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It’s Germany vs. Greece, And The Very Survival Of The Eurozone Is At Stake

Boxing - Public DomainIs this the beginning of the end for the eurozone?  On Thursday, Germany rejected a Greek request for a six-month loan extension.  The Germans insisted that the Greek proposal did not require the Greeks to adhere to the austerity restrictions which previous agreements had forced upon them.  But Greek voters have already very clearly rejected the status quo, and the new Greek government has stated unequivocally that it will not be bound by the current bailout arrangement.  So can Germany and Greece find some sort of compromise that will be acceptable to both of them?  It certainly does not help that some Greek politicians have been comparing the current German government to the Nazis, and the Germans have fired back with some very nasty comments about the Greeks.  Unfortunately for both of them, time is running out.  The Greek government will run out of money in just a couple of weeks, and without a deal there is a very good chance that Greece will be forced to leave the euro.  In fact, this week Commerzbank AG increased the probability of a “Grexit” to 50 percent.  And if Greece does leave the eurozone, it could spark a full blown European financial crisis which would be absolutely catastrophic.

What the Greeks want right now is a six month loan extension which would give them much more economic flexibility than under the current agreement.  Unfortunately for the Greeks, Germany has rejected this proposal

Germany rejected a Greek proposal for a six-month extension to its euro zone loan agreement on Thursday, saying it was “not a substantial solution” because it did not commit Athens to stick to the conditions of its international bailout.

Berlin’s stance set the scene for tough talks at a crucial meeting of euro zone finance ministers on Friday when Greece’s new leftist-led government, racing to avoid running out of money within weeks, will face pressure to make further concessions.

As the biggest creditor and EU paymaster, Germany has the clout to block a deal and cast Greece adrift without a financial lifeline, potentially pushing it toward the euro zone exit.

Even though Germany is already saying no to this deal, Greece is still hoping that the Eurogroup will accept the deal that it has proposed…

“The Greek government submitted a letter to the Eurogroup asking for a six-month extension of the loan agreement. Tomorrow’s Eurogroup has only two options: either to accept or reject the Greek request,” a government  official said. “It will then be clear who wants to find a solution and who doesn’t.” Earlier on Thursday, the German finance ministry rejected Athens’ request for an extension by saying it fell short of the conditions set out earlier this week by the euro zone.

At this point, the odds of a deal going through don’t look good.

But there is always next week.  It is possible that something could still happen.

However, if there is no deal and Greece is forced out of the euro, the consequences for Greece and for the rest of the eurozone could be quite dramatic.

The following is how the Independent summarized what could happen to Greece…

An immediate financial crisis and a new, deep, recession. Without external financial support the country would have to default on its debts and, probably, start printing its own currency again in order to pay civil servants. Its banks would also lose access to funding from the European Central Bank.

To prevent these institutions collapsing Athens would have impose controls on the movement of money out of the country. The international value of the new Greek currency would inevitably be much lower than the euro. That would mean an instant drop in living standards for Greeks as import prices spike. And if Greeks have foreign debts which they have to pay back in euros they will also be instantly worse off. There could be a cascade of defaults.

That doesn’t sound pretty at all.

The most frightening part for those that have money in Greek banks would be the capital controls that would be imposed.  People would have to deal with strict restrictions on how much money they could take out of their accounts and on how much money they could take out of the country.

In anticipation of this happening, people are already pulling money out of Greek banks at a staggering pace

In the midst of the dramatic showdown in Brussels between the new Greek government and its European creditors, many Greek depositors—spooked by the prospect of a Greek default or, worse, an exit from the euro zone and a possible return to the drachma—have been pulling euros out of the nation’s banks in record amounts over the last few days.

The Bank of Greece and the European Central Bank won’t report official cash outflows for January until the end of the month. But sources in the Greek banking sector have told Greek newspapers that as much as 25 billion euros (US $28.4 billion) have left Greek banks since the end of December. According to the same sources, an estimated 900 million euros flowed out of Greek banks on Tuesday alone, the day after the talks broke up in Brussels, sparking fears that measures will be taken to stem the outflow. On Thursday, by mid-afternoon, deposits had shrunk by about 680 million euros (US $77.3 million).

If outflows reach 1 billion euros, capital controls might need to be imposed,” said Thanasis Koukakis, a financial editor for Estia a conservative daily, and To Vima, an influential Sunday newspaper.

And if we do indeed witness a “Grexit”, the rest of Europe would be deeply affected as well.

The following is how the Independent summarized what could happen to the rest of the continent…

There would probably be some financial contagion as financial investors wake up to the fact that euro membership is not irreversible. There could a “flight to safety” as depositors pull euros out of other potentially vulnerable eurozone members such as Portugal, Spain or Italy to avoid taking a hit. European company share prices could also fall sharply if investors panic and divert their cash into the government bonds of states such as Germany and Finland.

The question is how severe this contagion would be. The continent’s politicians and regulators seem to think the impact would be relatively small, saying that Europe’s banks have reduced their cross-border exposure to Greece and that general confidence in the future of the eurozone is much stronger than it was a few years ago. But others think this is too complacent. The truth is that no one knows for sure.

To be honest, I think that the rest of the eurozone is being far too complacent about what Greece leaving would mean.

There are all kinds of implications that most people are not even discussing yet.

For example, just consider what a “Grexit” would mean for the European interbank payment system known as Target2.  The following comes from an article by Ambrose Evans-Pritchard

In normal times, Target2 adjustments are routine and self-correcting. They occur automatically as money is shifted around the currency bloc. The US Federal Reserve has a similar internal system to square books across regions. They turn nuclear if monetary union breaks up.

The Target2 “debts” owed by Greece’s central bank to the ECB jumped to €49bn in December as capital flight accelerated on fears of a Syriza victory. They may have reached €65bn or €70bn by now.

A Greek default – unavoidable in a Grexit scenario – would crystallize these losses. The German people would discover instantly that a large sum of money committed without their knowledge and without a vote in the Bundestag had vanished.

Ouch.

And in a previous article, I discussed some of the other things that are at stake…

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.

At the end of the day, there are essentially only two choices for Europe…

#1) Find a way to make a deal, which would maybe keep the current financial house of cards together for another six months.

#2) A horrifying European financial crisis starting almost immediately.

In the long-term, nothing is going to stop the economic horror which is coming to Europe, and once it starts it is going to drag down the entire planet.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Just consider the words of the German finance minister

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

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

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

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

I am not so sure.

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

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

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

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

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

That certainly does not sound good.

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

David Stockman believes that Spain is a prime candidate…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

If You Listen Carefully, The Bankers Are Actually Telling Us What Is Going To Happen Next

World From Space - Public DomainAre we on the verge of a major worldwide economic downturn?  Well, if recent warnings from prominent bankers all over the world are to be believed, that may be precisely what we are facing in the months ahead.  As you will read about below, the big banks are warning that the price of oil could soon drop as low as 20 dollars a barrel, that a Greek exit from the eurozone could push the EUR/USD down to 0.90, and that the global economy could shrink by more than 2 trillion dollars in 2015.  Most of the time, very few people ever actually read the things that the big banks write for their clients.  But in recent months, a lot of these bankers are issuing such ominous warnings that you would think that they have started to write for The Economic Collapse Blog.  Of course we have seen this happen before.  Just before the financial crisis of 2008, a lot of people at the big banks started to get spooked, and now we are beginning to see an atmosphere of fear spread on Wall Street once again.  Nobody is quite sure what is going to happen next, but an increasing number of experts are starting to agree that it won’t be good.

Let’s start with oil.  Over the past couple of weeks, we have seen a nice rally for the price of oil.  It has bounced back into the low 50s, which is still a catastrophically low level, but it has many hoping for a rebound to a range that will be healthy for the global economy.

Unfortunately, many of the experts at the big banks are now anticipating that the exact opposite will happen instead.  For example, Citibank says that we could see the price of oil go as low as 20 dollars this year…

The recent rally in crude prices looks more like a head-fake than a sustainable turning point — The drop in US rig count, continuing cuts in upstream capex, the reading of technical charts, and investor short position-covering sustained the end-January 8.1% jump in Brent and 5.8% jump in WTI into the first week of February.

Short-term market factors are more bearish, pointing to more price pressure for the next couple of months and beyond — Not only is the market oversupplied, but the consequent inventory build looks likely to continue toward storage tank tops. As on-land storage fills and covers the carry of the monthly spreads at ~$0.75/bbl, the forward curve has to steepen to accommodate a monthly carry closer to $1.20, putting downward pressure on prompt prices. As floating storage reaches its limits, there should be downward price pressure to shut in production.

The oil market should bottom sometime between the end of Q1 and beginning of Q2 at a significantly lower price level in the $40 range — after which markets should start to balance, first with an end to inventory builds and later on with a period of sustained inventory draws. It’s impossible to call a bottom point, which could, as a result of oversupply and the economics of storage, fall well below $40 a barrel for WTI, perhaps as low as the $20 range for a while.

Even though rigs are shutting down at a pace that we have not seen since the last recession, overall global supply still significantly exceeds overall global demand.  Barclays analyst Michael Cohen recently told CNBC that at this point the total amount of excess supply is still in the neighborhood of a million barrels per day…

“What we saw in the last couple weeks is rig count falling pretty precipitously by about 80 or 90 rigs per week, but we think there are more important things to be focused on and that rig count doesn’t tell the whole story.”

He expects to see some weakness going into the shoulder season for demand. In addition, there is an excess supply of about a million barrels of oil a day, he said.

And the truth is that many firms simply cannot afford to shut down their rigs.  Many are leveraged to the hilt and are really struggling just to service their debt payments.  They have to keep pumping so that they can have revenue to meet their financial obligations.  The following comes directly from the Bank for International Settlements

“Against this background of high debt, a fall in the price of oil weakens the balance sheets of producers and tightens credit conditions, potentially exacerbating the price drop as a result of sales of oil assets, for example, more production is sold forward,” BIS said.

“Second, in flow terms, a lower price of oil reduces cash flows and increases the risk of liquidity shortfalls in which firms are unable to meet interest payments. Debt service requirements may induce continued physical production of oil to maintain cash flows, delaying the reduction in supply in the market.”

In the end, a lot of these energy companies are going to go belly up if the price of oil does not rise significantly this year.  And any financial institutions that are exposed to the debt of these companies or to energy derivatives will likely be in a great deal of distress as well.

Meanwhile, the overall global economy continues to slow down.

On Monday, we learned that the Baltic Dry Index has dropped to the lowest level ever.  Not even during the darkest depths of the last recession did it drop this low.

And there are some at the big banks that are warning that this might just be the beginning.  For instance, David Kostin of Goldman Sachs is projecting that sales growth for S&P 500 companies will be zero percent for all of 2015…

“Consensus now forecasts 0% S&P 500 sales growth in 2015 following a 5% cut in revenue forecasts since October. Low oil prices along with FX headwinds and pension charges have weighed on 4Q EPS results and expectations for 2015.”

Others are even more pessimistic than that.  According to Bank of America, the global economy will actually shrink by 2.3 trillion dollars in 2015.

One thing that could greatly accelerate our economic problems is the crisis in Greece.  If there is no compromise and a new Greek debt deal is not reached, there is a very real possibility that Greece could leave the eurozone.

If Greece does leave the eurozone, the continued existence of the monetary union will be thrown into doubt and the euro will utterly collapse.

Of course I am not the only one saying these things.  Analysts at Morgan Stanley are even projecting that the EUR/USD could plummet to 0.90 if there is a “Grexit”…

The Greek Prime Minister has reaffirmed his government’s rejection of the country’s international bailout programme two days before an emergency meeting with the euro area’s finance ministers on Wednesday. His declaration suggested increasing minimum wages, restoring the income tax-free threshold and halting infrastructure privatisations. Should Greece stay firm on its current anti-bailout course and with the ECB not accepting Greek T-bills as collateral, the position of ex-Fed Chairman Greenspan will gain increasing credibility. He forecast the eurozone to break as private investors will withdraw from providing short-term funding to Greece. Greece leaving the currency union would convert the union into a club of fixed exchange rates, a type of ERM III, leading to further fragmentation. Greek Fin Min Varoufakis said the euro will collapse if Greece exits, calling Italian debt unsustainable. Markets may gain the impression that Greece may not opt for a compromise, instead opting for an all or nothing approach when negotiating on Wednesday. It seems the risk premium of Greece leaving EMU is rising. Our scenario analysis suggests a Greek exit taking EURUSD down to 0.90.

If that happens, we could see a massive implosion of the 26 trillion dollars in derivatives that are directly tied to the value of the euro.

We are moving into a time of great peril for global financial markets, and there are a whole host of signs that we are slowly heading into another major global economic crisis.

So don’t be fooled by all of the happy talk in the mainstream media.  They did not see the last crisis coming either.

 

Radical Leftists Win Election In Greece – Future Of Eurozone In Serious Jeopardy

Euro Sign - Public DomainRadical leftists have been catapulted to power in Greece, and that means that the European financial crisis has just entered a dangerous new phase.  Syriza, which is actually an acronym for “Coalition of the Radical Left” in Greek, has 36 percent of the total vote with approximately 80 percent of the polling stations reporting.  The current governing party, New Democracy, only has 28 percent of the vote.  Syriza leader Alexis Tsipras is promising to roll back a whole host of austerity measures that were imposed on Greece by the EU, and his primary campaign slogan was “hope is on the way”.  Hmmm – that sounds a bit familiar.  Clearly, the Greek population is fed up with the EU after years of austerity and depression-like conditions.  At this point, the unemployment rate in Greece is sitting at 25.8 percent, and the Greek economy is approximately 25 percent smaller than it was just six years ago.  The people of Greece are desperate for things to get better, and so they have turned to the radical leftists.  Unfortunately, things may be about to get a whole lot worse.

Once they formally have control of the government, Syriza plans to call for a European debt conference during which they plan to demand that the repayment terms of their debts be renegotiated.  But the rest of Europe appears to be highly resistant to any renegotiation – especially Germany.

Syriza says that it does not plan to unilaterally pull Greece out of the eurozone, and that it also intends for Greece to continue to use the euro.

But what happens if Germany will not budge?

Syriza’s entire campaign was based on promises to end austerity.  If international creditors refuse to negotiate and continue to insist that Greece abide by the austerity measures that were previously put in place, what will Syriza do?

Will Syriza back down and lose all future credibility with Greek voters?

Since 2010, the Greek people have endured a seemingly endless parade of wage reductions, pension cuts, tax increases and government budget cutbacks.

The Greek people just want things to go back to the way that they used to be, and they are counting on Syriza to deliver.

Unfortunately for Syriza, delivering on those promises is not going to be easy.  They may be faced with a choice of either submitting to the demands of their international creditors or choosing to leave the eurozone altogether.

And if Greece does leave the eurozone, the consequences for all of Europe could be catastrophic

Syriza risks overplaying its hand, said International Capital Strategies’ Rediker. “Given that the ECB controls the liquidity of the Greek banking system, and also serves as its regulator through the SSM (Single Supervisory Mechanism), going toe-to-toe with the ECB is one battle that could end very badly for the Greek government.”

If the ECB were to stop funding the liquidity of the Greek banks, the banks could collapse—an event that could lead to Greece abandoning the euro and printing its own money once more.

Milios didn’t believe it would come to that, saying, “No one wants a collapse of banks in the euro zone. This is going to be Lehman squared or to the tenth. No one wants to jeopardize the future of the euro zone.”

Hopefully cooler heads will prevail, because one bad move could set off a meltdown of the entire European financial system.

Even before the Greek election, the euro was already falling like a rock and economic conditions all over Europe were already getting worse.

So why would the Greeks risk pushing Europe to the brink of utter disaster?

Well, it is because economic conditions in Greece have been absolutely hellish for years and they are sick and tired of it.

For example, the BBC is reporting that many married women have become so desperate to find work in Greece that they are literally begging to work in brothels…

Some who have children and are struggling to support them have turned to sex work, to put food on the table.

Further north, in Larissa, Soula Alevridou, who owns a legal brothel, says the number of married women coming to her looking for work has doubled in the last five years.

They plead and plead but as a legal brothel we cannot employ married women,” she says. “It’s illegal. So eventually they end up as prostitutes on the streets.”

When people get this desperate, they do desperate things – like voting radical leftists into power.

But Greece might just be the beginning.  Surveys show that the popularity of the EU is plummeting all over Europe.  Just check out the following excerpt from a recent Telegraph article

Europe is being swept by a wave of popular disenchantment and revolt against mainstream political parties and the European Union.

In 2007, a majority of Europeans – 52 per cent – trusted the EU. That level of trust has now fallen to a third.

Once, Britain’s Euroscepticism was the exception, and was seen as the biggest threat to the future of the EU.

Now, other countries pose a far bigger danger thanks to the political discontents unleashed by the euro.

At this point, the future of the eurozone is in serious jeopardy.

I have a feeling that major changes in Europe are on the way which are going to shock the planet.

Meanwhile, the rest of the globe continues to slide toward another major financial crisis as well.

So many of the things that preceded the last financial crisis are happening once again.  This includes a massive crash in the price of oil.  Most people have absolutely no idea how critical the price of oil is to global financial markets.  I like how Gerald Celente put it during an interview the other day…

I began getting recognition as a trend forecaster in 1987. The Wall Street Journal covered my forecast. I said, ‘1987 would be the year it all collapses.’ I said, ‘There will be a stock market crash.’ One of the fundamentals I was looking at were the crashing oil prices in 1986.

Well, we see crashing oil prices today and the banks are much more concentrated and levered up in the oil patch than they were in 1987. From Goldman Sachs to Morgan Stanley banks have been involved in major debt financing, derivatives and energy transactions. But much of this debt has not been sold to investors and now we are going to start seeing some big defaults.

By itself, the Greek election would be a significant crisis.

But combined with all of the other economic and geopolitical problems that are erupting all over the planet, it looks like the conditions for a “perfect storm” are rapidly coming together.

Unfortunately, the overall global economy is in far worse shape today than it was just prior to the last major financial crisis.

This time around, the consequences might just be far more dramatic than most people would ever dare to imagine.

All-Time High Unemployment: The Economic Depression In Europe Just Keeps Getting Deeper

Greece Riots - Photo by Master of PuppetsThe unemployment rate in the eurozone is higher than it has ever been before.  This week we learned that eurozone unemployment came in at an all-time high of 12.2 percent for September.  Back in January 2012, it was sitting at just 10.4 percent.  So anyone that believes that “things are getting better” in Europe is just being delusional.  In fact, the economic depression in Europe just keeps getting deeper.  The funny thing is that the mainstream media will barely call what is going on in Europe a “recession” even though the unemployment rates in both Spain and Greece are now much higher than anything that the United States ever experienced during the “Great Depression” of the 1930s.  There haven’t been as many headlines about the financial crisis in Europe lately because the ECB has been papering over the debt problems of the periphery (at least for the moment), but the economic conditions on the ground for average Europeans just continue to get even worse.  Later on in this article, you will read about a 25-year-old Spanish man with three college degrees that moved to London in a desperate search for a job who is now cleaning up poop for a living.  The economic collapse of Europe continues to march on, and there is no end in sight.

All you have to do is look at the latest unemployment numbers to realize that things are getting worse in Europe.

In Italy, the unemployment rate is up to 12.5 percent.

In January 2012, less than two years ago, it was sitting at just 8.9 percent.

In Greece, the unemployment rate is up to an astounding 27.6 percent.

In January 2012, it was sitting at just 21.4 percent.

In Spain, the unemployment rate is up to 26.6 percent.

In January 2012, it was sitting at just 22.8 percent, and all the way back in January 2008 it was just 8.6 percent.

The youth unemployment statistics in the eurozone are even more horrifying

Unemployment among the under-25s rose by 22,000 in September to 3,548,000 – nudging up youth jobless rate to 24.1%. In France, the youth jobless rate jumped from 25.6% to 26.1%, while in Italy it increased from 40.2% to 40.4%.

But as bad as those numbers are, they are nothing compared to what is going on in Spain and Greece.  In Spain, the youth unemployment rate is up to 56.5 percent, and in Greece the youth unemployment rate is up to 57.3 percent.

And of course unemployment is not the only problem that the European economy is dealing with right now.  The following are some more facts about the European economy that show that the economic depression in Europe just keeps getting deeper…

-European car sales are on pace to hit a 23 year low in 2013.

-The percentage of “bad loans” in Spain has soared to a new all-time record high.

-The number of mortgage applications in Spain has fallen 90 percent since the peak of the market.

-Citigroup is projecting that the unemployment rate in Greece will reach 32 percent in 2015.

-Over the last several years, Italy has experienced the biggest collapse in GDP growth that it has ever seen.  Overall, the GDP of Italy has contracted by about 8 percent since 2008.

-The number of unemployed workers in Cyprus is now five times higher than it was before the financial crisis of 2008.

-It is being projected that Spain’s debt to GDP ratio will rise to nearly 100 percent by the end of next year.

-The debt to GDP ratio of Portugal is already up to 123 percent.

-The debt to GDP ratio of Italy is already up to 127 percent.

-Even though Greece has implemented a whole host of “austerity measures”, the debt to GDP ratio of Greece is now up to 156 percent.

But what these numbers cannot really communicate is the tremendous amount of pain and despair that millions upon millions of Europeans are experiencing right now.

For example, consider the story of Benjamin Serra Bosch, a 25-year-old Spanish man that moved to London in a desperate search for a job.  He has three college degrees, including a Master’s Degree from the IEBS Business School in Barcelona.  The following is a rough translation of a message that he recently posted on Facebook

My name is Benjamín Serra, I have two bachelor degrees and a master’s degree, and I clean toilets.

No, it is not a joke. I do it to pay the rent for my room in London.

I’ve been working in a famous chain of cafes in the United Kingdom since May, and for the first time today, after 5 months working there, I see it clearly. I have been cleaning toilets. My thought was: “I received distinction in my two degrees and I clean other peoples’ poop in a country that isn’t my own.” Well, I also make coffee, clean the tables and wash cups.

And I am not ashamed to do so. Cleaning is a very decent job. What embarrasses me is having to do so because no one has given me an opportunity in Spain. Like me, there are many Spaniards, especially in London. “You are a plague,” I was told once here. And let’s not kid ourselves. We are not young people on an adventure to learn the language and have new experiences. We are immigrants.

I’ve always been very proud, I am not going to deny. Those who know me, you know. And I have to bust out a smile at customers who look over my shoulder as I am simply a “barista” (as they call it here). Some are so outrageous that it makes me want to pull out my University and master degrees and put them in their face. But it would not really do anything.  It appears that those titles now only serve to clean the poop that I clean from the toilets in the cafe. A pity.

I thought that it deserved something better after putting so much effort in my academic life. It seems that I was wrong.

As economic conditions continue to decline all over Europe, anger and frustration with the “European experiment” continue to grow.  UKIP’s Nigel Farage expressed these sentiments very eloquently during a speech on the 23rd of October when he stated that “what we are saying, large numbers of us from every single EU member state is: we don’t want that flag, we don’t want the anthem that you all stood so ram-rod straight for yesterday, we don’t want EU passports, we don’t want political union.”

Unfortunately, the elite of Europe are so obsessed with their little experiment that the only “solutions” to these economic problems that they are even willing to consider involve even more European integration.

And Americans certainly should not be looking down their noses at what is happening in Europe.

What is going on in Italy, France, Spain and Greece will be coming here soon enough.  In fact, even during the midst of this so-called “economic recovery”, poverty continues to absolutely explode in the United States.

Economic conditions in both the United States and Europe have never even gotten close to where they were prior to 2008, and now the next major wave of the economic collapse is rapidly approaching.

This is just the beginning.  Things are going to get much worse in the years ahead.

18 Signs That Massive Economic Problems Are Erupting All Over The Planet

Volcano Eruption - Mount RedoubtThis is no time to be complacent.  Massive economic problems are erupting all over the globe, but most people seem to believe that everything is going to be just fine.  In fact, a whole bunch of recent polls and surveys show that the American people are starting to feel much better about how the U.S. economy is performing.  Unfortunately, the false prosperity that we are currently enjoying is not going to last much longer.  Just look at what is happening in Europe.  The eurozone is now in the midst of the longest recession that it has ever experienced.  Just look at what is happening over in Asia.  Economic growth in India is the lowest that it has been in a decade and the Japanese financial system is beginning to spin wildly out of control.  One of the only places on the entire planet where serious economic problems have not already erupted is in the United States, and that is only because we have “kicked the can down the road” by recklessly printing money and by borrowing money at an unprecedented rate.  Unfortunately, the “sugar high” produced by those foolish measures is starting to wear off.  We are going to experience a massive amount of economic pain along with the rest of the world – it is just a matter of time.

But for the moment, there are a lot of skeptics out there.

For the moment, there are a lot of people that are declaring that the problems of the past have been fixed and that we are heading for incredibly bright economic times ahead.

Unfortunately, those people appear to be purposely ignoring the economic horror that is breaking out all over the globe.

The following are 18 signs that massive economic problems are erupting all over the planet…

#1 The eurozone is now in the midst of its longest recession ever.  Economic activity in the eurozone has declined for six quarters in a row.

#2 Italy’s economy has now been contracting for seven quarters in a row.

#3 Industrial production in Italy has fallen for 15 months in a row.  It has now fallen to its lowest level in about 25 years.

#4 The number of people that are considered to be “seriously deprived” in Italy has doubled over the past two years.

#5 Consumer confidence in France has just hit a new all-time low.

#6 The number of unemployed workers seeking a job in France has hit a brand new all-time record high.  Many unemployed workers in France are utterly frustrated at this point…

“I’ve sent CVs everywhere, I come to the unemployment agency every day, for 3 or 4 hours to look for work as a truck driver and there’s never anything,” said 42-year old Djamel Sami, who has been unemployed for a year, leaving a job agency in Paris.

#7 Unemployment in the eurozone as a whole has just hit a brand new all-time record high of 12.2 percent.

#8 Youth unemployment continues to soar to unprecedented heights in Europe.  The following is from an article that was recently posted on the website of the Guardian that detailed how bad things are getting in some of the worst countries…

In Greece, 62.5% of young people are out of work, in Spain it’s 56.4%, then Portugal with 42.5%, and then Italy with 40.5%.

#9 Youth unemployment is being partially blamed for the worst rioting that Sweden has seen in many years.  The following is how the Daily Mail described the riots…

Sweden is reeling after a third night of rioting in largely run-down immigrant areas of the capital Stockholm.

In the last 48 hours violence has spread to at least ten suburbs with mobs of youths torching hundreds of cars and clashing with police.

It is Sweden’s worst disorder in years and has shocked the country and provoked a debate on how Sweden is coping with youth unemployment and an influx of immigrants.

#10 An astounding 10 percent of all banking deposits were pulled out of banks in Cyprus during the month of April alone.

#11 Economic growth in India is the slowest that it has been in an entire decade.

#12 Suddenly Australia is experiencing some tremendous economic challenges.  The following quotes are from a recent Zero Hedge article

-“We’re seeing a much sharper contraction in the Australian economy than we’d anticipated four or five months ago”. Coffey MD, John Douglas. The engineering group has seen its shares, which traded above $4 in 2007, hit 10c last week.

-“By 10am, the Fitness First gym in the city is packed full of brokers who’ve had a gutful of sitting at their desk doing nothing – salary cuts are starting and next it will be jobs” Perth broker

-“Oh mate, the funding market is dead. You are now seeing a few deeply discounted rights issues for those that are reaching desperate levels ….. liquidity has completely disappeared” Perth broker

#13 The financial system in Japan is beginning to spin wildly out of control.  The Japanese stock market has now declined about 15 percent from the peak, and many believe that the yen will continue to get weaker and that interest rates in Japan will start to rise significantly.

#14 Global cash flow is declining at a rate not seen since the last recession.  This indicates that we could be headed for a global credit crunch.

#15 Real wages continue to decline in the United States.  Even though we are being told that the U.S. is experiencing an “economy recovery”, real weekly earnings have declined from $297.79 in 2010 to $295.49 in 2011 to $294.83 in 2012.  (The preceding calculation is based on 1982-1984 dollars)

#16 Wall Street is buzzing about the fact that “the Hindenburg Omen” appeared at the end of last week.  So exactly what is “the Hindenburg Omen”?  The following are the criteria that are used to determine whether it has appeared or not…

1. The daily number of NYSE new 52 Week Highs and the daily number of new 52 Week Lows must both be greater than 2.2 percent of total NYSE issues traded that day.

2. The smaller of these numbers is greater than or equal to 69 (68.772 is 2.2% of 3126). This is not a rule but more like a checksum. This condition is a function of the 2.2% of the total issues.

3. That the NYSE 10 Week moving average is rising.

4. That the McClellan Oscillator ( a market breadth indicator used to evaluate the rate of money entering or leaving the market and interpretively indicate overbought or oversold conditions of the market)is negative on that same day.

5. That new 52 Week Highs cannot be more than twice the new 52 Week Lows (however it is fine for new 52 Week Lows to be more than double new 52 Week Highs).

When the Hindenburg Omen makes an appearance, it supposedly means that the U.S. stock market is likely to experience a serious decline within the next 40 days.

#17 As I wrote about the other day, the SentimenTrader Smart/Dumb Money Index is now the lowest that it has been in more than two years.  That means that lots of “smart money” has been getting out of the market and lots of “dumb money” has been pouring in.

#18 Margin debt on the New York Stock Exchange has set a new all-time high.  The following is from a recent Market Oracle article

Margin debt—that’s the amount of money borrowed to purchase stocks—on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) reached its all-time high in April. Margin debt on the NYSE registered at $384.3 billion as the key stock indices hit new record-highs. (Source: New York Stock Exchange web site, last accessed May 29, 2013.) The highest margin debt ever reached prior to this was in July of 2007, when it stood just above $381.0 billion. At that time, just like today, the key stock indices were near their peaks and “buy now before it’s too late” was the prominent theme of the day

Whenever margin debt spikes like this, a stock market crash almost always follows.  If you doubt this, just check out the chart in this article.

Wall Street has had a good couple of years, but it has been a “false prosperity” that has been pumped up by reckless money printing by the Federal Reserve.  Just like all of the other stock market bubbles that we have seen in recent years, this one is going to burst too.  And as Marc Faber recently pointed out, this bubble has been particularly beneficial to the wealthy…

The Fed has been flooding the system with money. The problem is the money doesn’t flow into the system evenly. It doesn’t increase economic activity and asset prices in concert. Instead, it creates dangerous excesses in countries and asset classes. Money-printing fueled the colossal stock-market bubble of 1999-2000, when the Nasdaq more than doubled, becoming disconnected from economic reality. It fueled the housing bubble, which burst in 2008, and the commodities bubble. Now money is flowing into the high-end asset market – things like stocks, bonds, art, wine, jewelry, and luxury real estate.

Money-printing boosts the economy of the people closest to the money flow. But it doesn’t help the worker in Detroit, or the vast majority of the middle class. It leads to a widening wealth gap. The majority loses, and the minority wins.

The fact that the U.S. stock market has set new all-time record high after new all-time record high in recent months means very little.  At this point, the stock market has become completely divorced from economic reality.  When this current bubble bursts, the adjustment is going to be very painful.  Wall Street will likely whine and complain and ask for more bailouts, but they may find that authorities are not nearly as sympathetic this time.

Much of the rest of the world is already experiencing the next major wave of the economic collapse.  Reckless money printing by the Fed and reckless borrowing and spending by the federal government may have delayed the inevitable in the United States for a little while, but those measures have also made our long-term problems even worse.

There was one piece of advice that Ben Bernanke included in his commencement speech to students at Princeton recently that I thought was particularly ironic…

“Don’t be afraid to let the drama play out.”

Will he take his own advice when the next great financial crisis strikes the United States?

That seems very unlikely.

Unfortunately, things are not going to be so easy to fix this next time.

What happened back in 2008 was just a preview.

What is coming next is going to absolutely shock the world.

After The Banksters Steal Money From Bank Accounts In Cyprus They Will Start Doing It EVERYWHERE

If The Banksters Will Steal Money From Bank Accounts In Cyprus Then They Will Do It ANYWHERECyprus is a beta test.  The banksters are trying to commit bank robbery in broad daylight, and they are eager to see if the rest of the world will let them get away with it.  Cyprus was probably chosen because it is very small (therefore nobody will care too much about it) and because there is a lot of foreign (i.e. Russian) money parked there.  The IMF and the EU could have easily bailed out Cyprus without any trouble whatsoever, but they purposely decided not to do that.  Instead, they decided that this would be a great time to test the idea of a “wealth tax”.  The government of Cyprus was given two options by the IMF and the EU – either they could confiscate money from private bank accounts or they could leave the eurozone.  Apparently this was presented as a “take it or leave it” proposition, and many are using the world “blackmail” to describe what has happened.  Sadly, this decision is going to set a very ominous precedent for the future and it is going to have ripple effects far beyond Cyprus.  After the banksters steal money from bank accounts in Cyprus they will start doing it everywhere.  If this “bank robbery” goes well, it will only be a matter of time before depositors in nations such as Greece, Italy, Spain and Portugal are asked to take “haircuts” as well.  And what will happen one day when the U.S. financial system collapses?  Will U.S. bank accounts also be hit with a “one time” wealth tax?  That is very frightening to think about.

Cyprus is a very small nation, so it is not the amount of money involved that is such a big deal.  Rather, the reason why this is all so troubling is that this “wealth tax” is shattering confidence in the European banking system.  Never before have the banksters come directly after bank accounts.

If everything goes according to plan, every bank account in Cyprus will be hit with a “one time fee” this week.  Accounts with less than 100,000 euros will be hit with a 6.75% tax, and accounts with more than 100,000 euros will be hit with a 9.9% tax.

How would you feel if something like this happened where you live?

How would you feel if the banksters suddenly demanded that you hand over 10 percent of all the money that you had in the bank?

And why would anyone want to still put money into the bank in nations such as Greece, Italy, Spain or Portugal after all of this?

One writer for Forbes has called this “probably the single most inexplicably irresponsible decision in banking supervision in the advanced world since the 1930s.”  And I would agree with that statement.  I certainly did not expect to see anything like this in Europe.  This is going to cause people to pull money out of banks all over the continent.  If I was living in Europe (and especially if I was living in one of the more financially-troubled countries) that is exactly what I would be doing.

The bank runs that we witnessed in Cyprus over the weekend may just be a preview of what is coming.  When this “wealth tax” was announced, it triggered a run on the ATMs and many of them ran out of cash very rapidly.  A bank holiday was declared for Monday, and all electronic transfers of money were banned.

Needless to say, the people of Cyprus were not too pleased about all of this.  In fact, one very angry man actually parked his bulldozer outside of one bank branch and threatened to physically bulldoze his way inside.

But this robbery by the banksters has not been completed yet.  First, the Cypriot Parliament must approve the new law authorizing this wealth confiscation on Monday.  If it is approved, then the actually wealth confiscation will take place on Tuesday morning.

According to Reuters, the new president of Cyprus is warning that if the bank account tax is not approved the two largest banks in Cyprus will collapse and there will be complete and total financial chaos in his country…

President Nicos Anastasiades, elected three weeks ago with a pledge to negotiate a swift bailout, said refusal to agree to terms would have led to the collapse of the two largest banks.

“On Tuesday … We would either choose the catastrophic scenario of disorderly bankruptcy or the scenario of a painful but controlled management of the crisis,” Anastasiades said in written statement.

In several statements since his election, he had previously categorically ruled out a deposit haircut.

The fact that the new president had previously ruled out any kind of a wealth tax has a lot of people very, very upset.  They feel like they were flat out lied to

“I’m furious,” said Chris Drake, a former Middle East correspondent for the BBC who lives in Cyprus. “There were plenty of opportunities to take our money out; we didn’t because we were promised it was a red line which would not be crossed.”

But apparently the wealth confiscation could actually have been far worse.  According to one report, the IMF and the EU were originally demanding a 40% wealth tax on bank account holders in Cyprus…

As the President of Cyprus proclaims  to his people that “we’ should all take responsibility as his historic decision will “lead to the permanent rescue of the economy,” it appears that the settled-upon 9.9% haircut is a ‘good deal’ compared to the stunning 40% of total deposits that Germany’s FinMin Schaeuble and the IMF demanded.

Could you imagine?

How would you feel if you woke up someday and 40% of all your money had been taken out of your bank accounts?

At this point, there is still some doubt about whether this plan will actually be adopted or not.

Right now the new president of Cyprus does not have the votes that he needs, but you can be sure that there is some high level arm twisting going on.

Originally the vote was supposed to happen on Sunday, but it was delayed until Monday to allow for some extra “persuading” to be done.

And of course the people of Cyprus are overwhelmingly against this wealth tax.  In fact, one poll found that 71 percent of the entire population of Cyprus wants this plan to be voted down.

The funny thing is that Cyprus is not even in that bad of shape.

The unemployment rate is around 12 percent, but in other European nations such as Greece and Spain the unemployment rate is more than double that.

Cyprus has a debt to GDP ratio of about 87 percent, but the United States has a debt to GDP ratio of well over 100 percent.

So if they will go directly after bank accounts in Cyprus, what will stop them from going after bank accounts in larger nations when the time comes?

In the final analysis, this is a game changer.  No longer will any bank account in the western world be considered to be 100 percent safe.

Trust is a funny thing.  It takes a long time to build, but it can be destroyed in a single moment.

Trust in European banks has now been severely damaged, and that damage is not going to be undone any time soon.

A recent blog post by the CEO of Saxo Bank, Lars Christensen, did a great job of explaining how incredibly damaging this move by the IMF and the EU truly is…

This is a breach of fundamental property rights, dictated to a small country by foreign powers and it must make every bank depositor in Europe shiver. Although the representatives at the bailout press conference tried to present this as a one-off, they were not willing to rule out similar measures elsewhere – not that it would have mattered much as the trust is gone anyway. It is now difficult to expect any kind of limitation to what measures the Troika and EU might take when the crisis really starts to bite.

if you can do this once, you can do it again. if you can confiscate 10 percent of a bank customer’s money, you can confiscate 25, 50 or even 100 percent. I now believe we will see worse as the panic increases, with politicians desperately trying to keep the EUR alive.

Depositors in other prospective bailout countries must be running scared – is it safe to keep money in an Italian, Spanish or Greek bank any more? I dont know, must be the answer. Is it prudent to take the risk? You decide. I fear this will lead to massive capital outflows from weak Eurozone countries, just about the last thing they need right now.

This is the biggest moment that we have witnessed since the beginning of the European financial crisis.

Financial authorities in Europe could try to calm nerves by at least pretending that this will never happen again in any other country, but so far  they are refusing to do that

Jeroen Dijsselbloem, president of the group of euro-area ministers, on Saturday declined to rule out taxes on depositors in countries beyond Cyprus, although he said such a measure was not currently being considered.

Such a measure is “not currently being considered” for other members of the eurozone?

Yeah, that sure is going to make people feel a lot more confident in what is coming next.

I have insisted over and over that the next wave of the economic collapse would originate in Europe, and we may have just witnessed the decision that will cause the dominoes to start to fall.

The banksters have sent a very clear message.  When the chips are down, they are going to come after YOUR money.

So what do you think about the bank robbery that is taking place in Cyprus?  Please feel free to post a comment with your thoughts below…

Bank Robbery In Progress - Photo by PAVA

Watch The Financial Markets In Europe

Watch The Financial Markets In EuropeIs the financial system of Europe on the verge of a meltdown?  I have always maintained that the next wave of the economic crisis would begin in Europe, and right now the situation in Europe is unraveling at a frightening pace.  On Monday, European stocks had their worst day in over six months, and over the past four days we have seen the EUR/USD decline by the most that it has in nearly seven months.  Meanwhile, scandals are erupting all over the continent.  A political scandal in Spain, a derivatives scandal in Italy and banking scandals all over the eurozone are seriously shaking confidence in the system.  If things move much farther in a negative direction, we could be facing a full-blown financial crisis in Europe very rapidly.  So watch the financial markets in Europe very carefully.  Yes, most Americans tend to ignore Europe because they are convinced that the U.S. is “the center of the universe”, but the truth is that Europe actually has a bigger population than we do, they have a bigger economy then we do, and they have a much larger banking system than we do.  The global financial system is more integrated today than it ever has been before, and if there is a major stock market crash in Europe it is going to deeply affect the United States and the rest of the globe as well.  So pay close attention to what is going on in Europe, because events over there could spark a chain reaction that would have very serious implications for every man, woman and child on the planet.

As I noted above, European markets started off the week very badly and things have certainly not improved since then.  The following is how Zero Hedge summarized what happened on Thursday…

EuroStoxx (Europe’s Dow) closed today -1% for 2013. France, Germany, and Spain are all lower on the year now. Italy, following ENI’s CEO fraud, collapsed almost 3% from the US day-session open, leaving it up less than 1% for the year. Just as we argued, credit markets have been warning that all is not well and today’s afternoon free-fall begins the catch-down.

In addition, the euro has been dropping like a rock all of a sudden.  Just check out this chart which shows what happened to the euro on Thursday.  It is very rare to see the euro move that dramatically.

So what is causing all of this?

Well, we already know that the economic fundamentals in Europe are absolutely horrible.  Unemployment in the eurozone is at a record high, and the unemployment rates in both Greece and Spain are over 26 percent.  Those are depression-level numbers.

But up until now there had still been a tremendous amount of confidence in the European financial system.  But now that confidence is being shaken by a whole host of scandals.

In recent days, a number of major banking scandals have begun to emerge all over Europe.  Just check out this article which summarizes many of them.

One of the worst banking scandals is in Italy.  A horrible derivatives scandal has pushed the third largest bank in Italy to the verge of collapse

Monte dei Paschi di Siena (BMPS.MI), Italy’s third biggest lender, said on Wednesday losses linked to three problematic derivative trades totaled 730 million euros ($988.3 million) as it sought to draw a line under a scandal over risky financial transactions.

There is that word “derivative” that I keep telling people to watch for.  Of course this is not the big “derivatives panic” that I have been talking about, but it is an example of how these toxic financial instruments can bring down even the biggest banks.  Monte dei Paschi is the oldest bank in the world, and now the only way it is able to survive is with government bailouts.

Another big scandal that is shaking up Europe right now is happening over in Spain.  It is being alleged that Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and other members of his party have been receiving illegal cash payments.  The following summary of the scandal comes from a recent Bloomberg article

On Jan. 31, the Spanish newspaper El Pais published copies of what it said were ledgers from secret accounts held by Luis Barcenas, the former treasurer of the ruling People’s Party, which revealed the existence of a party slush fund. The newspaper said 7.5 million euros in corporate donations were channeled into the fund and allegedly doled out from 1997 to 2009 to senior party members, including Rajoy.

That doesn’t sound good at all.

So what is the truth?

Could Rajoy actually be innocent?

Well, at this point most of the population of Spain does not believe that is the case.  Just check out the following poll numbers from the Bloomberg article quoted above…

According to the Metroscopia poll, 76 percent of Spaniards don’t believe the People’s Party’s denials of the slush-fund allegations. Even more damning, 58 percent of the party’s supporters think it’s lying. All of the Spanish businessmen with whom I discussed the latest scandal expect it to get worse before it gets better. Their assumption that there are more skeletons in the government’s closet indicates what little trust they have in their leaders.

Meanwhile, the underlying economic fundamentals in Europe just continue to get worse.  One of the biggest concerns right now is France.  Just check out this excerpt from a recent report by Phoenix Capital Research

The house of cards that is Europe is close to collapsing as those widely held responsible for solving the Crisis (Prime Ministers, Treasurers and ECB head Mario Draghi) have all been recently implicated in corruption scandals.

Those EU leaders who have yet to be implicated in scandals are not faring much better than their more corrupt counterparts. In France, socialist Prime Minister Francois Hollande, has proven yet again that socialism doesn’t work by chasing after the wealthy and trying to grow France’s public sector… when the public sector already accounts for 56% of French employment.

France was already suffering from a lack of competitiveness. Now that wealthy businesspeople are fleeing the country (meaning investment will dry up), the economy has begun to positively implode.

As the report goes on to mention, over the past few months the economic numbers coming out of France have been absolutely frightful

Auto sales for 2012 fell 13% from those of 2011. Sales of existing homes outside of Paris fell 20% year over year for the third quarter of 2012. New home sales fell 25%. Even the high-end real estate markets are collapsing with sales for apartments in Paris that cost over €2 million collapsing an incredible 42% in 2012.

Today, the jobless rate in France is at a 15-year high, and industrial production is headed into the toilet.  The wealthy are fleeing France in droves because of the recent tax increases, and the nation is absolutely drowning in debt.  Even the French jobs minister recently admitted that France is essentially “bankrupt” at this point…

France’s government was plunged into an embarrassing row yesterday after a minister said the country was ‘totally bankrupt’.

Employment secretary Michel Sapin said cuts were needed to put the damaged economy back on track.

‘There is a state but it is a totally bankrupt state,’ he said.

So what does all of this mean?

It means that the crisis in Europe is just beginning.  Things are going to be getting a lot worse.

Perhaps that is one reason why corporate insiders are dumping so much stock right now as I noted in my article yesterday entitled “Do Wall Street Insiders Expect Something Really BIG To Happen Very Soon?”  There are a whole host of signs that both the United States and Europe are heading for recession, and a lot of financial experts are warning that stocks are way overdue for a “correction”.

For example, Blackstone’s Byron Wien told CNBC the other day that he expects the S&P 500 to drop by 200 points during the first half of 2013.

Seabreeze Partners portfolio manager Doug Kass recently told CNBC that what is happening right now in the financial markets very much reminds him of the stock market crash of 1987…

“I’m getting the ‘summer of 1987 feeling’ in the U.S. equity market,” Kass told CNBC, “which means we’re headed for a sharp fall.”

Toward the end of 2012 and at the very beginning of 2013 we saw markets both in the U.S. and in Europe move up steadily even though the underlying economic fundamentals did not justify such a move.

In many ways, that move up reminded me of the “head fakes” that we have seen prior to many of the largest “market corrections” of the past.  Often financial markets are at their most “euphoric” just before a crash hits.

So get ready.

Even if you don’t have a penny in the financial markets, now is the time to prepare for what is ahead.

We all need to learn from what Europe is going through right now.  In Greece, formerly middle class citizens are now trampling one another for food.  We all need to prepare financially, mentally, emotionally, spiritually and physically so that we can weather the economic storm that is coming.

Most Americans are accustomed to living paycheck to paycheck and being constantly up to their eyeballs in debt, but that is incredibly foolish.  Even in the animal kingdom, animals work hard during the warm months to prepare for the winter months.  Even so, we should all be working very hard to prepare during prosperous times so that we will have something stored up for the lean years that are coming.

Unfortunately, if events in Europe are any indication, we may be rapidly running out of time.

Time Is Running Out

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