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Grexit: Remaining In The Eurozone Is No Longer ‘The Base Case’ For Greece

Exit - Public DomainAccording to the Wall Street Journal, Greece staying in the eurozone is no longer “the base case” for European officials, and one even told the Journal that “literally nothing has been achieved” in negotiations with the new Greek government since the Greek election almost three months ago.  In other words, you can take all of that stuff you heard about how the Greek crisis was fixed and throw it out the window.  Over the next few months, a big chunk of Greek government bonds held by the IMF and the European Central Bank will mature.  Unless negotiations produce a load of new cash for Greece, there will be a default, and right now there is very little optimism that we will see an agreement any time soon.  In fact, as I wrote about the other day, behind the scenes banks all over Europe are quietly preparing for a Grexit.  European news sources are reporting that the Greek banking system is on the verge of collapse, and over the past couple of weeks Greek bond yields have shot through the roof.  Most of the things that we would expect to see in the lead up to a Greek exit from the eurozone are happening, and now we will wait and see if the Greeks actually have the guts to pull the trigger when push comes to shove.

At this point, many top European officials are quietly admitting that it is more likely than not that Greece will leave the euro by the end of this year.  The following is an excerpt from the Wall Street Journal article that I mentioned above

It’s still possible that Greece can remain in the eurozone—though that is no longer the base case for many policy makers. At the very least, most fear the situation is going to get much, worse before it gets any better. No one now expects a deal to unlock Greek bailout funding at this week’s meeting of eurozone finance ministers in Riga—originally set as the final deadline for a deal. The new final, final deadline is now said to be a summit on May 11.

But among European politicians and officials gathered in Washington DC last week for the International Monetary Fund’s Spring Meetings, there was little optimism that a deal will be agreed by then.

The two sides are no closer to an agreement than when the Greek government took office almost three months ago. “Nothing, literally nothing has been achieved,” says an official.

Literally nothing has been achieved?

That is not what the mainstream media has been telling us over the past few months.

They kept telling us that agreements were in place and that everything had been fixed.

I guess not.

The Germans believe that the risks of a “Grexit” have already been priced in by the financial markets and that a Greek exit from the euro can be “managed” without any serious risk of contagion.

So they are playing hardball with the Greeks.

On the other hand, the Greeks believe that the risk of contagion will eventually force the Germans to back down

Greece’s Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis said in an interview broadcast on Sunday that if Greece were to leave the euro zone, there would be an inevitable contagion effect.

“Anyone who toys with the idea of cutting off bits of the euro zone hoping the rest will survive is playing with fire,” he told La Sexta, a Spanish TV channel, in an interview recorded 10 days ago.

“Some claim that the rest of Europe has been ring-fenced from Greece and that the ECB has tools at its disposal to amputate Greece, if need be, cauterize the wound and allow the rest of euro zone to carry on.”

In this case, I believe that the Greeks are right about what a Grexit would mean for the rest of Europe and the Germans are wrong.

Once one country leaves the euro, that tells the entire world that membership in the euro is only temporary.  Immediately everyone would be looking for the “next Greece”, and there are lots of candidates – Italy, Spain, Portugal, etc.

There is a very good chance that a Grexit would set off a full-blown European financial panic.  And once a financial panic starts, it is very hard to stop.  The danger that a Grexit poses is so obvious that even the Obama administration can see it

A Greek exit from the euro zone would carry significant risks for the global economy and no one should be under the impression that financial markets have fully priced in such an event, the chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers said.

The comments by Jason Furman in an interview with Reuters in Berlin are among the strongest by a senior U.S. official and are at odds with those of German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, who told an audience in New York last week that contagion risks from a so-called “Grexit” were limited.

“A Greek exit would not just be bad for the Greek economy, it would be taking a very large and unnecessary risk with the global economy just when a lot of things are starting to go right,” Furman said.

Meanwhile things continue to get even worse inside Greece.  If you have any money in Greek banks, you need to move it immediately.  The following comes from Zero Hedge

Things for insolvent, cashless Greece are – not unexpectedly – getting worse by the day.

Following yesterday’s shocking decree that the government will confiscate local government reserves and “sweep” them into the central bank to provide the country more funds as it approaches another month of heavy IMF repayments, earlier today Bloomberg reported that the ECB would add insult to injury and may increase haircuts for Greek banks accessing Emergency Liquidity Assistance, thus “reining in” the very critical emergency liquidity which has kept Greek banks operating in recent weeks as the bank run sweeping the domestic banking sector has gotten worse by the day.

And many Greeks don’t even have any money to put in the banks because they haven’t been paid in months

Meanwhile, the reality is that for a majority of the Greek population, none of this really matters because as Greek Ta Nea reports, citing Labor Ministry data, about one million Greek workers see delays of up to 5 months in salaries payment by their employers. The Greek media adds that about 45% of salaried workers in Greece make no more than €751 per month, the country’s old minimum wage; which also includes part-time workers.

No matter what European officials try, things just continue to unravel in Greece and in much of the rest of Europe.

We stand on the verge of the next great global economic crisis.  The lessons that we should have learned from the last crisis were never learned, and instead global debt levels have exploded much higher since then.  In fact, according to Doug Casey, the total amount of global debt is 57 trillion dollars higher than it was just prior to the last crisis…

In 2008, excess debt pushed the global financial system to the brink. It was a golden opportunity for governments and banks to reform the system. But rather than deal with the problem, they papered over it by issuing more debt. Worldwide debt levels are now $57 trillion higher than in 2008.

The eurozone as it is constituted today is doomed.

That doesn’t mean that the Europeans are going to give up on social, economic and political integration.  It just means that we are entering a time of transition that is going to be extremely messy.

And once the European financial system begins to fall apart, the rest of the world will quickly follow.

The Global Liquidity Squeeze Has Begun

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For example, consider what Art Cashin told CNBC on Friday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That is a lot of money.

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

Other big firms are reporting disappointing earnings numbers too

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So what is the bottom line to all of this?

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

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

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

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

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.

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