The Economic Depression In Greece Deepens As Tsipras Prepares To Deliver ‘The Great No’

No Cards - Public DomainAs Greece plunges even deeper into economic chaos, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras says that his government is prepared to respond to the demands of the EU and the IMF with “the great no” and that his party will accept responsibility for whatever consequences follow.  Despite years of intervention from the rest of Europe, Greece is a bigger economic mess today than ever.  Greek GDP has shrunk by 26 percent since 2008, the national debt to GDP ratio in Greece is up to a staggering 175 percent, and the unemployment rate is up above 25 percent.  Greek stocks are crashing and Greek bond yields are shooting into the stratosphere.  Meanwhile, the banking system is essentially on life support at this point.  400 million euros were pulled out of Greek banks on Monday alone.  No matter what happens in the coming days, many believe that it is now only a matter of time before capital controls like we saw in Cyprus are imposed.

Over the past several months, there have been endless high level meetings over in Europe regarding this Greek crisis, but none of them have fixed anything.  And even Jeroen Dijsselbloem admits that the odds of anything being accomplished during the meeting of eurozone finance ministers on Thursday is “very small”

Some officials believe Thursday’s meeting of eurozone finance ministers will be perhaps the last chance to stop Greece sliding into default and towards leaving the euro.

However the president of the so-called Eurogroup, Jeroen Dijsselbloem, said the chance of an accord was “very small”.

And it is certainly not just Dijsselbloem that feels this way.  At this point pretty much everyone is resigned to the fact that there is not going to be a deal any time soon.  The following comes from Reuters

“People are getting anxious on both sides. Athens expects Brussels to move. And Brussels expects Athens to move. And it’s stuck,” said a senior EU diplomat, who declined to be named.

It’s very dangerous, and we may have an accident.”

EU officials insist that it is Greece that needs to back down, but the Greeks have no intention of backing down.  Just consider the words of Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras.  He says that he is not afraid to deliver “the great no” to the rest of Europe

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said he’s ready to assume responsibility for the consequences of rejecting an unfair deal with creditors.

In a sign that he’s being taken at his word, officials from the Netherlands, Portugal and Germany said they were bracing for a breakdown in talks that could roil the currency bloc.

With a viable solution “the Greek government recently elected by the Greek people will bear the cost of carrying through,” Tsipras told reporters in Athens on Wednesday. Without one, “we will assume the responsibility to say ‘the great no’ to a continuation of the catastrophic policies.”

To me, that sounds like a man that is not going to back down.  And to call it “the great no” is not an exaggeration at all.  I think that he realizes that this “great no” will unleash financial chaos all over Europe.

For Greece, the consequences would likely be catastrophic.  At least that is what the Bank of Greece thinks

Failure to reach an agreement would, on the contrary, mark the beginning of a painful course that would lead initially to a Greek default and ultimately to the country’s exit from the euro area and – most likely – from the European Union. A manageable debt crisis, as the one that we are currently addressing with the help of our partners, would snowball into an uncontrollable crisis, with great risks for the banking system and financial stability. An exit from the euro would only compound the already adverse environment, as the ensuing acute exchange rate crisis would send inflation soaring.

All this would imply deep recession, a dramatic decline in income levels, an exponential rise in unemployment and a collapse of all that the Greek economy has achieved over the years of its EU, and especially its euro area, membership. From its position as a core member of Europe, Greece would see itself relegated to the rank of a poor country in the European South.

And no matter how confident the Germans appear to be right now, the truth is that a Greek debt default would be a complete and total nightmare for the rest of Europe as well.  The euro would drop like a rock, stocks would crash all over Europe and bond yields would go crazy.  And that is just for starters.

So we desperately need to see a deal.  But with each passing day that seems less and less likely.

In fact, a Greek parliament committee on public debt just released a new report containing their preliminary findings.  This report is not legally binding, but it does show the mood of the Greek parliament, and what this report says is absolutely stunning.  It concluded that the Greek government is under absolutely no obligation to repay its debts.  Just check out the following excerpt from the report

All the evidence we present in this report shows that Greece not only does not have the ability to pay this debt, but also should not pay this debt first and foremost because the debt emerging from the Troika’s arrangements is a direct infringement on the fundamental human rights of the residents of Greece. Hence, we came to the conclusion that Greece should not pay this debt because it is illegal, illegitimate, and odious.

In other words, what this report is saying is that the Greek government should never pay back any of this debt.  That certainly is not going to sit well with the officials from the EU and the IMF.

And what happens if other financially troubled nations in the eurozone decide that their debts are “illegal” and “odious” as well?

Globally, there are more than 76 trillion dollars worth of bonds floating around out there, and the yields on those bonds are based on the assumption that they will always be paid off.  If nations such as Greece start defaulting, that will throw the entire global financial system into a state of tremendous chaos.

Of course the Greek financial system is already in a state of tremendous chaos.  At this point, many believe that it is just a matter of time before capital controls are imposed.  This is something that I have warned about in the past.  The following description of what capital controls in Greece may look like comes from Bloomberg

No one knows the specifics for Greece, but here’s what happened in Cyprus: ATM withdrawals were capped at 300 euros a person per day. Transfers of more than 5,000 euros abroad were subject to approval by a special committee. Companies needed documents for each payment order, with approvals for over 200,000 euros determined by available liquidity. Parents couldn’t send children that were studying abroad more than 5,000 euros a quarter. Cypriots traveling abroad could carry no more than 1,000 euros with them. Termination of fixed-term deposits was prohibited, while payments with credit and debit cards were capped at 5,000 euros. Checks couldn’t be cashed.

Since most Greeks do not want to have their money trapped in the banks, they have been pulling out cash and hiding it at home at a record breaking pace.  This is precisely what we would expect to see when a nation is on the verge of total financial collapse

“Everybody’s doing it,” said Joanna Christofosaki, in front of a Eurobank cash dispenser in the leafy Athens neighbourhood of Kolonaki. “Our friends have all done it. Nobody wants their money to be worthless tomorrow. Nobody wants to be unable to get at it.”

A researcher in the archaeology department at the Academy of Athens, Christofosaki said she knew plenty of people who had “€10,000 somewhere at home” and plenty of others who chose to keep their stash at the office. Was she among them? “If I was, I certainly wouldn’t tell you.”

As I wrote about yesterday, I believe that this is the beginning of the next great European financial crisis.

Eventually, it will spread all over the planet.

Unfortunately, even though global debt levels have never been higher and the signs of the coming financial implosion are all around us, most people have been lulled into a false sense of security.

Most people just assume that everything is going to turn out okay somehow.

The second half of this year is going to be much different from the first half, but most people will not be convinced until everything starts completely falling apart.

By then, it may be far too late to do anything about it.

The Debt To GDP Ratio For The Entire World: 286 Percent

Global Debt - Public DomainDid you know that there is more than $28,000 of debt for every man, woman and child on the entire planet?  And since close to 3 billion of those people survive on less than 2 dollars a day, your share of that debt is going to be much larger than that.  If we took everything that the global economy produced this year and everything that the global economy produced next year and used it to pay all of this debt, it still would not be enough.  According to a recent report put out by the McKinsey Global Institute entitled “Debt and (not much) deleveraging“, the total amount of debt on our planet has grown from 142 trillion dollars at the end of 2007 to 199 trillion dollars today.  This is the largest mountain of debt in the history of the world, and those numbers mean that we are in substantially worse condition than we were just prior to the last financial crisis.

When it comes to debt, a lot of fingers get pointed at the United States, and rightly so.  Just prior to the last recession, the U.S. national debt was sitting at about 9 trillion dollars.  Today, it has crossed the 18 trillion dollar mark.  But of course the U.S. is not the only one that is guilty.  In fact, the McKinsey Global Institute says that debt levels have grown in all major economies since 2007.  The following is an excerpt from the report

Seven years after the bursting of a global credit bubble resulted in the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, debt continues to grow. In fact, rather than reducing indebtedness, or deleveraging, all major economies today have higher levels of borrowing relative to GDP than they did in 2007. Global debt in these years has grown by $57 trillion, raising the ratio of debt to GDP by 17 percentage points (Exhibit 1). That poses new risks to financial stability and may undermine global economic growth.

What is surprising is that debt has actually grown the most in China.  If you can believe it, total Chinese debt has grown from 7 trillion dollars in 2007 to 28 trillion dollars today.  Needless to say, that is absolutely insane…

China’s debt has quadrupled since 2007. Fueled by real estate and shadow banking, China’s total debt has nearly quadrupled, rising to $28 trillion by mid-2014, from $7 trillion in 2007. At 282 percent of GDP, China’s debt as a share of GDP, while manageable, is larger than that of the United States or Germany. Three developments are potentially worrisome: half of all loans are linked, directly or indirectly, to China’s overheated real-estate market; unregulated shadow banking accounts for nearly half of new lending; and the debt of many local governments is probably unsustainable. However, MGI calculates that China’s government has the capacity to bail out the financial sector should a property-related debt crisis develop. The challenge will be to contain future debt increases and reduce the risks of such a crisis, without putting the brakes on economic growth.

What all of this means is that our long-term global economic problems have gotten much, much worse.  This short-lived period of relative stability that we have been enjoying has been fueled by unprecedented amounts of debt and voracious money printing.  Anyone with half a brain should be able to see that this is a giant financial bubble, and in the end it is going to unwind very, very painfully.  The following comes from a Canadian news source

At the beginning of 2008, government accounted for a smaller portion of the debt pie than corporate, household or financial debt. It now exceeds each of those other categories.

The current situation is much worse than in 2000 or 2007, and with interest rates near or at zero, the central banks have already used up their ammunition. Plus, the total indebtedness, especially the indebtedness of governments, is much higher than ever before,” said Claus Vogt, a Berlin-based analyst and co-author of a 2011 book titled The Global Debt Trap.

“Every speculative bubble rests on some kind of a fairy tale, a story the bubble participants believe in and use as rationalization to buy extremely overvalued stocks or bonds or real estate,” Mr. Vogt argued. “And now it is the faith in the central-planning capabilities of global central bankers. When the loss of confidence in the Fed, the ECB etc. begins, the stampede out of stocks and bonds will start. I think we are very close to this pivotal moment in financial history.”

But for the moment, the ridiculous stock market bubble continues.

Internet companies that didn’t even exist a decade ago are now supposedly worth billions upon billions of dollars even though some of them don’t make any money at all.  There is even a name for this phenomenon.  Internet companies that have gigantic valuations without gigantic revenue streams are being called “unicorns”

A dizzying mix of bold ideas and lavish investments has catapulted dozens of privately held start-ups to unicorn status, defined as having market valuations of at least $1 billion often without soaring revenues to match. Social-sharing site Pinterest has soared to $11 billion. Ride-hailing company Uber is now worth a staggering $50 billion.

How long can the party last?

And these days, Wall Street even rewards companies that lose huge amounts of money quarter after quarter.  For example, just check out what happened when JC Penney announced that it only lost 167 million dollars during the first quarter of 2015…

Yippee!!! JC Penney ONLY lost $167 million in the first quarter. The Wall Street shysters are ecstatic because they BEAT expectations. Buy Buy Buy.

This loss now brings JC Penney’s cumulative loss since 2011 to, drum roll please, $3.5 BILLION. They haven’t had a profitable quarter in over four years. But, they are always on the verge of that turnaround just over the horizon.

Wall Street has told you to buy this stock from $42 in 2012 to it’s current pitiful level of $9. They tout the wonderful 3.4% increase in comparable sales. They fail to mention that first quarter 2016 sales are only 30% below first quarter sales in 2011.

They fail to mention that JC Penney burned through another $274 million of cash in the first quarter. Their equity has dropped by $1 billion in the last year, while their long term debt has gone up by $500 million.

This is how irrational Wall Street has become.  JC Penney is ultimately going to zero, and yet there are still people out there that are pouring huge amounts of money into that financial black hole.

Sadly, the truth is that Wall Street is headed for a very painful awakening.

What we are experiencing right now is the greatest financial bubble of all time.

What comes after that is going to be the greatest financial crash of all time.

199,000,000,000,000 dollars of debt is about to come crashing down, and the pain of this disaster will be felt by every man, woman and child on the entire planet.

 

A Quadrillion Yen And Counting – The Japanese Debt Bomb Could Set Off Global Panic At Any Moment

Shibuya Crossing in Tokyo, JapanHow much is 1,000,000,000,000,000 yen worth?  Well, a quadrillion yen is worth approximately 10.5 trillion dollars.  It is an amount of money that is larger than the “the economies of Germany, France and the U.K. combined“.  It is such an astounding amount of debt that it is hard to even get your mind around it.  The government debt to GDP ratio in Japan will reach 247 percent this year, and the Japanese currently spend about 50 percent of all central government tax revenue on debt service.  Realistically, there are only two ways out of this overwhelming debt trap for the Japanese.  Either they default or they try to inflate the debt away.  At this point, the Japanese have chosen to try to inflate the debt away.  They have initiated the greatest quantitative easing experiment that a major industrialized nation has attempted since the days of the Weimar Republic.  Over the next two years, the Bank of Japan plans to zap 60 trillion yen into existence out of thin air and use it to buy government bonds.  By the time this program is over, the monetary base in Japan will have approximately doubled.  But authorities in Japan are desperate.  They know that the Japanese debt bomb could set off global panic at any time, and they are trying to find a way out that will not cause too much pain.

Unfortunately, the only way that this bizarre quantitative easing program will work is if investors in Japanese bonds act very, very irrationally.  You see, the only way that Japan has been able to pile up this much debt in the first place is because they have been able to borrow gigantic piles of money at super low interest rates.

Right now, the yield on 10 year Japanese bonds is sitting at an absurdly low 0.76%.  But even with such ridiculously low interest rates, the central government of Japan is still spending about half of all tax revenue on debt service.

If interest rates go up, the game is over.

But now that the Japanese government has announced that it plans to double the monetary base, it would be extremely irrational for investors not to demand higher rates on Japanese government debt.  After all, why would you want to loan money to the Japanese government for less than one percent a year when the purchasing power of your money could potentially be halved over the next two years?

Amazingly, this is exactly what the Japanese government is counting on.  They are counting on being able to wildly print up money and monetize debt, but also keep yields on Japanese bonds at insanely low levels at the same time.

For the moment, it is actually working.  Investors in Japanese bonds are behaving very, very irrationally.

But if that changes at some point, we could potentially be looking at the greatest Asian economic crisis of all time.

And there are some very sharp minds out there that believe that is exactly what is going to happen.

For example, the founder of Hayman Capital Management, Kyle Bass, has been sounding the alarm about Japan for a long time.  He correctly predicted the subprime mortgage meltdown, and in the process he made hundreds of millions of dollars for his clients.  Now he believes that the next major crash is going to be in Japan.

According to Bass, the bond bubble in Japan is so large that once it begins to implode fear is going to start spreading like wildfire…

Remember, Japanese banks in general have 900% of their tangible assets invested in JGBs that are the most negatively convex instrument you can put into a portfolio. Assume for instance that a bank holds a 10 year bond yielding 80 basis points. A 100 basis point move will cost the JGB investor about 10 years of expected interest payments.

Think about the psychology of all the players and financial implications if rates do move 100 basis points. Think about the solvency of a nation which currently spends 50% of its central government tax revenues on debt service, half of which earns the lowest yields of any country in the world.

You can’t look at this as a simple question. You need to think about this as a multivariate equation. You have to think about the incentives and the fears of all the participants. And you need to think about the fiscal sustainability of the government.

If rates even rise by a full percentage point, it could start a stampede toward the exits that nobody in the entire world would be able to control…

I ran a survey of 1,009 Japanese investors where we asked: “If rates were to move up 100 basis points, would that engender more confidence and make you want to buy more JGBs?” or, “Would you take your money elsewhere, even if it were hamstringing your government’s ability to operate?” 8 – 9% of respondents that said that they would buy more bonds and almost 80% said they would run, not walk the other way.

For much more on this, you can watch a video of Kyle Bass discussing why Japan is doomed right here.

And of course Japan is not the only “debt bomb” that could potentially go off over in Asia.  As I mentioned in another article, the major problem over in China is the level of private debt…

In China, the big problem is the absolutely stunning growth of private domestic debt.  According to a recent World Bank report, the total amount of credit in China has risen from 9 trillion dollars in 2008 to 23 trillion dollars today.

That increase is roughly equivalent to the entire U.S. commercial banking system.

There is simply way, way too much debt in our world today.  Never before has there been so much red ink all over the planet at the same time.

Many in the mainstream media insist that this party can go on indefinitely.

But that is what they said about the housing bubble too.

Sadly, the truth is that every financial bubble eventually bursts, and this global debt bubble will be no exception.

I hope that you are getting prepared while you still can.