cause bonds to crash, would cause interest rates to soar wildly out of control, would cause a massive credit crunch, and would cause a derivatives panic that would be absolutely unprecedented.  And that would just be for starters.  But don’t just take my word for it.  These are the things that top financial experts all over the planet are saying will happen if there is an extended U.S. debt default.

Because they are so close together, the “government shutdown” and the “debt ceiling deadline” are being confused by many Americans.

As I wrote about the other day, the “partial government shutdown” that we are experiencing right now is pretty much a non-event.  Yeah, some national parks are shut down and some federal workers will have their checks delayed, but it is not the end of the world.  In fact, only about 17 percent of the federal government is actually shut down at the moment.  This “shutdown” could continue for many more weeks and it would not affect the global economy too much.

On the other hand, if the debt ceiling deadline (approximately October 17th) passes without an agreement that would be extremely dangerous.

And if the U.S. government is eventually forced to start delaying interest payments on U.S. debt (which could potentially happen as soon as November), that would be absolutely catastrophic.

Once again, just don’t take my word for it.  The following are 12 very ominous warnings about what a U.S. debt default would mean for the global economy…

#1 Gerald Epstein, a professor of economics at the University of Massachusetts Amherst: “If the US does default, that will make the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy look like a cakewalk”

#2 Tim Bitsberger, a former Treasury official under President George W. Bush: “If we miss an interest payment, that would blow Lehman out of the water”

#3 Peter Tchir, founder of New York-based TF Market Advisors: “Once the system starts to break down related to settlement and payments, then liquidity disappears, as we saw after Lehman”

#4 Bill Isaac, chairman of Cincinnati-based Fifth Third Bancorp: “We can’t even imagine all the things that might happen, just like Henry Paulson couldn’t imagine all the bad things that might happen if he let Lehman go down”

#5 Jim Grant, founder of Grant’s Interest Rate Observer: “Financial markets are all confidence-based. If that confidence is shaken, you have disaster.”

#6 Richard Bove, VP of research at Rafferty Capital Markets: “If they seriously default on the debt, what we’re really talking about is a depression”

#7 Chinese vice finance minister Zhu Guangyao: “The U.S. is clearly aware of China’s concerns about the financial stalemate [in Washington] and China’s request for the US to ensure the safety of Chinese investments.”

#8 The U.S. Treasury Department: “A default would be unprecedented and has the potential to be catastrophic: credit markets could freeze, the value of the dollar could plummet, U.S. interest rates could skyrocket, the negative spillovers could reverberate around the world, and there might be a financial crisis and recession that could echo the events of 2008 or worse”

#9 Goldman Sachs: “We estimate that the fiscal pull-back would amount to 9pc of GDP. If this were allowed to occur, it could lead to a rapid downturn in economic activity if not reversed quickly”

#10 Simon Johnson, former chief economist for the IMF: “It would be insane to default, but it’s no longer a zero-percent probability”

#11 Warren Buffett about the potential of a debt default: “It should be like nuclear bombs, basically too horrible to use”

#12 Bloomberg: “Anyone who remembers the collapse of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. little more than five years ago knows what a global financial disaster is. A U.S. government default, just weeks away if Congress fails to raise the debt ceiling as it now threatens to do, will be an economic calamity like none the world has ever seen.”

A U.S. debt default could be the trigger for the “nightmare scenario” that so many people have been writing about in recent years.  In fact, it could greatly accelerate the timetable for the inevitable economic collapse that is coming.  A recent Yahoo article described some of the things that we would likely see in the event of an extended U.S. debt default…

A default would upend money markets, destroy bond funds, slam the brakes on lending, cause interest rates to spiral, make our banks insolvent, and deal a blow to our foreign trading partners and creditors around the globe; all of which would throw the U.S. and the world into economic disarray.

And of course stocks would crash big time.  Deutsche Bank’s David Bianco believes that if the U.S. government starts missing interest payments on U.S. Treasury bonds, we could see the S&P 500 go down to 850 by the end of the year.

There would be almost immediate panic among ordinary Americans as well.  In fact, it is being reported that some banks are already stuffing their ATM machines will extra cash just in case…

With just 10 days left to raise the debt ceiling and congressional Republicans threatening to force the government to default on its obligations, banks are taking some dramatic steps to prepare for the economic chaos that would result should the brinkmanship continue.

The Financial Times reports that one major U.S. bank has started stuffing its automatic teller machines with extra cash in preparation for a possible bank run from panicked depositors. The New York Times reports that another bank is weighing a plan to advance funds to customers who rely on Social Security and other government payments that could stop in the event of a default.

Let’s hope that cooler heads will prevail and that a U.S. debt default will be avoided.

Unfortunately, it appears that the Democrats are absolutely determined not to be moved from their current position a single inch.  They have decided to refuse to negotiate and demand that the Republicans give them every single thing that they want.

And who can really blame them for adopting that strategy?  After all, it has certainly worked in the past.  Whenever Democrats have stood united and have refused to give a single inch, the Republicans have always freaked out and caved in eventually.

Will this time be any different?

The funny thing is that once upon a time, Barack Obama was adamantly against any increase in the debt limit.  The following comes courtesy of Zero Hedge

Obama Debt Ceiling

But now Obama says that it is so unreasonable to be opposed to a debt limit increase that any negotiations are out of the question.

So which Obama is right?

If the Democrats will not negotiate, a debt default could still be avoided if the Republicans give in.

And that is what they always do, right?

Perhaps not this time.  Just check out what John Boehner had to say on Sunday

“I, working with my members, decided to do this in a unified way,” the speaker said — with demands to defund, delay or otherwise alter the Affordable Care Act.

Boehner had expected that the Obamacare fight would come during the next vote to raise the debt ceiling, “but, you know, working with my members, they decided, let’s do it now,” he said. “And the fact is, this fight was going to come, one way or another. We’re in the fight. We don’t want to shut the government down. We’ve passed bills to pay the troops. We passed bills to make sure the federal employees know that they’re going to be paid throughout this.”

“You’ve never seen a more dedicated group of people who are thoroughly concerned about the future of our country,” he said of House Republicans. “It is time for us to stand and fight.”

But will the Republicans really stand and fight?

In the past, betting on the intestinal fortitude of the Republican Party has been a loser every single time.

So we’ll see.  Boehner insists that this time is different.  Boehner insists that he is not going to fold like a 20 dollar suit this time.  In fact, when he was asked if the U.S. government was headed toward a debt default if Obama continued to refuse to negotiate, Boehner made the following statement

“That’s the path we’re on.”

The mainstream media has certainly been placing most of the blame at the feet of the Republicans, but at least the U.S. House of Representatives has been trying to get an agreement reached.  The House has voted 26 times since the Senate last voted.  Harry Reid has essentially shut the Senate down until the Republicans fold and give the Democrats exactly what they want.

The funny thing is that this could probably be solved very easily.  If the Democrats agreed to a one year delay to the individual mandate, the Republicans would probably jump at it.  And because of epic technical failures, hardly anyone has been able to get signed up for Obamacare anyway.  So a one year delay would give the Obama administration time to get their act together.

Unfortunately, the Democrats seem absolutely obsessed with the idea that they will not give the Republicans one single inch.  They seem to believe that this will be to their political benefit.

But this is a very dangerous game that they are playing.  The U.S. government must roll over 441 billion dollars of short-term debt between October 18th and November 15th.

If a debt ceiling increase is not in place by that time, it will send interest rates soaring.  Borrowing costs for state and local governments, corporations, and ordinary Americans will go through the roof and economic activity will be hit really hard.

And as detailed above, we could potentially be looking at a financial crash that would make 2008 look like a Sunday picnic.

So let us hope for a political solution soon.  That will at least kick the can down the road for a little bit longer.

If a debt default were to happen before the end of this year, that would bring a tremendous amount of future economic pain into the here and now, and the consequences would likely be far greater than any of us could possibly imagine.

8 Reasons Why The Greek Debt Deal May Not Stop A Chaotic Greek Debt Default

The global financial system is not a game of checkers.  It is a game of chess.  All over the world today, news headlines are proclaiming that this new Greek debt deal has completely eliminated the possibility of a chaotic Greek debt default.  Unfortunately, that is simply not the case.  Rather, the truth is that this new deal actually “sets the table” for a Greek debt default.  When I was studying and working in the legal arena, I learned that sometimes you make an agreement so that you can get the other side to break it.  That may sound very strange to the average person on the street, but this is how the game is played at the highest levels.  It is all about strategy.  And in this case, the new debt deal imposes such strict conditions on Greece that it is almost inevitable that Greece will fail to meet some of them.  When Greece does fail, Germany and the other northern European nations may try to claim that they “did everything that they could” but that Greece just did not “live up to its obligations”.  So does this mean that we will definitely see a chaotic Greek debt default?  No.  What this does mean is that the chess pieces are being moved into position for one.

The following are 8 reasons why the Greek debt deal may not stop a chaotic Greek debt default….

#1 Greece Is Being Set Up To Fail

The terms of this new debt deal impose some incredibly harsh austerity measures on Greece and from now on the Greek government will be subject to “permanent monitoring” by EU officials.

In other words, they will be under a microscope.

Any violation of the terms of the debt deal could be used as a pretext to bring down the hammer and cut off bailout funds.  Potentially, this could even happen just a few weeks from now.

It has become obvious that there are many politicians in Europe that would very much like to kick Greece out of the euro.  In a recent column, the International Business Editor of The Telegraph summed up the situation this way….

It is clear that Berlin, Helsinki, and the Hague have taken the decision to eject Greece from the euro whatever the country now does. Even if Greece complies to the letter with the impossible terms of the EU-IMF Troika, it will not make any difference. A fresh pretext will be found.

#2 The Next Greek Election Could Bring An End To The Bailout Deal Overnight

The next national Greek elections are scheduled for April.  Political parties opposed to the bailout have been surging in recent polls.  It is becoming increasingly likely that the next Greek government will abandon this new deal entirely.

The following is what hedge fund manager Dennis Gartman told CNBC about what is likely to happen after the next elections….

“A new government is going to come to power following elections that shall take place sometime this spring, and if anyone anywhere believes that the next Greek government shall do anything other than abrogate all the agreements made with the ‘troika,’ then we have a bridge we’d like to sell them at a very high price”

With each passing day anger and frustration inside Greece continue to rise, and those that are currently holding power in Greece are becoming very unpopular.

One current member of Greek Parliament recently talked about what he thinks will happen in the aftermath of the next election….

“If we achieve a Left-dominated government, we will politely tell the Troika to leave the country, and we may need to discuss an orderly return to the Drachma”

#3 This Bailout Deal Is Going To Make Economic Conditions In Greece Even Worse

In a previous article, I listed some of the new austerity measures that are being imposed on Greece by this new agreement….

The EU and the IMF are demanding that Greece fire 15,000 more government workers immediately and a total of 150,000 government workers by 2015.

The EU and the IMF are demanding that wages for government workers be cut by another 20 percent.

The EU and the IMF are demanding that the minimum wage be slashed by more than 20 percent.

The EU and the IMF are also demanding significant reductions in unemployment benefits and pension benefits.

The austerity measures that have already been implemented over the past few years have already pushed Greece into an economic depression.

These new austerity measures will deepen that depression.

At the moment, the Greek national debt is sitting at about 160 percent of GDP.

We are being told that these new austerity measures will reduce that ratio to 120 percent by 2020, but already there are many in the financial world that are calling such a goal “comical“.

Even with this new deal, the Greek national debt is still completely and total unsustainable.  A “confidential report” produced by analysts from the European Central Bank, the European Commission, and the International Monetary Fund says the following about what this new debt deal is likely to accomplish….

There are notable risks. Given the high prospective level and share of senior debt, the prospects for Greece to be able to return to the market in the years following the end of the new program are uncertain and require more analysis. Prolonged financial support on appropriate terms by the official sector may be necessary. Moreover, there is a fundamental tension between the program objectives of reducing debt and improving competitiveness, in that the internal devaluation needed to restore Greece competitiveness will inevitably lead to a higher debt to GDP ratio in the near term. In this context, a scenario of particular concern involves internal devaluation through deeper recession (due to continued delays with structural reforms and with fiscal policy and privatization implementation). This would result in a much higher debt trajectory, leaving debt as high as 160 percent of GDP in 2020. Given the risks, the Greek program may thus remain accident-prone, with questions about sustainability hanging over it.

The GDP of Greece fell by 6.8 percent during 2011.

2012 was already expected to be even worse, and all of these new austerity measures certainly are not going to help things.

And every time the Greek economy contracts that makes a chaotic debt default even more likely.

#4 The Greek Parliament Must Still Vote On This Bailout Deal

It is anticipated that the Greek Parliament will vote on this new agreement on Wednesday.

It is expected to pass.

But when it comes to Greece these days, there are no guarantees.

#5 The Greek Constitution Must Still Be Modified

Under the terms of this new agreement, Greece is being required to change its constitution.

The following is how an article in The Economist describes this requirement….

Over the next two months Greece has promised to adopt legislation “ensuring that priority is granted to debt-servicing payments”, with a view to enshrining this in the constitution “as soon as possible”. These arrangements may not amount to the budget  “commissar” once threatened by some creditors, but the effect may be pretty much the same.

So will this actually get done?

We will see.

Forcing a sovereign country to modify its constitution is a very serious thing.  If I was a Greek citizen, I would be highly insulted by this.

#6 Several European Parliaments Still Need To Approve This Deal

The German Parliament still must approve this new agreement.  This is also the case for the Netherlands and Finland as well.

Many politicians in all three nations have been highly critical of the Greek bailouts.

It is expected that all of these parliaments will approve this deal, but you just never know.

#7 Private Investors Still Have To Agree To This New Deal

Private investors are being asked to take a massive “haircut” on Greek debt.  The following is how the size of the “haircut” was described by a USA Today article….

Banks, pension funds and other private investors are being asked to forgive some €107 billion ($142 billion) of the total €206 billion ($273 billion) in devalued Greek government bonds they hold.

There is absolutely no guarantee that a solid majority of private investors will agree to this.

In the end, probably the only thing that is guaranteed is that litigation regarding this “haircut” is likely to stretch on for many years to come.

#8 The Global Financial Community Still Expects Greece To Default

Almost all of the analysts that were projecting a chaotic Greek debt default are still projecting one today.  Yes, many of them believe that “the can has been kicked down the road” for a few months, but most of them are still convinced that a default by Greece is inevitable.

The following comes from a Bloomberg article that was released after the Greek debt deal was announced….

“The danger of Greece saving itself into economic depression and having to default and exit the common currency zone remains substantial,” said Christian Schulz, an economist at Berenberg Bank in London. Jennifer McKeown of Capital Economics Ltd. repeated her forecast that Greece will quit the euro by the end of the year.

The odds that this agreement will survive for very long are not great.

It will be nearly impossible for Greece to meet all of the conditions being imposed upon it by this new deal.  All of the politicians in northern Europe that are just itching to cut off aid to Greece will soon have the excuse that they need for doing so.

And the Greek people could decide to bring all of this to an end very quickly.  If they elect a new government in April that does not support this bailout agreement, the game will be over.

So don’t be fooled by all the headlines.

A chaotic Greek debt default has not been averted.

The truth is that a chaotic Greek debt default is now closer than ever.

Finca Bayano

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