The Beginning Of The End
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Jim Cramer Is Predicting Bank Runs In Spain And Italy And Financial Anarchy Throughout Europe

During an appearance on Meet The Press on Sunday, Jim Cramer of CNBC boldly predicted that “financial anarchy” is coming to Europe and that there will be “bank runs” in Spain and Italy in the next few weeks.  This is very strong language for the most famous personality on the most watched financial news channel in the United States to be using.  In fact, if Cramer is not careful, people will start accusing him of sounding just like The Economic Collapse Blog.  It may not happen in “the next few weeks”, but the truth is that the European banking system is in a massive amount of trouble and if Greece does leave the euro it is going to cause a tremendous loss of confidence in banks in countries such as Spain, Italy and Portugal.  There are already rumors that the “smart money” is pulling out of Spanish and Italian banks.  So could we see some of these banks collapse?  Would they get bailed out if they do collapse?  It is so hard to predict exactly how “financial anarchy” will play out, but it is becoming increasingly clear that the European financial system is heading for a massive amount of pain.

Posted below is a clip of Jim Cramer making his bold predictions during his appearance on Meet The Press.  He is obviously very, very disturbed about the direction that Europe is heading in….

But what is Europe supposed to do?  Even though “austerity measures” have been implemented in many eurozone nations, the truth is that they are all still running up more debt.  Are European nations just supposed to run up massive amounts of debt indefinitely and pretend that there will never been any consequences?

That is apparently what Barack Obama wants.  During the G-8 summit that just concluded, Obama urged European leaders to pursue a “pro-growth” path.

Of course to Obama a “pro-growth” economic plan includes spending trillions of dollars that you do not have without any regard for what you are doing to future generations.

Germany has been trying to get the rest of the eurozone to move much closer to living within their means, but as the recent elections in France and Greece demonstrated, much of the rest of the eurozone is not too thrilled with the end of debt-fueled prosperity.

In Greece, the recent elections failed to produce a new government, so new elections will be held on June 17th.

Many EU politicians are trying to turn these upcoming elections into a referendum on whether Greece stays in the eurozone or not.  If the next Greek government is willing to honor the austerity agreements that have been previously agreed to, then Greece will probably stay in the eurozone for a while longer.  If the next Greek government is not willing to honor the austerity agreements that have been previously agreed to, then Greece will probably be forced out of the eurozone.

The following is what John Praveen, the chief investment strategist at Prudential International Investments Advisers, had to say about the political situation in Greece recently….

“If the pro-euro major parties fail to muster enough support to form a coalition and the radical left Syriza party and other anti-euro, anti-austerity parties secure a majority, the risk of a disorderly Greek exit from the Euro increases and could roil markets”

Right now, polls show the leading anti-austerity party, Syriza, doing very well.  The leader of Syriza, Alexis Tsipras, has declared that he plans “to stop the experiment” with austerity and that what the rest of the eurozone has tried to do in Greece is a “crime against the Greek people“.

But the Germans do not see it that way.  The Germans just want the Greeks to stop spending far more money than they bring in.

The Germans do not want to endlessly bail out the Greeks if the Greeks are not willing to show some financial discipline.

As we approach the June 17th elections, the financial markets are likely to be quite nervous.  According to Art Hogan of Lazard Capital Partners, many investors are deeply concerned about how “sloppy” a great exit from the euro could be….

“Next week is only one of the four weeks we have to wait until the Greek election. Every utterance out of Greece makes us think about their [possible] exit and how sloppy that could be”

Most Greek citizens want to remain in the eurozone and most European politicians want Greece to remain in the eurozone, but it is looking increasingly likely as if that may not happen.

In fact, there are reports that preparations are rapidly being made for a Greek exit.  According to Reuters, “contingency plans” for the printing of Greek drachmas have already been drawn up….

De La Rue (DLAR.L) has drawn up contingency plans to print drachma banknotes should Greece exit the euro and approach the British money printer, an industry source told Reuters on Friday.

And even EU officials are now acknowledging that plans for a Greek exit from the euro are being developed.  The following is what EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht said during one recent interview….

“A year and a half ago, there may have been the danger of a domino effect,” he said, “but today there are, both within the European Central Bank and the European Commission, services that are working on emergency scenarios in case Greece doesn’t make it.”

When these kinds of things start to become public, that is a sign that officials really do not expect Greece to remain a part of the euro.

And Greece is rapidly beginning to run out of money.  According to a recent Ekathimerini article, the Greek government is likely to run out of money at the end of June….

The public coffers are seen running dry at the end of June, but this will depend on two key factors. First, revenue collection: In the first 10 days of May, inflows were about 15 percent lower than projected but there are fears that the slide may reach 50 percent. The GAO will have a picture for the first 20 days on May 23, while the last three days of the month are considered crucial, when 1.5 billion euros of the month’s budgeted total of 3.6 billion are expected to flow in.

Second, whether the IMF and EFSF installments are disbursed: This is not certain, as the decision will be purely political for both providers and evidently partly linked to political developments. Earlier this month the eurozone approved a disbursement 1 billion short of the 5 billion euros that were expected.

If Greece runs out of money and if the rest of Europe cuts off the flow of euros, Greece would essentially be forced to leave the euro.

So the last half of June looks like it could potentially be a key moment for Greece.

Meanwhile, the Greek banking system is struggling to survive as hundreds of millions of euros get pulled out of it.  The following is from a recent CNN article….

The Greek financial system is straining hard for cash.

Consumers and businesses are making massive withdrawals from Greece’s banks — leading to concern the beleaguered nation could be forced out of the eurozone by a banking crisis even before its government runs out of cash.

Deposits are the lifeblood of any bank, and Greeks pulled 800 million euros out of the banking system on Tuesday alone, the most recent day for which figures are available.

If Greece does leave the euro and the Greek banking system does collapse, that is going to be a clear signal that a similar scenario will be allowed to play out in other eurozone nations.

That is why Jim Cramer, myself and many others are warning that there could soon be bank runs all over the eurozone.

Sadly, the banking crisis in Europe just seems to get worse with each passing day.

For example, the Telegraph has reported that wealthy individuals are starting to pull money out of Spanish banking giant Santander….

Customers with large deposits have started withdrawing cash from Santander, the bank has admitted, as it tried to reassure concerned members of the public that their money is safe.

Round and round we go.  Where all this will stop nobody knows.

If Greece does end up leaving the euro, that could set off a chain of cascading events that could potentially be absolutely catastrophic.

Former Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi recently stated that the “whole house of cards will come down” if Greece leaves the euro.

And if the “house of cards” does come down in Europe, that is going to greatly destabilize the global derivatives market.

You see, the truth is that the global derivatives market is very delicately balanced.  The assumption most firms make is that things are not going to deviate too much from what is considered “normal”.

If we do end up seeing “financial anarchy” in Europe, that is going to greatly destabilize the system and we could rapidly have a huge derivatives crisis on our hands.

And as we saw with JP Morgan recently, losses from derivatives can add up really fast.

Originally, we were told that the derivatives losses that JP Morgan experienced recently came to a total of only about 2 billion dollars.

Now, we are told that it could be a whole lot more than that.  According to the Wall Street Journal, JP Morgan could end up losing about 5 billion dollars (or more) before it is all said and done….

J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. is struggling to extricate itself from disastrous wagers by traders such as the “London whale,” in a sign that the size of its bets could bog down the bank’s unwinding of the trades and deepen its losses by billions of dollars.

The nation’s largest bank has said publicly that its losses on the trades have surpassed $2 billion, and people familiar with the matter have said they could over time reach $5 billion.

And if Europe experiences a financial collapse, the losses experienced by U.S. firms could make that 5 billion dollars look like pocket change.  The following is from a recent article by Graham Summers….

According to Reuters once you include Spain and Italy as well as Credit Default Swaps and indirect exposure to Europe, US banks have roughly $4 TRILLION in potential exposure to the EU.

To put that number in perspective, the entire US banking system is $12 trillion in size.

Interesting days are ahead my friends.

Let us hope for the best, but let us also prepare for the worst.

18 Signs That The Banking Crisis In Europe Has Just Gone From Bad To Worse

With each passing day, the banking crisis in Europe escalates.  European banks are having their credit ratings downgraded in waves, bond yields are soaring and billions of euros are being pulled out of banks all across the eurozone.  The situation in Europe is rapidly going from bad to worse.  It is almost like watching air being let out of a balloon.  The key to any financial system is confidence, and right now confidence in banks in Greece, Italy, Spain and Portugal is declining at an alarming rate.  When things hit the fan in Europe, it is going to be much safer to have your money in Swiss banks or German banks than in Greek banks, Spanish banks or Italian banks.  Millions of people in Europe are starting to realize that a “euro” is not necessarily always going to be a “euro” and they are starting to panic.  The Greek banking system is already on the verge of total collapse, and at this rate it is only a matter of time before we see some major Spanish and Italian banks start to fail.  In fact it has already been announced that the fourth largest bank in Spain, Bankia, will be getting bailed out by the Spanish government.  It is only a matter of time before we hear more announcements like this.  Right now, events are moving so quickly in Europe that it is hard to keep up with them all.  But this is what usually happens in the financial world.  When things go well, it tends to happen over an extended period of time.  When things fall apart, it tends to happen very rapidly.

And at the moment, things across the pond are moving at a pace that is absolutely breathtaking.

The following are 18 signs that the banking crisis in Europe has just gone from bad to worse….

#1 Moody’s has announced that it has downgraded the credit ratings of 16 Spanish banks.  Included was Banco Santander, the largest bank in the eurozone.

#2 Shares of the fourth largest bank in Spain, Bankia, dropped 14 percent on Thursday.

#3 Overall, shares of Bankia have declined by 61 percent since last July.

#4 Shares of the largest bank in Italy, Unicredit, dropped by about 6 percent on Thursday.

#5 According to CNBC, a Spanish bond auction on Thursday went very poorly….

The Spanish Treasury had to pay around 5 percent to attract buyers of three- and four-year bonds. The longer-dated paper sold with a yield of 5.106 percent, way above the 3.374 percent the last time it was auctioned.

#6 The yield on 10 year Spanish bonds is back above 6 percent.

#7 In recent days, about eight times more money than usual has been pulled out of Greek banks.

#8 Fitch has slashed the long-term credit rating for Greece from B- to CCC.

#9 The European Central Bank has cut off direct lending to at least 4 Greek banks.

#10 According to a recent German documentary, financial records at the Ministry of Finance in Athens are being stored in garbage bags and shopping carts.

#11 The euro hit a 4 month low against the U.S. dollar on Thursday.

#12 It has been announced that the Spanish economy and the Italian economy are officially in recession.

#13 The Spanish government is becoming increasingly concerned about the bad loans that are mounting at major Spanish banks.  The following is from a recent Bloomberg article….

The government has asked lenders to increase provisions for bad debt by 54 billion euros ($70 billion) to 166 billion euros. That’s enough to cover losses of about 50 percent on loans to property developers and construction firms, according to the Bank of Spain. There wouldn’t be anything left for defaults on more than 1.4 trillion euros of home loans and corporate debt.

Taking those into account, banks would need to increase provisions by as much as five times what the government says, or 270 billion euros, according to estimates by the Centre for European Policy Studies, a Brussels-based research group. Plugging that hole would increase Spain’s public debt by almost 50 percent or force it to seek a bailout, following in the footsteps of Ireland, Greece and Portugal.

#14 Civil unrest is rising to dangerous levels in Italy.  The Italian government has assigned bodyguards to 550 individuals and has increased security at about 14,000 locations in response to recent violence related to the economic crisis.

#15 Governments all over Europe are rapidly making preparations for a Greek exit from the euro.  The following is from a recent article in the Guardian….

The British government is making urgent preparations to cope with the fallout of a possible Greek exit from the single currency, after the governor of the Bank of England, Sir Mervyn King, warned that Europe was “tearing itself apart”.

#16 According to CNBC, the banking crisis in Europe is beginning to affect global trade….

The euro zone debt crisis is affecting trade as companies shy away from dealing with firms and banks in countries deemed at risk of contagion, a senior banker said on Thursday.

#17 Moody’s downgraded the credit ratings of 26 Italian banks on Monday.

#18 Moody’s has announced that it is reviewing the credit ratings of 114 more European financial institutions.

Newspapers all over the globe are speaking breathlessly of a potential Greek exit from the euro, but it is very unlikely to happen before the next Greek election on June 17th.

The rest of Europe is going to continue to financially support Greece until a new government takes power.

If the new government is willing to accept the previous bailout agreements, then financial support for Greece will continue.

If the new government is not willing to accept the previous bailout agreements, then financial support for Greece will stop.

If that happens, the bank runs in Europe will likely become a lot worse.

But for now, Greece almost certainly has at least one more month in the euro.

Beyond that, there is no telling what is going to happen.

Greece is the first domino.  If Greece falls, you can count on others to eventually start tumbling as well.

The second half of 2012 is going to be fascinating to watch.

Hopefully things will not be as bad as many of us now fear they may be.

The Hard Working American vs. The Government Parasite

Which lifestyle choice produces better results – being a hard working American or being a government parasite?  Actually, when you look at the cold, hard numbers they may just surprise you.  In America today, we deeply penalize hard work and we greatly reward government dependence.  If you live in a very liberal area of the country and you know how to game the system, it is entirely possible to live a comfortable existence without ever working too much at all.  In fact, there are some Americans that have been living off of “government benefits” for decades.  Many of these people actually plan their lives around doing exactly what they need to do to qualify for as many benefits as possible.  America is rapidly turning into a European-style socialist welfare state and it is destroying our nation socially and financially.  Ever since the “war on poverty” began our debt has absolutely exploded and yet now there are more poor people in this country than ever before.  Obviously something is not working.

Now don’t get me wrong.  I deeply believe in having compassion for those that are going through tough times and having a safety net for those that cannot take care of themselves.  We should not have a single person in this nation going without food or sleeping in the streets.

But in America today it is absolutely ridiculous how many people are climbing aboard the “safety net”.  At this point, an astounding 49 percent of all Americans live in a home that receives some form of government benefits.

So who pays for all of this?

The people that drag themselves out of bed and go to work each day pay for it all.

For a few moments, let’s examine how the lifestyle of a typical hard working American compares to the lifestyle of a government parasite.

In America today, the median yearly household income is somewhere around $50,000.  About half of all American households make more than that and about half of all American households make less than that.  When you break it down, it comes to about $4000 a month.

So how far does $4000 go in America today?

Unfortunately, it doesn’t go very far at all.

First of all, a hard working American family will need some place to live.  Unfortunately, the vast majority of the decent jobs are near the big cities, and it is more expensive to live near the big cities.  Let’s assume that an average family of four will spend about $1000 a month on rent or on a mortgage payment.

The government parasite, on the other hand, has a whole host of federal, state and local housing programs to take advantage of.  During the recent economic downturn, more Americans than ever have been turning to the government for help with housing costs.  For example, federal housing assistance outlays increased by a whopping 42 percent between 2006 and 2010.

Once you have a place to live, you have to provide power and heat for it.  For the average hard working American, this is going to probably average about $300 a month, although this can vary greatly depending on where you live.

For the government parasite, there are once again a whole host of government programs to help with this.  For example, LIHEAP (Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program) assists low income households in paying their home heating bills.

Most average hard working Americans are also going to need phone and Internet service.  Let’s assume that the hard working family of four in our example is extremely thrifty and only spends $100 a month for these services.

For the government parasite, cell phone service is not a problem.  As I have written about previously, those that “qualify” can receive a free cell phone and free cell phone minutes every single month from the federal government.  In addition, in some areas of the nation low income families can qualify for deeply subsidized home Internet service.

In order to earn money, our hard working family is going to need to get to work.  In most households, both parents have decided to work these days so both of them will need cars.  Let’s assume that the family is very thrifty and that both cars were purchased used and that the car payments only total about $400 a month.

The hard working family will also need auto insurance for the two vehicles.  Let’s assume that both parents have a great driving record and that they only pay a total of about $100 a month for car insurance.

The cars will also need to be filled up with gasoline.  The average U. S. household spent $4155 on gasoline during 2011, but let’s assume that our family is very, very careful and that they only spend about $300 on gas each month.

So what about the government parasite?  Well, the government parasite does not need to go to work, so this expense can potentially be eliminated entirely.  But since most other things are paid for by the government or are deeply subsidized, in many instances government parasites are actually able to afford very nice vehicles.

In addition, a new bill (The Low-Income Gasoline Assistance Program Act) has been introduced in Congress that would give “qualifying” households money to help pay for gasoline….

Low-Income Gasoline Assistance Program Act – Directs the Secretary of Health and Human Services to make grants to states to establish emergency assistance programs to pay eligible households for the purchase of gasoline.

A hard working American family is also going to need health insurance.  Well, we all know how expensive health insurance has become.  In fact, health insurance costs have risen by 23 percent since Barack Obama became president.  But let’s assume that our hard working family has somehow been able to find an amazing deal where they only pay $500 a month for health insurance for a family of four.

For the government parasite, health insurance is not needed.  If there is an emergency, the government parasite can just go get free medical care at any emergency room.

And of course there is always Medicaid.  Back in 1965, only one out of every 50 Americans was on Medicaid.  Today, one out of every 6 Americans is on Medicaid, and things are about to get a whole lot worse.  It is being projected that Obamacare will add 16 million more Americans to the Medicaid rolls.

So what about food?

Everyone has to eat, right?

Well, the hard working family in our example is faced with an environment where food prices are constantly rising but paychecks are not keeping up.  Let’s assume that the hard working family in our example clips coupons and cuts corners any way that it can and only spends about $50 for each member of the family on food and supplies each week.  That comes to a total of $800 a month for the entire family.

So what about the government parasite?

Government parasites need to eat too.

Well, that is where food stamps come in.  Right now, there are more than 46 million Americans on food stamps.  Since Barack Obama became president, the number of Americans on food stamps has increased by 14 million.  Food stamps have become so popular that rappers are even making rap videos about using food stamp cards.

Okay, so after all of this where do we stand?

Well, the average hard working family so far has spent $3500 out of the $4000 that they have to spend for the month.

We still need to find money for clothing, for paying off credit card debt, for paying off student loan debt, for dining out, for entertainment, for medications, for pets, for hobbies, for life insurance, for vacations, for car repairs and maintenance, for child care, for gifts and for retirement savings.

But wait.

There is actually no money left at all because we have forgotten one of the biggest expenses of all.

Taxes.

When you total up all federal, state and property taxes, our average hard working family is going to pay at least $1000 a month in taxes.

So that puts our average hard working family in the hole every single month.

Meanwhile, the government parasite does not pay any taxes because he or she does not earn enough money to be taxed.

Are you starting to get the picture?

In many ways, life can be so much easier when you are constantly taking from the government instead of constantly giving to the government.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie recently put it this way….

“We’ll have a bunch of people sitting on a couch waiting for their next government check”

Once again, I am not dumping on those that have been through all kinds of nightmares because of this economy.  As I have written about so frequently, the U.S. economy is simply not producing enough jobs for everyone anymore, and this is creating major problems.

Just about everyone needs a helping hand at some point, and we should always be compassionate to those that are in need.

However, there is also a growing number of Americans that are content to simply give up and live off of the government, and that is fundamentally wrong.

It is not the job of the U.S. government to take care of you from the cradle to the grave.  What the U.S. government is supposed to do is to make sure that we have a well functioning economy that operates in an environment where hard working individuals and small businesses can thrive, and sadly the U.S. government has failed miserably in that regard.

We desperately need the U.S. economy to be fixed, but I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for that to happen.

As economic conditions get even worse in this country, millions more Americans are going to turn to the government for assistance and at some point the safety net is going to break.

What is our country going to look like when that happens?

Greece Has Defaulted – Which Country In Europe Is Next?

Well, it is official.  The restructuring deal between Greece and private investors has been pushed through and the International Swaps and Derivatives Association has ruled that this is a credit event which will trigger credit-default swap contracts.  The ISDA is saying that there are approximately $3.2 billion in credit-default swap contracts on Greek debt outstanding, and most analysts expect that the global financial system will be able to absorb these losses.  But still, 3.2 billion dollars is nothing to scoff at, and some of these financial institutions that wrote a lot of these contracts on Greek debt are going to be hurting.  This deal with private investors may have “rescued” Greece for the moment, but the consequences of this deal are going to be felt for years to come.  For example, now that Greece has gotten a sweet “haircut” from private investors, politicians in Portugal, Italy, Spain and other European nations are going to wonder why they shouldn’t get some “debt forgiveness” too.  Also, private investors are almost certainly going to be less likely to want to loan money to European nations from now on.  If they will be required to take a massive haircuts at some point, then why in the world would they want to lend huge amounts of money to European governments at super low interest rates?  It simply does not make sense.  Now that Greece has defaulted, the whole game is going to change.  This is just the beginning.

The “restructuring deal” was approved by approximately 84 percent of all Greek bondholders, but the key to triggering the payouts on the credit-default swaps was the fact that Greece decided to activate the “collective action clauses” which had been retroactively inserted into these bonds.  These collective action clauses force most of the rest of the bondholders to go along with this restructuring deal.

A recent article by Ambrose Evans-Pritchard explained why so many people were upset about these “collective action clauses”….

The Greek parliament’s retroactive law last month to insert collective action clauses (CACs) into its bonds to coerce creditor hold-outs has added a fresh twist. These CAC’s are likely to be activated over coming days. Use of retroactive laws to change contracts is anathema in credit markets.

If a government can go in and retroactively change the terms of a bond just before it is ready to default, then why should private investors invest in them?

That is a very good question.

But for now the buck has been passed on to those that issued the credit-default swaps.  As mentioned above, the ISDA says that there are approximately $3.2 billion in Greek credit-default swaps that will need to be paid out.

However, that number assumes that a lot of hedges and offsetting swaps cancel each other out.  When you just look at the raw total of swaps outstanding, the number is much, much higher.  The following is from a recent article in The Huffington Post….

If you remove all hedges and offsetting swaps, there’s about $70 billion in default-insurance exposure to Greece out there, which is a little bit bigger pill for the banking system to swallow. Is it possible that some banks won’t be able to pay on their default policies? We’ll find out.

Yes, indeed.  We will find out very soon.

If some counterparties are unable to pay we could soon see some big problems cascade through the financial system.

But even with this new restructuring deal with private investors, Greece is still in really bad shape.

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble told reporters recently that it “would be a big mistake to think we are out of the woods”.

Even with this new deal, Greek debt is still projected to be only reduced to 120 percent of GDP by the year 2020.  And that number relies on projections that are almost unbelievably optimistic.

In addition, there are still a whole host of very strict conditions that the Greek government must meet in order to continue getting bailout money.

Also, the upcoming Greek elections in just a few weeks could bring this entire process to an end in just a single day.

So the crisis in Greece is a long way from over.

The Greek economy has been in recession for five years in a row and it continues to shrink at a frightening pace.  Greek GDP was 7.5 percent smaller during the 4th quarter of 2011 than it was during the 4th quarter of 2010.

Unemployment in Greece also continues to get worse.

The average unemployment rate in Greece in 2010 was 12.5 percent.  During 2011, the average unemployment rate was 17.3 percent, and in December the unemployment rate in Greece was 21.0 percent.

Young people are getting hit the hardest.  The youth unemployment rate in Greece is up to an all-time record of 51.1 percent.

The suicide rate in Greece is also at an all-time record high.

Unfortunately, there is no light at the end of the tunnel for Greece at this point.  The latest round of austerity measures that are now being implemented will slow the economy down even more.

Sadly, several other countries in Europe are going down the exact same road that Greece has gone.

Investors all over the globe are wondering which one will be the “next Greece”.

Some believe that it will be Portugal.  The following is from a recent article in The Telegraph….

“The rule of law has been treated with contempt,” said Marc Ostwald from Monument Securities. “This will lead to litigation for the next ten years. It has become a massive impediment for long-term investors, and people will now be very wary about Portugal.”

Right now, the combination of all public and private debt in Portugal comes to a grand total of 360 percent of GDP.

In Greece, the combined total of all public and private debt is about 100 percentage points less than that.

So yes, Portugal is heading for a world of hurt.  The following is more about Portugal from the recent Telegraph article mentioned above….

Citigroup expects the economy to contract by 5.7pc this year, warning that bondholders may face a 50pc haircut by the end of the year. Portugal’s €78bn loan package from the EU-IMF Troika is already large enough to crowd out private creditors, reducing them to ever more junior status.

So why should anyone invest in Portuguese debt at this point?

Or Italian debt?

Or Spanish debt?

Or any European debt at all?

The truth is that the European financial system is a house of cards that could come crashing down at any time.

German economist Hans-Werner Sinn is even convinced that the European Central Bank itself could collapse.

There is a Der Spiegel article that everyone out there should read.  It is entitled “Euro-Zone Central Bank System Massively Imbalanced“. It is quite technical, but if this German economist is correct, the implications are staggering.

The following is from the first paragraph of the article….

More than a year ago, German economist Hans-Werner Sinn discovered a gigantic risk on the balance sheets of Germany’s central bank. Were the euro zone to collapse, Bundesbank losses could be half a trillion euros — more than one-and-a-half times the size of the country’s annual budget.

So no, the European debt crisis is not over.

It is just getting warmed up.

Get ready for a wild ride.

10.7 Percent: Unemployment In Europe Is Worse Than It Was At The Peak Of The Last Recession

The unemployment rate in the eurozone is now 10.7 percent.  That is the highest the unemployment rate has been since the introduction of the euro.  The unemployment rate in the eurozone never got any higher than 10.2 percent during the last recession.  This is very troubling news.  It was just recently announced that the eurozone has entered another recession, and already the unemployment rate is hitting new record highs.  So how bad are things going to get in the months to come?  The truth is that the problems for Europe are just starting.  The European sovereign debt crisis continues to get worse, and another major global financial crisis is going to be here way too soon.  The EU as a whole has a larger population, a larger banking system and more Fortune 500 companies than the United States does.  When the financial system of Europe crashes, the entire world is going to feel it.

Some of the unemployment numbers coming out of Europe are absolutely staggering.

Unemployment in Spain is 19.9 percent.

Unemployment in Greece is 23.3 percent.

And when you look at youth unemployment the numbers are far worse.

The unemployment rate for workers under the age of 25 is 48.1 percent in Greece and 49.9 percent in Spain.

If you look carefully at the photos of the austerity riots happening in Spain and in Greece you will notice that the vast majority of the protesters are young people.

Instead of getting better, the unemployment numbers in Europe just keep getting worse.  Many analysts were shocked by these new numbers.  The following is from a CNN article….

“This is appalling,” said Carl Weinberg, chief economist at High Frequency Economics, highlighting that the unemployment rate following the collapse of Lehman Brothers peaked at 10.2%.

Appalling indeed.

The frightening thing is that we haven’t even had a major financial crisis in Europe yet.  So far, the powers that be have been able to keep Greece from defaulting and have been able to keep major banks all over Europe from collapsing.

But there are quite a few signs that the “moment of reckoning” for Europe is rapidly approaching….

-The European Central Bank announced on Tuesday that it would no longer take Greek bonds as collateral from European banks. That is a really bad sign.

-Major European banks are revealing unexpectedly huge losses on Greek debt.  The following is from a Reuters article….

The scars of Greece’s debt crisis were laid bare in heavy losses from a string of European banks on Thursday, and bosses warned the region’s precarious finances would continue to threaten economic growth and earnings.

From France to Germany, Britain to Belgium, four of the region’s biggest banks lined up to reveal they lost more than 8 billion euros (6.8 million pounds) last year from their Greek bonds holdings.

“We are in the worst economic crisis since 1929,” Credit Agricole chief executive Jean-Paul Chifflet said.

-The International Swaps and Derivatives Association has ruled that the Greek debt deal will not trigger payouts on credit default swaps.  This is going to make it less likely that private bondholders will voluntarily agree to the debt deal.

This ruling is also seriously shaking confidence in credit default swaps.  After all, they are supposed to be “insurance” in case something happens.  But if they aren’t going to pay out when you need them, what good are they?

-Voters in Germany are sick and tired of pouring money into a black hole.  One recent opinion poll in Germany showed that Germans are overwhelmingly against more bailouts for Greece.

Some German politicians are becoming very open about their feelings for Greece.  For example, Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich said the following in a recent interview with Der Spiegel….

“Greece’s chances to regenerate itself and become competitive are surely greater outside the monetary union than if it remains in the euro area.” He added that he did not support a forced exit. “I’m not talking about throwing Greece out, but rather about creating incentives for an exit that they can’t pass up.”

-In Greece, news publications are openly portraying German Chancellor Angela Merkel as Hitler.  Far left political parties that oppose the bailouts are surging in the polls and anger and frustration are reaching unprecedented levels.

The following is from a recent article in The Guardian….

There is a growing animosity towards Germany on the streets of Athens. Angela Merkel bears most of the hostility with one of Greece’s newspapers last week mocking the chancellor up as a Nazi on its front page.

Niki Fidaki, 40, says Greeks are angry at Germany and the troika’s demands for higher taxes and public services cuts. “People can’t afford to pay the tax. My pay has gone down, but my taxes have gone up. But, I’m a lucky one – half of my friends don’t have jobs. Greeks hate that they are asking us to pay all the time when we don’t have the money. Families have no work, they have kids to look after but no money to pay for anything.”

As I have written about before, Greece is already going through a devastating economic depression.  The people of Greece are not in the mood to be pushed much further.

The eurozone is a powder keg that could explode at any time.

So why is the U.S. economy doing so much better than the European economy right now?

Well, a big reason is because we haven’t seen any austerity in the United States yet.

Barack Obama is funding our false prosperity by borrowing 150 million dollars an hour from our children and our grandchildren.

Of course all of this reckless borrowing is going to make the eventual collapse of our financial system far worse, but right now Americans don’t seem to care.  The only thing the mainstream media seems to care about is that some of our economic numbers are getting slightly better.

The sad thing is that our government is spending a lot of this money on some of the most stupid things that you could possibly imagine.

Did you know that the Obama administration just spent $750,000 on a brand new soccer field for detainees held at Guantanamo Bay?

I wish I had a $750,000 soccer field to play on.

I would love that.

Look, when the federal government quits stealing more than a trillion dollars a year from future generations things are going to look a whole lot different in this country.

So pay attention to what is going on in Europe.

That is where we are headed eventually.

Bam! Bam! Bam! Huge Financial Bombs Just Got Dropped All Over Europe

The European debt crisis has just gone to an entirely new level.  Just when it seemed like things may be stabilizing somewhat, we get news of huge financial bombs being dropped all over Europe.  Very shortly after U.S. financial markets closed on Friday, S&P announced credit downgrades for nine European nations.  This included both France and Austria losing their cherished AAA credit ratings.  When the credit rating of a country gets slashed, that is a signal to investors that they should start demanding higher interest rates when they invest in the debt of that nation.  Over the past year it has become significantly more expensive for many European nations to borrow money, and these new credit downgrades certainly are certainly not going to help matters.  Quite a few financially troubled nations in Europe are very dependent on the ability to borrow huge piles of cheap money, and as debt becomes more expensive that is going to push many of them over the edge.    Yesterday I wrote about 22 signs that we are on the verge of a devastating global recession, and unfortunately that list just got a whole lot longer.

Over the past several months we have seen quite a few credit downgrades all over Europe, but we have never seen anything quite like what S&P just did.  Standard & Poor’s unleashed a barrage of credit downgrades on Friday….

-France was downgraded from AAA to AA+

-Austria was downgraded from AAA to AA+

-Italy was downgraded two more levels from A to BBB+

-Spain was downgraded two more levels

-Portugal was downgraded two more levels

-Cyprus was downgraded two more levels

-Malta was downgraded one level

-Slovakia was downgraded one level

-Slovenia was downgraded one level

This is really bad news for anyone that was hoping that things in Europe would start to get better.  Borrowing costs for many of these financially troubled nations are going to go even higher.

In addition, there was another really, really troubling piece of news that came out of Europe on Friday.

It was announced that negotiations between the Greek government and private holders of Greek debt have broken down.

The Institute of International Finance has been representing private bondholders in negotiations with the Greek government about the terms of a “voluntary haircut” that is supposed to be a key component of the “rescue plan” for Greece.

Greece desperately needs private bondholders to agree to accept a “voluntary haircut” of 50% or more.  Without some sort of an agreement, the finances of the Greek government will collapse very quickly.

For now, negotiations have failed.  There is hope that negotiations will resume soon, but Greece is rapidly running out of time.

The Institute of International Finance issued a statement on Friday which said the following….

“Unfortunately, despite the efforts of Greece’s leadership, the proposal put forward … which involves an unprecedented 50% nominal reduction of Greece’s sovereign bonds in private investors’ hands and up to €100 billion of debt forgiveness — has not produced a constructive consolidated response by all parties, consistent with a voluntary exchange of Greek sovereign debt”

The IIF says that negotiations are “paused for reflection” right now, but they are hoping that they will be able to resume before too long….

“Under the circumstances, discussions with Greece and the official sector are paused for reflection on the benefits of a voluntary approach”

Something needs to be done, because Greece is experiencing a complete and total financial meltdown.

Back at the end of July, the yield on one year Greek bonds was sitting at about 40 percent.  Today, the yield on one year Greek bonds is up to an astounding 396 percent.

That is how fast these things can move when confidence disappears.

Those living in the United States should keep that in mind.

Unfortunately, Greece is not the only European nation that is completely falling apart financially.

We aren’t hearing much about it in the U.S. media, but Hungary is a total basket case right now.  The credit rating of Hungary was reduced to junk status some time ago, and now the IMF and the EU are threatening to withhold financial aid from Hungary if the Hungarians do not run their country exactly as they are being told to do.

In particular, the IMF and the EU are absolutely furious that Hungary is trying to take more political control over the central bank in Hungary.  The following is from an article in the Daily Mail….

The European Union has stepped up pressure on Hungary over the country’s refusal to implement austerity policies and threatened legal action over its new constitution.

The warnings escalated the standoff between Budapest and the EU, as Hungary negotiates fresh financial aid from Europe and the International Monetary Fund.

Over the past months, the country’s credit rating has been cut to junk by all three major rating agencies, unemployment is 10.6 percent and the country may be facing a recession.

But bailout negotiations broke down after Budapest refused to cut public spending and implemented a new constitution reasserting political control over its central bank.

Slovenia is a total mess right now as well.  The following comes from a recent article posted on EUObserver.com….

Slovenia’s borrowing costs have reached ‘bail-out territory’ after lawmakers rejected the premier-designate, putting the euro-country on the line for further downgrades by ratings agencies.

Zoran Jankovic, the mayor of Slovenia’s capital Ljubljana, fell four votes short of the 46 needed to be approved as prime minister by the parliament, with the country’s president set to re-cast his name or propose someone new within two weeks.

Some time ago, I warned that 2012 was going to be a more difficult year for the global economy than 2011 was.

Well, things are certainly starting to shape up that way.

Europe is heading for some really hard times.  What is about to happen in Europe is going to shake the entire global financial system.

Those that live in the United States should take notice, because the U.S. financial system is far more fragile than most people believe.

Our banking system is a gigantic mountain of debt, leverage and risk and it could fall again at any time.

In addition, the U.S. debt problem is bigger than it has ever been before.

For example, did you know that the federal government is on a pace to borrow 6.2 trillion dollars by the end of Obama’s first term in office?

That is more debt than the U.S. government accumulated from the time that George Washington became president to the time that George W. Bush became president.

For now the U.S. government is still able to borrow giant piles of super cheap money, but such a situation does not last forever.

Just ask Greece.

Already there are indications that foreigners are starting to dump large amounts of U.S. debt.  If this trickle becomes a flood things could become very bad for the United States very quickly.

We are on the verge of some very bad things.  The kinds of “financial bombs” that we saw dropped today are going to become much more frequent.  As governments, banks and investors scramble to survive, we are going to see extreme amounts of volatility in the financial marketplace.

Things are not going to be “normal” again for a really, really long time.

Hold on tight, because 2012 is going to be a very interesting year.

Look Out Below – The Nightmarish Decline Of The Euro Has Begun

The euro is a dying currency.  On Thursday, the EUR/USD fell below 1.28 for the first time since September 2010.  In fact, as I write this the EUR/USD is sitting at 1.2791.  Back in July, the EUR/USD was over 1.45.  But this is just the beginning.  The euro is going to go a lot lower.  At this point, there are several major European nations that are on the verge of default, the European financial system is overflowing with debt and toxic assets, and most major European banks are leveraged about as badly as Lehman Brothers was when it collapsed.  Most Americans simply do not grasp the gravity of what is happening.  Just because the Dow is sitting above 12000 and a few U.S. economic numbers have improved slightly does not mean that everything is going to be okay.  As I wrote about recently, the EU has a bigger economy than we do and they have a bigger banking system than we do.  U.S. banks are massively exposed to European sovereign debt and European banking debt.  When the financial system of Europe collapses and the euro falls apart it is going to rock the entire planet.  So you better look out below – the euro is coming down and it is coming down hard.  After the euro implodes, nothing is every going to be the same again.

So how far are we going to see the euro decline?

Julian Jessop of Capital Economics expects the euro to fall much further….

The relative strength of the recent economic data from the US is supporting the dollar more generally, and we expect this divergence to persist as the euro-zone slides into a deep and prolonged recession. Above all, doubts about the very survival of the euro itself are likely to remain a drag on the currency. We therefore continue to expect the euro to fall to around $1.10 by the end of the year.

Others are even more pessimistic.

As I have written about previously, the head of global bond portfolio management at PIMCO believes that the euro is going to go even lower than that….

“Parity with the dollar next year is not out of the question”

Can you imagine that?

1 dollar = 1 euro?

Don’t think that it can’t happen.

But the decline of the euro is just part of the story.  The truth is that Europe is on the verge of a financial collapse that could end up dwarfing the financial crisis of 2008.

Sadly, most Americans have no idea what has been going on in Europe the past few days….

-The stock of the biggest bank in Italy, UniCredit, is absolutely collapsing.  Shares of UniCredit fell 14 percent on Wednesday and 17 percent on Thursday.

-Shares of another major Italian bank, Intesa Sanpaolo, fell 7.3 percent on Thursday.

-Shares of three major French banks all fell by at least 5 percent on Thursday.

-Even shares of German banks are falling like a rock.  Shares of Commerzbank fell 4.5 percent on Thursday and shares of Deutsche Bank fell 5.6 percent on Thursday.

-The yield on 5 years Italian bonds is back over 6 percent and the yield on 10 year Italian bonds is back over 7 percent.  Analysts all over Europe insist that that the Italian debt situation is not sustainable if rates stay this high.

-Italy’s youth unemployment rate has hit the highest level ever.

This is mind blowing news.

But what is the top headline on USA Today right now?

Employers Impose Bans On Smokers

These are some of the other top headlines on USA Today right now….

“Automakers Rush To Offer Apps In Your Car”

“Bargain Season At Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, Wendy’s”

“Does Your Dog Understand You? Study Says Maybe”

Is that what passes as news in this country?

A financial meltdown of historic proportions is happening in Europe and you cannot even find anything about it on the front page of USA Today.

Amazing.

All of us need to snap out of our television-induced comas and start waking up.

Things are about to get really bad for the global financial system.

At this point so much confidence has been lost in the euro that even the Council on Foreign Relations is admitting that the euro is a failure….

The euro should now be recognized as an experiment that failed. This failure, which has come after just over a dozen years since the euro was introduced, in 1999, was not an accident or the result of bureaucratic mismanagement but rather the inevitable consequence of imposing a single currency on a very heterogeneous group of countries. The adverse economic consequences of the euro include the sovereign debt crises in several European countries, the fragile condition of major European banks, high levels of unemployment across the eurozone, and the large trade deficits that now plague most eurozone countries.

If even the CFR is throwing in the towel, that should tell you something about what is about to happen to the euro.

There is a very real possibility that we could see the euro break up at some point during the next couple of years.

It now seems that a report produced a while back by Credit Suisse’s Fixed Income Research unit was right on target….

“We seem to have entered the last days of the euro as we currently know it. That doesn’t make a break-up very likely, but it does mean some extraordinary things will almost certainly need to happen – probably by mid-January – to prevent the progressive closure of all the euro zone sovereign bond markets, potentially accompanied by escalating runs on even the strongest banks.”

The European debt crisis just continues to get worse and worse.  None of the solutions that European leaders have tried have worked.  We are rapidly approaching the meltdown phase of this crisis.

As I have written about previously, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out what is happening in Europe.  The equation is simple….

Brutal austerity + toxic levels of government debt + rising bond yields + a lack of confidence in the financial system + banks that are massively overleveraged + a massive credit crunch = A financial implosion of historic proportions

Unfortunately, what is happening right now in Europe is eventually going to happen in the United States as well.

As I wrote about yesterday, U.S. debt is a ticking time bomb that is going to devastate the entire global economy at some point.  Nobody knows when the implosion will happen, but everyone knows that it is inevitable.

When Europe falls apart financially, that is going to make our own financial system much less stable.  What is happening in Europe could turn our “limited recovery” into a “major recession” almost overnight.

So keep your eye on the euro.

If the euro keeps going down, that is going to be really bad news for the global economy.

Unfortunately, the truth is that the decline of the euro is just getting started.

Hold on to your hats.

***UPDATE***

The euro continues to drop like a rock.  Right now it is at 1.2721.

Michael

The Collapse Of The Euro, The Death Of The Euro And The End Of The Euro

The euro was a doomed project from the start, and now we are starting to see the endgame play out.  Today, the euro fell to an 11-month low against the U.S. dollar.  As I write this, the EUR/USD is at 1.2983.  Back in July, the EUR/USD was over 1.45.  As panic has swept the financial markets, the euro has lost more than 3 percent over the past three days.  But this is just the beginning.  When the euro drops below 1.20, analysts will talk about the collapse of the euro.  When the euro falls toward parity with the dollar, headlines around the world will scream about the death of the euro.  But when the European financial system finally collapses, we may very well actually see the end of the euro.  Yes, it actually could happen.  The eurozone, as it is currently constructed, simply does not work.  You just can’t take 17 different nations that have 17 different fiscal policies, 17 different tax policies and 17 different economic agendas and cram them all into a single currency and expect the thing to work.  The euro is a doomed currency, and if a big nation like Germany decides to walk away at some point the game is going to be over.

It is not as if the euro is just having a bad week.  Just check out this chart that shows what the euro has done relative to the U.S. dollar over the past 6 months.

The truth is that a collapse of the euro has already begun.

And a whole lot of investors expect it to continue.  Right now, huge amounts of money are being poured into bets that the euro is going to go even lower.

All over the world, financial professionals are speculating about how far the euro will eventually fall.  Scott Mather, the head of global bond portfolio management at PIMCO, says that he believes that the euro is going to go much, much lower….

“Parity with the dollar next year is not out of the question”

Of course the central banks of the world could step in at some point with coordinated action to help support the value of the euro.  This kind of thing has happened before.  But such support would only be temporary.

Central banks can manipulate the markets for a while, but in the end the long-term trends are going to prevail.  Just look at what is happening with European bond yields.

European bond yields are rising once again even though the European Central Bank has already spent over 274 billion dollars buying up European government bonds.

There will be more efforts to try to prevent the death of the euro, but those efforts will be kind of like spitting into the wind.

A recent article posted on Crackerjack Finance talked about some of the fundamental problems that make the euro such a flawed currency….

The problems of the Eurozone’s flawed construct are now completely exposed. A block of 17 sovereign nations have adopted a common currency and outsourced monetary policy to a common central bank. Yet each of the 17 sovereign nations have different comparative advantages, industries, debt levels, interest rates, budget deficits, labor market rules, and tax policies. Reflecting on all the differences, it is amazing that the Eurozone has survived in the current construct for over a decade.

Greece would probably not be going through an economic depression right now if they had not joined the euro.  But now, 100,000 businesses have closed since the beginning of the recent crisis and a third of the country is living in poverty.

As this crisis spreads throughout the rest of Europe, it is going to put an incredible amount of stress on the European financial system.  Many now believe that the euro may not be able to make it through the tough times that are ahead.

The following comes from a report recently produced by Credit Suisse’s Fixed Income Research unit….

“We seem to have entered the last days of the euro as we currently know it. That doesn’t make a break-up very likely, but it does mean some extraordinary things will almost certainly need to happen – probably by mid-January – to prevent the progressive closure of all the euro zone sovereign bond markets, potentially accompanied by escalating runs on even the strongest banks.”

So will we actually see the end of the euro?

Only time will tell.

But one thing is for sure – the situation in Europe is rapidly getting worse.

In Greece, approximately 20 percent of all bank deposits have been withdrawn since the start of 2011.

If you still have money in a Greek bank, you might want to do something about it before the run on the banks gets even worse.

In fact, if you still have money in any European bank, you might want to consider your options.

Today it was revealed that Germany’s second largest bank is going to need a bailout.

The following comes from a Sky News report….

Germany’s second largest bank, Commerzbank, is reportedly in discussions with the German government about a bailout after regulators said it needed to raise more money to cope with a potential default on its loans to governments.

“Intense talks” have been going on for several days, according to sources who spoke to the news agency Reuters.

Let the bailouts begin!

European governments are going to save the banks that they want to save, and the rest they are going to let fail.

So who will live and who will die?

We just don’t know.

But without a doubt, a whole lot of European banks are in trouble.  In fact, Fitch Ratings downgraded the credit ratings of five more major European banks on Wednesday.

The eurozone worked well for a while, but now the flaws in the system are becoming appallingly evident.  To get an idea of just how badly the European financial system is unraveling, just check out this chart.  European bond yields are not supposed to be acting like that.

In the end, someone is going to leave the euro.  There has been a lot of talk about Greece or Italy leaving the euro, but the truth is that it is probably more likely that a strong nation such as Germany will be the first to make a move.

If Germany leaves the euro, will they start printing up new German currency?

No, I believe in that case that Germany would seek to establish an entirely new European currency for an entirely new European financial system.  Germany is very committed to the idea of a “European superstate“, and just because the euro is a failure does not mean that they are ready to give up on the idea.

But time will tell who is right and who is wrong.

For much more on why we are on the verge of a massive financial collapse in Europe, please check out these articles….

*”Mega Fail: 17 Signs That The European Financial System Is Heading For An Implosion Of Historic Proportions

*”22 Reasons Why We Could See An Economic Collapse In Europe In 2012

As I have written about previously, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out what is happening in Europe.  The equation is simple….

Brutal austerity + toxic levels of government debt + rising bond yields + a lack of confidence in the financial system + banks that are massively overleveraged + a massive credit crunch = A financial implosion of historic proportions

Unfortunately, the United States is not going to escape all of this chaos unscathed either.

The financial systems of the United States and Europe are more deeply tied together than ever before.  When the financial crisis in Europe fully erupts, we are going to see lots of banks in the United States fail too.

The U.S. economy never recovered from the financial crisis of 2008, and this next financial crisis could send us into a huge tailspin.

2012 is going to be a very interesting year for the financial world.  I hope that you all are ready for what is about to happen.

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