Europe 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.
Who is to blame for the staggering collapse of the price of oil? Is it the Saudis? Is it the United States? Are Saudi Arabia and the U.S. government working together to hurt Russia? And if this oil war continues, how far will the price of oil end up falling in 2015? As you will see below, some analysts believe that it could ultimately go below 20 dollars a barrel. If we see anything even close to that, the U.S. economy could lose millions of good paying jobs, billions of dollars of energy bonds could default and we could see trillions of dollars of derivatives related to the energy industry implode. The global financial system is already extremely vulnerable, and purposely causing the price of oil to crash is one of the most deflationary things that you could possibly do. Whoever is behind this oil war is playing with fire, and by the end of this coming year the entire planet could be dealing with the consequences.
Ever since the price of oil started falling, people have been pointing fingers at the Saudis. And without a doubt, the Saudis have manipulated the price of oil before in order to achieve geopolitical goals. The following is an excerpt from a recent article by Andrew Topf…
We don’t have to look too far back in history to see Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest oil exporter and producer, using the oil price to achieve its foreign policy objectives. In 1973, Egyptian President Anwar Sadat convinced Saudi King Faisal to cut production and raise prices, then to go as far as embargoing oil exports, all with the goal of punishing the United States for supporting Israel against the Arab states. It worked. The “oil price shock” quadrupled prices.
It happened again in 1986, when Saudi Arabia-led OPEC allowed prices to drop precipitously, and then in 1990, when the Saudis sent prices plummeting as a way of taking out Russia, which was seen as a threat to their oil supremacy. In 1998, they succeeded. When the oil price was halved from $25 to $12, Russia defaulted on its debt.
The Saudis and other OPEC members have, of course, used the oil price for the obverse effect, that is, suppressing production to keep prices artificially high and member states swimming in “petrodollars”. In 2008, oil peaked at $147 a barrel.
Turning to the current price drop, the Saudis and OPEC have a vested interest in taking out higher-cost competitors, such as US shale oil producers, who will certainly be hurt by the lower price. Even before the price drop, the Saudis were selling their oil to China at a discount. OPEC’s refusal on Nov. 27 to cut production seemed like the baldest evidence yet that the oil price drop was really an oil price war between Saudi Arabia and the US.
If the Saudis wanted to stabilize the price of oil, they could do that immediately by announcing a production cutback.
The fact that they have chosen not to do this says volumes.
In addition to wanting to harm U.S. shale producers, some believe that the Saudis are determined to crush Iran. This next excerpt comes from a recent Daily Mail article…
Above all, Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies see Iran — a bitter religious and political opponent — as their main regional adversary.
They know that Iran, dominated by the Shia Muslim sect, supports a resentful underclass of more than a million under-privileged and angry Shia people living in the gulf peninsula — a potential uprising waiting to happen against the Saudi regime.
The Saudis, who are overwhelmingly Sunni Muslims, also loathe the way Iran supports President Assad’s regime in Syria — with which the Iranians have a religious affiliation. They also know that Iran, its economy plagued by corruption and crippled by Western sanctions, desperately needs the oil price to rise. And they have no intention of helping out.
The fact is that the Saudis remain in a strong position because oil is cheap to produce there, and the country has such vast reserves. It can withstand a year — or three — of low oil prices.
There are others out there that are fully convinced that the Saudis and the U.S. are actually colluding to drive down the price of oil, and that their real goal is to destroy Russia.
In fact, Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro openly promoted this theory during a recent speech on Venezuelan national television…
“Did you know there’s an oil war? And the war has an objective: to destroy Russia,” he said in a speech to state businessmen carried live on state TV.
“It’s a strategically planned war … also aimed at Venezuela, to try and destroy our revolution and cause an economic collapse,” he added, accusing the United States of trying to flood the market with shale oil.
Venezuela and Russia, which both have fractious ties with Washington, are widely considered the nations hardest hit by the global oil price fall.
And as I discussed just the other day, Russian President Vladimir Putin seems to agree with this theory…
“We all see the lowering of oil prices. There’s lots of talk about what’s causing it. Could it be an agreement between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia to punish Iran and affect the economies of Russia and Venezuela? It could.”
Without a doubt, Obama wants to “punish” Russia for what has been going on in Ukraine. Going after oil is one of the best ways to do that. And if the U.S. shale industry gets hurt in the process, that is a bonus for the radical environmentalists in Obama’s administration.
There are yet others that see this oil war as being even more complicated.
Marin Katusa believes that this is actually a three-way war between OPEC, Russia and the United States…
“It’s a three-way oil war between OPEC, Russia and North American shale,” says Marin Katusa, author of “The Colder War,” and chief energy investment strategist at Casey Research.
Katusa doesn’t see production slowing in 2015: “We know that OPEC will not be cutting back production. They’re going to increase it. Russia has increased production to all-time highs.” With Russia and OPEC refusing to give up market share how will the shale industry compete?
Katusa thinks the longevity and staying power of the shale industry will keep it viable and profitable. “The versatility and the survivability of a lot of these shale producers will surprise people. I don’t see that the shale sector is going to collapse over night,” he says. Shale sweet spots like North Dakota’s Bakken region and Texas’ Eagle Ford area will help keep production levels up and output steady.
Whatever the true motivation for this oil war is, it does not appear that it is going to end any time soon.
And so that means that the price of oil is going to go lower.
How much lower?
One analyst recently told CNN that we could see the price of oil dip into the $30s next year…
Few saw the energy meltdown coming. Now that it’s here, industry analysts warn another move lower is possible as the momentum remains firmly to the downside.
“If this doesn’t hold, we could go back to price levels in late 2008 and early 2009 — down in the $30s. There’s no reason why it couldn’t happen,” said Darin Newsom, senior analyst at Telvent DTN.
Others are even more pessimistic. For instance, Jeremy Warner of the Sydney Morning Herald, who correctly predicted that the price of oil would fall below $80 this year, is now forecasting that the price of oil could fall all the way down to $20 next year…
Revisiting the past year’s predictions is, for most columnists a frequently humbling experience. The howlers tend to far outweigh the successes. Yet, for a change, I can genuinely claim to have got my main call for markets – that oil would sink to $US80 a barrel or less – spot on, and for the right reasons, too.
Just in case you think I’m making it up, this is what I said 12 months ago: “My big prediction is for $US80 oil, from which much of the rest of my outlook for the coming year flows. It’s hard to overstate the significance of a much lower oil price – Brent at, say, $US80 a barrel, or perhaps lower still – yet this is a surprisingly likely prospect, the implications of which have been largely missed by mainstream economic forecasters.”
If on to a good thing, you might as well stick with it; so for the coming year, I’m doubling up on this forecast. Far from bouncing back to the post crisis “normal” of something over $US100 a barrel, as many oil traders seem to expect, my view is that the oil price will remain low for a long time, sinking to perhaps as little as $US20 a barrel over the coming year before recovering a little.
But even Warner’s chilling prediction is not the most bearish.
A technical analyst named Abigail Doolittle recently told CNBC that under a worst case scenario the price of oil could fall as low as $14 a barrel…
No one really saw 2014’s dramatic plunge in oil price coming, so it’s probably fair to say that any predictions about where it’s going from here fall somewhere between educated guesses and picking a number out of a hat.
In that light, it’s less than shocking to see one analyst making a case—albeit in a pure outlier sense—for a drop all the way below $14 a barrel.
Abigail Doolittle, who does business under the name Peak Theories Research, posits that current chart trends point to the possibility that crude has three downside target areas where it could find support—$44, $35 and the nightmare scenario of, yes, $13.65.
But the truth is that none of those scenarios need to happen in order for this oil war to absolutely devastate the U.S. economy and the U.S. financial system.
There is a very strong correlation between the price of oil and the performance of energy stocks and energy bonds. But over the past couple of weeks this correlation has been broken. The following chart comes from Zero Hedge…
It is inevitable that at some point we will see energy stocks and energy bonds come back into line with the price of crude oil.
And it isn’t just energy stocks and bonds that we need to be concerned about. There is only one other time in all of history when the price of oil has crashed by more than 50 dollars in less than a year. That was in 2008 – just before the great financial crisis that erupted in the fall of that year. For much, much more on this, please see my previous article entitled “Guess What Happened The Last Time The Price Of Oil Crashed Like This?…”
Whether the price of oil crashed or not, we were already on the verge of massive financial troubles.
But the fact that the price of oil has collapsed makes all of our potential problems much, much worse.
As we enter 2015, keep an eye on energy stocks, energy bonds and listen for any mention of problems with derivatives. The next great financial crisis is right around the corner, but most people will never see it coming until they are blindsided by it.
Barack 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.
A 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…
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.
The U.S. government has stolen $15,876,457,645,132.66 from future generations of Americans, and we continue to add well over a hundred million dollars to that total every single day day. The 15 trillion dollar binge that we have been on over the past 30 years has fueled the greatest standard of living the world has ever seen, but this wonderful prosperity that we have been enjoying has been a lie. It isn’t real. We have been living way above our means for so long that we do not have any idea of what “normal” actually is anymore. But every debt addict hits “the wall” eventually, and the same thing is going to happen to us as a nation. At some point the weight of our national debt is going to cause our financial system to implode, and every American will feel the pain of that collapse. Under our current system, there is no mathematical way that this debt can ever be paid back. The road that we are on will either lead to default or to hyperinflation. We have piled up the biggest debt in the history of the world, and if there are future generations of Americans they will look back and curse us for what we did to them. We like to think of ourselves as much wiser than previous generations of Americans, but the truth is that we have been so foolish that it is hard to put it into words.
Whenever I do an article about the national debt, Democrats leave comments blaming the Republicans and Republicans leave comments blaming the Democrats.
Well you know what?
Both parties are to blame. Both of them get a failing grade.
If the Republicans really wanted to stop the federal government from running up all this debt they could have done it.
If the Democrats really wanted to stop the federal government from running up all this debt they could have done it.
So let’s not pretend that one of the political parties is “the hero” in this little drama.
The damage has been done, and both parties will go down in history as being grossly negligent on fiscal issues during this period of American history.
Sadly, neither party is showing any signs of changing their ways.
Neither Barack Obama nor Mitt Romney is promising to eliminate the federal budget deficit in 2013. They both talk about how the budget will be balanced “someday”, but as we have seen so many times in the past, “someday” never comes.
I didn’t mean to get all political in this article, but the truth is that the national debt threatens to destroy everything that previous generations have built, and our politicians continue to give us nothing but excuses.
The following are 27 things that every American should know about the national debt….
#1 It took more than 200 years for the U.S. national debt to reach 1 trillion dollars. In 1986, the U.S. national debt reached 2 trillion dollars. In 1992, the U.S. national debt reached 4 trillion dollars. In 2005, the U.S. national debt doubled again and reached 8 trillion dollars. Now the U.S. national debt is about to cross the 16 trillion dollar mark. How long can this kind of exponential growth go on?
#2 If the average interest rate on U.S. government debt rises to just 7 percent, the U.S. government will find itself spending more than a trillion dollars per year just on interest on the national debt.
#3 If right this moment you went out and started spending one dollar every single second, it would take you more than 31,000 years to spend one trillion dollars.
#4 Since Barack Obama entered the White House, the U.S. national debt has increased by an average of more than $64,000 per taxpayer.
#5 Barack Obama will become the first president to run deficits of more than a trillion dollars during each of his first four years in office.
#6 If you were alive when Jesus Christ was born and you spent one million dollars every single day since that point, you still would not have spent one trillion dollars by now.
#7 The U.S. national debt has increased by more than 1.6 trillion dollars since the Republicans took control of the U.S. House of Representatives. So far, this Congress has added more to the national debt than the first 97 Congresses combined.
#8 During the Obama administration, the U.S. government has accumulated more new debt than it did from the time that George Washington became president to the time that Bill Clinton became president.
#9 If Bill Gates gave every single penny of his fortune to the U.S. government, it would only cover the U.S. budget deficit for 15 days.
#10 As Bill Whittle has shown, you could take every single penny that every American earns above $250,000 and it would only fund about 38 percent of the federal budget.
#11 Today, the government debt to GDP ratio in the United States is well over 100 percent.
#12 A recently revised IMF policy paper entitled “An Analysis of U.S. Fiscal and Generational Imbalances: Who Will Pay and How?” projects that U.S. government debt will rise to about 400 percent of GDP by the year 2050.
#13 The United States already has more government debt per capita than Greece, Portugal, Italy, Ireland or Spain does.
#14 At this point, the United States government is responsible for more than a third of all the government debt in the entire world.
#15 The amount of U.S. government debt held by foreigners is about 5 times larger than it was just a decade ago.
#16 The U.S. national debt is now more than 22 times larger than it was when Jimmy Carter became president.
#17 It is being projected that the U.S. national debt will surpass 23 trillion dollars in 2015.
#18 Mandatory federal spending surpassed total federal revenue for the first time ever in fiscal 2011. That was not supposed to happen until 50 years from now.
#19 Between 2007 and 2010, U.S. GDP grew by only 4.26%, but the U.S. national debt soared by 61% during that same time period.
#20 The U.S. government has total assets of 2.7 trillion dollars and has total liabilities of 17.5 trillion dollars. The liabilities do not even count 4.7 trillion dollars of intragovernmental debt that is currently outstanding.
#21 U.S. households are now actually receiving more money directly from the U.S. government than they are paying to the government in taxes.
#22 The U.S. government is wasting your money on some of the stupidest things imaginable. For example, in 2011 the National Institutes of Health spent $592,527 on a study that sought to figure out once and for all why chimpanzees throw poop.
#23 If the federal government used GAAP accounting standards like publicly traded corporations do, the real federal budget deficit for last year would have been 5 trillion dollars instead of 1.3 trillion dollars.
#24 The Federal Reserve purchased approximately 61 percent of all government debt issued by the U.S. Treasury Department during 2011.
#25 At this point, the U.S. national debt is more than 5000 times larger than it was when the Federal Reserve was first created.
#26 If the federal government began right at this moment to repay the U.S. national debt at a rate of one dollar per second, it would take over 480,000 years to completely pay off the national debt.
#27 The official government debt figure does not even account for massive unfunded liabilities that the U.S. government will be hit with in the years ahead. According to Professor Laurence J. Kotlikoff, the U.S. government is facing a future “fiscal gap” of more than 200 trillion dollars.
As the U.S. economy continues to crumble, even more Americans are going to become financially dependent on the federal government.
For example, spending on food stamps has doubled since 2008. Millions of Americans have lost their jobs and have needed some assistance from the government. Since Obama became president the number of Americans on food stamps has gone from 32 million to 46 million.
But the Obama administration believes that a lot more Americans should be enrolled in the food stamp program. The Obama administration is now spending millions of dollars on ads that urge even more people to sign up for food stamps. In fact, their efforts to get even more Americans to sign up for food stamps have become very creative….
The government has been targeting Spanish speakers with radio “novelas” promoting food stamp usage as part of a stated mission to increase participation in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), or food stamps.
Each novela, comprising a 10-part series called “PARQUE ALEGRIA,” or “HOPE PARK,” presents a semi-dramatic scenario involving characters convincing others to get on food stamps, or explaining how much healthier it is to be on food stamps.
I’m all for helping those that cannot feed themselves, but do we really need to run ads urging more people to become dependent on the government?
Of course Obamacare is going to cause our debt to balloon in size as well. It is being projected that Obamacare will add more than 2.6 trillion dollars to the U.S. national debt over the first decade alone.
So where are we going to get all this money?
We can’t keep spending money that we do not have. We have got to prioritize. Every single category of government spending needs to be cut.
But instead we feel like we can keep ripping off future generations of Americans and that we will always be able to get away with it.
What we have done to our children and our grandchildren is beyond criminal.
The truth is that we should have listened to the warnings of our founding fathers about government debt. For example, Thomas Jefferson once said that if he could add just one more amendment to the U.S. Constitution it would be a complete ban on all borrowing by the federal government….
I wish it were possible to obtain a single amendment to our Constitution. I would be willing to depend on that alone for the reduction of the administration of our government to the genuine principles of its Constitution; I mean an additional article, taking from the federal government the power of borrowing.
Where would we be today if we had taken the advice of Thomas Jefferson?
That is something to think about.
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.
I wish that I had an “aha moment” to share with you today, but instead all I have is an “ack moment” to share. As I was analyzing all of the info coming out of Europe in recent days, I came to the following realization: “Ack! They are actually going to let Greece default!” The only question is whether it is going to be an orderly default or a disorderly default. Of course the EU (led by Germany) could save Greece financially if it wanted to. But Germany has decided against that course of action. Many in the German government are sick and tired of pouring bailouts into Greece and then watching Greek politicians fail to fully implement the austerity measures that were agreed upon. At this point a lot of German politicians are talking as if a Greek default is a foregone conclusion. For example, Michael Fuchs, the deputy leader of Angela Merkel’s political party, recently made the following statement: “I don’t think that Greece, in its current condition, can be saved.” But that is not entirely accurate. Greece could be saved, but the Germans don’t want to make the deep financial sacrifices necessary to save Greece. So instead they are going to let Greece default.
Many prominent voices in the financial world that have been watching all of this play out are now openly declaring the Greece is about to default. Moritz Kraemer, the head of S&P’s European sovereign ratings unit, made the following statement on Bloomberg Television on Monday: “Greece will default very shortly. Whether there will be a solution at the end of the current rocky negotiations I cannot say.”
You might want to go back and read that again.
One of the top officials at one of the top credit rating agencies in the world publicly declared on television that “Greece will default very shortly.”
That should chill you to your bones.
If the EU allows Greece to default, that would be a signal to investors that the EU would allow Italy, Spain and Portugal to all default someday too.
Confidence in the bonds of those countries would disintegrate and bond yields would go through the roof.
Right now, confidence in government debt is one of the things holding up the fragile global financial system. Governments must be able to borrow gigantic piles of very cheap money for the system to keep going, and once confidence is gone it is going to be incredibly difficult to rebuild it.
That is why a Greek default (whether orderly or disorderly) is so dangerous. Investors all over the world would be wondering who is next.
At the end of last week, negotiations between the Greek government and private holders of Greek debt broke down. Negotiations are scheduled to resume Wednesday, and there is a lot riding on them.
The Greek government desperately needs private bondholders to agree to accept a “voluntary haircut” of 50% or more. Not that such a “haircut” will enable the Greek government to avoid a default. It would just enable them to kick the can down the road a little farther.
But if Greece is able to get a 50% haircut from private investors, then why shouldn’t Italy, Spain, Portugal and Ireland all get one?
Once you start playing the haircut game, it is hard to stop it and it rapidly erodes confidence in the financial system.
This point was beautifully made in a recent article by John Mauldin….
So our problem country goes to its lenders and says, “We think you should share our pain. We are only going to pay you back 50% of what we owe you, and you must let us pay a 4% interest rate and pay you over a longer period. We think we can do that. Oh, and give us some more money in the meantime. And if you refuse, we won’t pay you anything and you will all have a banking crisis. Thanks for everything.”
The difficult is that if our problem country A gets to cut its debt by 50%, what about problem countries B, C, and D? Do they get the same deal? Why would voters in one country expect any less, if you agree to such terms for the first country?
But if Greece is able to negotiate an “orderly default” with private bondholders, that would be a lot better than a “disorderly default”. A disorderly default would cause mass panic throughout the entire global financial system.
One key moment is coming up in March. In March, 14 billion euros of Greek debt is scheduled to come due. If Greece does not receive the next scheduled bailout payment, Greece would default at that time.
But the EU, the ECB and the IMF are not sure they want to give Greece any more money. There are a whole host of austerity measures that the Greek government agreed to that they have not implemented.
Since the Greeks have not fully honored their side of the deal, the “troika” is considering cutting off financial aid. The following comes from the New York Times….
Officials from the so-called troika of foreign lenders to Greece — the European Central Bank, European Union and International Monetary Fund — have come to believe that the country has neither the ability nor the will to carry out the broad economic reforms it has promised in exchange for aid, people familiar with the talks say, and they say they are even prepared to withhold the next installment of aid in March.
But the austerity measures that Greece has implemented so far have pushed the Greek economy into a full-blown depression. Greece is experiencing a complete and total economic collapse at this point. The following comes from the New York Times….
Greece’s dire economic condition can hardly be overstated. After two years of tax increases and wage cuts, Greek civil servants have seen their income shrink by 40 percent since 2010, and private-sector workers have suffered as well. More than $75 billion has left the country as people move their savings abroad. Some 68,000 businesses closed in 2010, and another 53,000 — out of 300,000 still active — are said to be close to bankruptcy, according to a report issued in the fall by the Greek Co-Federation of Chambers of Commerce.
“It’s an implosion — it’s an endless sequence of implosions from bad to worse, to worse, to worse,” said Yanis Varoufakis, an economics professor at the University of Athens and commentator on the Greek economy. “There’s nothing to stop the Greek economy losing 60 percent of its G.D.P., given the path it is at.”
But Greece is not the only one in Europe with major economic problems. The unemployment rate for those under the age of 25 in the EU is an astounding 22.7%. And as I have written about previously, there are a whole host of signs that Europe is on the verge of a major recession.
Greece is just the canary in the coal mine. The truth is that the entire European financial system is in danger of collapsing.
Today, it was announced that S&P has downgraded the European Financial Stability Facility. It is pretty sad when even the European bailout fund is getting downgraded.
Of course most of you know what happened on Friday by now. Very shortly after U.S. financial markets closed, S&P downgraded the credit ratings of nine different European nations.
Only four eurozone nations (Germany, Luxembourg, Finland, and the Netherlands) still have a AAA credit rating from S&P.
But even more importantly, the nightmarish decline of the euro is showing no signs of stopping.
Right now, the EUR/USD is down to 1.2650. It is hard to believe how fast the EUR/USD has fallen, but if a major financial crisis erupts in Europe it is probably going to go down a whole lot more.
So what happens next?
Well, if there is a Greek default all hell will break loose in Europe.
But even if Greece does not default, the coming recession in Europe is going to put an incredible amount of strain on the eurozone.
Many have been speculating that Greece or Italy could be the first to leave the euro, but actually it may be the strongest members that exit first.
The number of prominent voices inside Germany that are calling for Germany to leave the euro continues to increase.
In addition, public opinion in Germany is rapidly turning against the euro. One recent poll found that only 47 percent of Germans were glad that Germany joined the euro, and only 36 percent of Germans want “a more federal Europe”.
As this crisis continues to unfold, there will probably be even more “ack moments”. European leaders have mismanaged this crisis very badly from the start, and there is no reason to believe that they are suddenly going to become much wiser.
Once again, it is important to emphasize the role that confidence plays in our financial system. The entire global financial system runs on credit. Banks and investors lend out money because they have confidence that they will be paid back. When you take that confidence away, the system does not work.
Let us hope that the folks over in Europe understand this, because right now we are steamrolling toward a credit crunch that could potentially make 2008 look tame by comparison.
Now another of the three major credit rating agencies, Fitch, is publicly saying that Greece will default….
“It is going to happen. Greece is insolvent so it will default,” Edward Parker, Managing Director for Fitch’s Sovereign and Supranational Group in Europe, the Middle East and Africa told Reuters on the sidelines of a conference in the Swedish capital. “So in that sense it shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone.”
Once the euphoria of the initial announcement faded and as people have begun to closely examine the details of the European debt deal, they have started to realize that this “debt deal” is really just a “managed” Greek debt default. Let’s be honest – this deal is not going to solve anything. All it does is buy Greece a few months. Meanwhile, it is going to make the financial collapse of other nations in Europe even more likely. Anyone that believes that the financial situation in Europe is better now than it was last week simply does not understand what is going on. Bond yields are going to go through the roof and investors are going to start to panic. The European Central Bank is going to have an extremely difficult time trying to keep a lid on this thing. Instead of being a solution, the European debt deal has brought us several steps closer to a complete financial meltdown in Europe.
The big message that Europe is sending to investors is that when individual nations get into debt trouble they will be allowed to default and investors will be forced to take huge haircuts.
As this reality starts to dawn on investors, they are going to start demanding much higher returns on European bonds.
In fact, we are already starting to see this happen.
The yield on two year Spanish bonds increased by more than 6 percent today.
The yield on two year Italian bonds increased by more than 7 percent today.
So what are nations such as Italy, Spain, Portugal and Ireland going to do when it costs them much more to borrow money?
The finances of those nations could go from bad to worse very, very quickly.
When that happens, who will be the next to come asking for a haircut?
After all, if Greece was able to get a 50% haircut out of private investors, then why shouldn’t Italy or Spain or Portugal ask for one as well?
According to Reuters, German Chancellor Angela Merkel is already trying to warn other members of the EU not to ask for a haircut….
Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Friday it was important to prevent others from seeking debt reductions after European Union leaders struck a deal with private banks to accept a nominal 50 percent cut on their Greek government debt holdings.
“In Europe it must be prevented that others come seeking a haircut,” she said.
But investors are not stupid. Greece was allowed to default. If Italy or Spain or Portugal gets into serious trouble it is likely that they will be allowed to default too.
Investors like to feel safe. They want to feel as though their investments are secure. This Greek debt deal is a huge red flag which signals to global financial markets that there is no longer safety in European bonds.
So what is coming next?
Hold on to your seatbelts, because things are about to get interesting.
Around the globe, a lot of analysts are realizing that this European debt deal was not good news at all. The following is a sampling of comments from prominent voices in the financial community….
*Economist Sony Kapoor: “The fact that a deal has been agreed, any deal, impresses people. Until they start de-constructing it and parts start unravelling.”
*Economist Ken Rogoff: “It feels at its root to me like more of the same, where they’ve figured how to buy a couple of months”
*Neil MacKinnon of VTB Capital: “The best we can say is that the EU have engineered a temporary reprieve”
*Graham Summers of Phoenix Capital Research:
First off, let’s call this for what it is: a default on the part of Greece. Moreover it’s a default that isn’t big enough as a 50% haircut on private debt holders only lowers Greece’s total debt level by 22% or so.
Secondly, even after the haircut, Greece still has Debt to GDP levels north of 130%. And it’s expected to bring these levels to 120% by 2020.
And the IMF is giving Greece another $137 billion in loans.
So… Greece defaults… but gets $137 billion in new money (roughly what the default will wipe out) and is expected to still be insolvent in 2020.
*Max Keiser: “There will be another bailout required within six months – I guarantee it.”
The people that are really getting messed over by this deal are the private investors in Greek debt. Not only are they being forced to take a brutal 50% haircut, they are also being told that their credit default swaps are not going to pay out since this is a “voluntary” haircut.
This is completely and totally ridiculous as an article posted on Finance Addict pointed out…
We now know that private holders of Greek bonds will be “invited” (seriously–this was the word used in the EU summit statement) to take a write-down of 50%–halving the face value of the estimated $224 billion in bonds that they hold. This will help bring the Greek debt-to-GDP ratio down from 186% in 2013 to 120% by 2020. The big question–apart from how many investors they will get to go along with this, given that they couldn’t reach their target of 90% investor participation when the write-down was only going to be 21%–is whether this will trigger a CDS pay-out.
That this is even up for discussion is mind-boggling. These credit default swaps are meant to be an insurance policy in case Greece doesn’t pay the agreed upon interest and return the full principal within the agreed timeframe. If they don’t pay out when bondholders are taking a 50% hit then what’s the point?
European politicians may believe that they have “solved” something, but the truth is that what they have really done is they have pulled the rug out from under the European financial system.
Faith in European debt is going to rapidly disappear and the euro is likely to fall like a rock in the months ahead.
The financial crisis in Europe is just getting started. 2012 looks like it is going to be an extremely painful year.
Let us hope for the best, but let us also prepare for the worst.