And So It Begins – The First Major European Bank Has Been Bailed Out And More Bailouts Are Coming

And so it begins.  The first major European bank bailout of 2011 has now happened.  French/Belgian banking giant Dexia has failed and both governments have pledged to participate in a rescue plan.  But Dexia will not be the last major European bank to fail.  Even now, governments all over Europe are feverishly developing plans to bail out major national banks in the event that the current financial crisis goes from bad to worse.  Instead of learning the lessons of 2008, most major European banks have continued to pile up huge mountains of debt, leverage and risk.  Now the bill for that stupidity is about to be passed on to the taxpayers of those nations.  But with most nations in Europe already drowning in debt, are bank bailouts really the right course of action?  What is it going to happen to Europe if dozens of major banks start failing and trillions of euros are needed to bail them all out?

Dexia is the first victim of the new credit crunch.  It got to the point where Dexia simply could not get access to the funding that it needed in the credit markets.

We are starting to see this all over Europe.  Nobody wants to loan much money to European banks right now because it is unclear what is going to happen next in Europe and it is uncertain which banks are stable and which are on the verge of collapse.

This is so similar to what happened back in 2008.

But Dexia is not going to be “the next Lehman Brothers” because the governments of France and Belgium are stepping in to save Dexia from collapse.

A recent article in the Financial Post described how the rescue of Dexia is likely to proceed….

Dexia will effectively be broken up, with the sale of healthier operations while toxic assets, including Greek and other peripheral euro zone government bonds, will be placed in a state-supported “bad bank.”

The details of the plan will be negotiated over the coming days, but authorities are making it clear that Dexia is not going to be allowed to collapse.  Bank of France Governor Christian Noyer is assuring everyone that Dexia is going to have access to plenty of liquidity….

“We will loan Dexia as much as it needs”

It appears that the “too big to fail” doctrine is alive and well in Europe.

Sadly, this is not the first time that Dexia has been bailed out.  France and Belgium also bailed out Dexia back in 2008.

But this was not supposed to happen.

Just three months ago, Dexia received “a clean bill of health” from regulators during European Union bank stress testing.

It just shows how credible those “stress tests” really are.

So are more European bank bailouts coming?

It certainly looks that way.

An article in the Financial Post on Tuesday stated the following….

European finance ministers agreed on Tuesday to prepare action to safeguard their banks as doubts grew about whether a planned second bailout package for debt-laden Greece would go ahead.

Of course when they talk about the need “to safeguard their banks” they are talking about those that are deemed “too big to fail”.  Just like in the United States, banks that are “too small” don’t get bailed out at all.

But western governments are very protective of the big banks.  The big banks are allowed to take gigantic risks, and if they succeed they make tons of money and if they fail then the taxpayers bail them out.

With big trouble on the horizon in Europe, authorities are already getting ready to bail out the major banks.  A Bloomberg article from last month acknowledged that the German government has been very busy getting ready to bail out their major banks in the event that a Greek default becomes a reality….

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government is preparing plans to shore up German banks in the event that Greece fails to meet the terms of its aid package and defaults, three coalition officials said.

As you read this, there are already signs of trouble at major German banks.  For example, Deutsche Bank has just announced that it is eliminating 500 more jobs.

The fundamental problems that Europe is facing are not being solved and the financial crisis is getting progressively worse.  With each passing day, more bad financial news comes pouring in.

For example, Moody’s slashed Italy’s bond ratings by three levels on Tuesday.

A reduction of just one level is very serious business.  For Moody’s to hit Italy that hard is a really big deal.

Italian banks have also been targeted by the credit rating agencies.  The other day, S&P slashed the credit ratings of seven different Italian banks.

If Italy goes down, it is going to be an absolute nightmare.  The Italian economy absolutely dwarfs the Greek economy.  The EU has been really struggling to bail out Greece, and there is no way in the world that they would be able to bail out Italy.

So if nations such as Italy or Spain start collapsing, will the U.S. Federal Reserve step in to help bail them out?

You never know.

The sad truth is that the Federal Reserve can do pretty much whatever it wants and nobody can stop them.

As I wrote about the other day, the Federal Reserve has agreed to join with other major central banks to lend hundreds of billions of dollars to major European banks in October, November and December.

As the past few years have shown, wherever big, global banks are in trouble, the Federal Reserve is sure to step in and help.

And many big banks in Europe are definitely headed for trouble.  Right now, European banks are holding more than $4 trillion in European sovereign debt.

A lot of that debt is bad debt.  Today, troubled European nations Greece, Portugal, Ireland, Italy and Spain owe the rest of the world about 3 trillion euros combined.

That is a whole lot of debt out there, and many big banks are so leveraged that just a 5 percent reduction in the value of their holdings could wipe them out.

Hold on to your hats folks.

So what should we be watching next?

Well, Greece continues to be a huge problem.

The IMF, the European Central Bank and the European Union are very frustrated with Greece right now.

On Monday, it was revealed that Greece is not going to hit the deficit reduction targets set for it by the “troika” either this year or next year.

European officials have been particularly displeased that Greece has been getting all of this aid money and yet has not been strictly adhering to the austerity measures that they agreed to.

However, the reality is that the austerity measures that Greece has actually bothered to implement have hit the Greek economy really hard.  The more Greece reduces government spending the more the Greek economy seems to slow down.

Greek Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos recently announced that the Greek economy is projected to shrink by 5.3% in 2011, and Greek debt continues to spiral out of control.

Meanwhile, severe economic pain continues to spark huge protests all over Greece.  Scenes of riot police firing tear gas and protesters throwing stones at police have become so common in Greece that most of us don’t even pay much attention anymore.

But all of us should pay attention to what is happening in Greece.

Eventually these kinds of economic riots will spread throughout the rest of the western world as well.

And every day Greece just seems to get closer and closer to default.

At this point, global financial markets seem to consider a Greek default to be inevitable.  The yield on 2 year Greek bonds is now over 65 percent.  The yield on 1 year Greek bonds is now over 135 percent.

Greece is toast without more bailout money.

But now major politicians all over Germany are declaring that Germany is done contributing money to the European bailout fund.

And without Germany, the rest of the eurozone is not going to be able to continue the bailouts.

So the clock is ticking.

Once the current bailout fund has dried up, the bailout game will be over.

What will happen then?

Will that be what sets off a massive financial collapse in Europe?

Could we actually see the end of the euro?

For a long time there was speculation that it would be weak nations such as Greece that would leave the euro.

But now it appears increasingly likely that if someone is going to leave the euro it might be Germany.

Most German citizens would be in favor of such a move.  One recent poll conducted for Stern magazine actually found that 54 percent of all Germans would favor leaving the euro.

But if Germany left the euro it would absolutely implode.  German economic strength is the primary thing holding the euro up at this point.

In any event, it is going to be very interesting to watch what will happen to Europe over the coming months.

Greece, Italy, Portugal and Spain are all steadily marching toward collapse.

Germany says that it is done bailing out other members of the eurozone.

Dozens of major European banks are teetering on the brink of disaster.

People get ready – a storm is coming.

Time is running out for Europe and there is no help in sight.

Prophets Of Doom: 12 Shocking Quotes From Insiders About The Horrific Economic Crisis That Is Almost Here

We are getting so close to a financial collapse in Europe that you can almost hear the debt bubbles popping.  All across the western world, governments and major banks are rapidly becoming insolvent.  So far, the powers that be are keeping all of the balls in the air by throwing around lots of bailout money.  But now the political will for more bailouts is drying up and the number of troubled entities seems to grow by the day.  Right now the western world is facing a debt crisis that is absolutely unprecedented in world history.  Europe has had a tremendously difficult time just trying to keep Greece afloat, and several much larger European countries are now on the verge of a major financial crisis.  In addition, there is a growing number of very large financial institutions all over the western world that are also rapidly approaching a day of reckoning.  The global financial system is a sea or red ink, and when we get to the point where there are hundreds of ships going under how is it going to be possible to bail all of them out?  The quotes that you are about to read show that quite a few top financial and political insiders know that things cannot hold together much longer and that a horrific economic crisis is coming.  We built the global financial system on a foundation of debt, leverage and risk and now this house of cards that we have created is about to come tumbling down.

A lot of people in politics and in the financial world know what is about to happen.  Once in a while they will even be quite candid about it with the media.

As I have written about previously, Europe is on the verge of a financial collapse.  If things go really badly, things could totally fall apart in a few weeks.  But more likely it will be a few more months until the juggling act ends.

Right now, the banking system in Europe is coming apart at the seams.  Because the global financial system is so interconnected today, when major European banks start to fail it is going to have a cascading effect across the United States and Asia as well.

The financial crisis of 2008 plunged us into the deepest recession since the Great Depression.

The next financial crisis could potentially hit the world even harder.

The following are 12 shocking quotes from insiders that are warning about the horrific economic crisis that is almost here….

#1 George Soros: “Financial markets are driving the world towards another Great Depression with incalculable political consequences. The authorities, particularly in Europe, have lost control of the situation.”

#2 PIMCO CEO Mohammed El-Erian: “These are all signs of an institutional run on French banks. If it persists, the banks would have no choice but to delever their balance sheets in a very drastic and disorderly fashion. Retail depositors would get edgy and be tempted to follow trading and institutional clients through the exit doors. Europe would thus be thrown into a full-blown banking crisis that aggravates the sovereign debt trap, renders certain another economic recession, and significantly worsens the outlook for the global economy.”

#3 Attila Szalay-Berzeviczy, global head of securities services at UniCredit SpA (Italy’s largest bank): “The only remaining question is how many days the hopeless rearguard action of European governments and the European Central Bank can keep up Greece’s spirits.”

#4 Stefan Homburg, the head of Germany’s Institute for Public Finance: “The euro is nearing its ugly end. A collapse of monetary union now appears unavoidable.”

#5 EU Parliament Member Nigel Farage: “I think the worst in the financial system is yet to come, a possible cataclysm and if that happens the gold price could go (higher) to a number that we simply cannot, at this moment, even imagine.”

#6 Carl Weinberg, the chief economist at High Frequency Economics: “At this point, our base case is that Greece will default within weeks.”

#7 Goldman Sachs strategist Alan Brazil: “Solving a debt problem with more debt has not solved the underlying problem. In the US, Treasury debt growth financed the US consumer but has not had enough of an impact on job growth. Can the US continue to depreciate the world’s base currency?”

#8 International Labour Organization director general Juan Somavia recently stated that total unemployment could “increase by some 20m to a total of 40m in G20 countries” by the end of 2012.

#9 Deutsche Bank CEO Josef Ackerman: “It is an open secret that numerous European banks would not survive having to revalue sovereign debt held on the banking book at market levels.”

#10 Alastair Newton, a strategist for Nomura Securities in London: “We believe that we are just about to enter a critical period for the eurozone and that the threat of some sort of break-up between now and year-end is greater than it has been at any time since the start of the crisis”

#11 Ann Barnhardt, head of Barnhardt Capital Management, Inc.: “It’s over. There is no coming back from this. The only thing that can happen is a total and complete collapse of EVERYTHING we now know, and humanity starts from scratch. And if you think that this collapse is going to play out without one hell of a big hot war, you are sadly, sadly mistaken.”

#12 Lakshman Achuthan of ECRI: “When I call a recession…that means that process is starting to feed on itself, which means that you can yell and scream and you can write a big check, but it’s not going to stop.”

*****

In my opinion, the epicenter of the “next wave” of the financial collapse is going to be in Europe.  But that does not mean that the United States is going to be okay.  The reality is that the United States never recovered from the last recession and there are already a lot of signs that we are getting ready to enter another major recession.  A major financial collapse in Europe would just accelerate our plunge into a new economic crisis.

If you want to read something that will really freak you out, you should check out what Dr. Philippa Malmgren is saying.  Dr. Philippa Malmgren is the President and founder of Principalis Asset Management.  She is also a former member of the Bush economic team. You can find her bio right here.

Malmgren is claiming that Germany is seriously considering bringing back the Deutschmark.  In fact, she claims that Germany is very busy printing new currency up.  In a list of things that we could see happen over the next few months, she included the following….

“The Germans announce they are re-introducing the Deutschmark. They have already ordered the new currency and asked that the printers hurry up.”

This is quite a claim for someone to be making.  You would think that someone that used to work in the White House would not make such a claim unless it was based on something solid.

If Germany did decide to leave the euro, you would see an implosion of the euro that would be truly historic.

But as I have written about previously, it should not surprise anyone that the end of the euro is being talked about because the euro simply does not work.

The only way that the euro would have had a chance of working is if all of the governments using the euro would have kept debt levels very low.

Unfortunately, the financial systems of the western world are designed to push governments into high levels of debt.

The truth is that the euro was doomed from the very beginning.

Now we are approaching a day of reckoning.  We have been living in the greatest debt bubble in the history of the world, but the bubble is ending.  There are several ways that the powers that be could handle this, but all of them will lead to greater financial instability.

In the end, we will see that the debt-fueled prosperity that the western world has been enjoying for decades was just an illusion.

Debt is a very cruel master.  It will almost always bring more pain and suffering than you anticipated.

It is easy to get into debt, but it can be very difficult to get out of debt.

There is no way that the western world can unwind this debt spiral easily.

The only way that another massive economic crisis can be put off for even a little while would be for the powers that be to “kick the can down the road” a little farther by creating even more debt.

But in the end, you can never solve a debt problem with more debt.

The next several years are going to be an incredibly clear illustration of why debt is bad.

When the dominoes start to fall, we are going to witness a financial avalanche which is going to destroy the finances of millions of people.

You might want to try to get out of the way while you still can.

Is Financial Instability The New Normal?

The financial world is officially going crazy.  Can you believe what is going on out there right now?  Financial markets have been jumping up and down like crazy for months and this is creating a lot of fear.  Other than during the financial crisis of 2008, in the post-World War II era have we ever experienced as much financial instability as we are seeing right now?  Should we just accept that massive financial instability is going to be part of “the new normal” in the financial world?  The wild swings that we are witnessing in the global financial marketplace are making a whole lot of people very nervous right at the moment.  When markets go up, they tend to do it slowly and steadily.  When markets go down, a lot of times it can happen very rapidly.  Also, as I have mentioned before, more major stock market crashes happen during the fall than during any other time of the year.  The last major financial crisis happened during the fall of 2008, and things are starting to look a little bit more like 2008 with each passing day.  The last thing the global economy needs right now is another major financial meltdown, but that may be exactly what we are about to get.

The Dow got absolutely hammered once again on Thursday.  It was down almost 400 points, and it has lost a total of 674.83 points over the last two days combined.

In case you are wondering, yes, that is a very big deal.

It represents the largest two day decline that we have seen since November 2008, and at this point the Dow is on pace to have its worst week since September 2008.

Over the past two days, more than 900 billion dollars of “paper wealth” has disappeared.

Hopefully you did not share in that pain.

A couple of days ago, I discussed 21 signs that the financial world was on the verge of a nervous breakdown.  But I had no idea that things would get so ugly so soon.

So what comes next?

One of the keys is to watch what the “insiders” are doing.  Often they will say one thing and do another.

At the moment, corporate “insiders” are selling 7 dollars of stock for every 1 dollar of stock that they are buying.

Over the past couple of weeks, “insider” investing behavior has changed dramatically.  The following is from an article that was recently posted on MarketWatch….

The insiders have vanished.

Chief executives. Board members.

The head honchos. The people who know.

Just a few weeks ago, they were out in force, buying up shares in their own companies with both hands.

No longer. They’ve disappeared. Almost overnight.

“They’ve stopped buying,” says Charles Biderman, the chief executive of stock market research firm TrimTabs, which tracks the data.

For some reason, this almost always starts happening before a crash.  So obviously this is not a good sign.

A lot of normal investors have been pulling large amounts of money out of stocks as well.  The following is from a report in the Financial Post….

Investors have pulled more money from U.S. equity funds since the end of April than in the five months after the collapse of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc., adding to the $2.1 trillion rout in American stocks.

About $75 billion was withdrawn from funds that focus on shares during the past four months, according to data compiled by Bloomberg from the Investment Company Institute, a Washington-based trade group, and EPFR Global, a research firm in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Outflows totaled $72.8 billion from October 2008 through February 2009, following Lehman’s bankruptcy, the data show.

Are you starting to get the picture?

Not only that, but a third very troubling sign is that an extraordinary number of bets has been placed against the S&P 500.  As I noted the other day, if there is a stock market crash in the next few weeks, somebody is going to make a ton of money….

We are seeing an amazing number of bets against the S&P 500 right now.  According to CNN, the number of bets against the S&P 500 rose to the highest level in a year last month.  But that was nothing compared to what we are seeing for October.  The number of bets against the S&P 500 for the month of October is absolutely astounding.  Somebody is going to make a monstrous amount of money if there is a stock market crash next month.

It doesn’t take a genius to see all the dark financial clouds that are gathering on the horizon.

And all of the bad news that is constantly coming out of Europe is certainly not helping things.  For example, yesterday S&P slashed the credit ratings of seven different Italian banks.

Credit downgrades have become so frequent that we hardly even notice them anymore.

Pessimism is everywhere right now.  Suddenly it seems like almost everyone is predicting that another “recession” is coming….

*According to a recent Harvard Business Review survey, 70 percent of global business leaders believe that a global recession is “somewhat likely” or “very likely” in the coming months.

*Economist Nouriel Roubini says that we are “already in recession“.

*When asked by CNBC what he thought about the possibility of another recession, George Soros said the following the other day….

“I think we are in it already.”

As fear spreads, it is only going to make global financial instability even worse.  If something doesn’t change, we could soon have a full-blown panic on our hands.

So why should the rest of us care if global financial markets crash and a bunch of bankers lose a whole lot of money?

Well, unfortunately our entire economic system is based on credit.  When the last financial crash happened in 2008, the credit markets got really tight.  Economic activity started to freeze up.  We entered a deep recession and unemployment skyrocketed.

As much as many of you may want to see the house of cards fall down, the reality is that when it does it is going to deeply hurt millions upon millions of innocent people too.

During the last recession (which never really ended), millions of Americans that lost their jobs also lost their homes.

Back in 2006, the home vacancy rate in America was 11.6%.

In 2009, the home vacancy rate was 12.6%.

In 2010, the home vacancy rate was 13.1%.

Just like the number of Americans on food stamps, this is a figure that just keeps going up and up and up.

Could we eventually live in a country where one out of every five homes is standing empty?

The truth is that the U.S. economy is in the middle of a long-term decline.  The economy declined badly while George W. Bush was in office, and the decline has accelerated since Barack Obama entered the White House.

As I wrote about yesterday, the American people are feeling really depressed about the economy and 80 percent of them believe that we are in a recession right now.

So what kind of a mood are they going to be in if there is another major financial crisis and unemployment jumps up by several more percentage points?

We live in unprecedented times.  The financial world has become incredibly unstable, and none of us is really quite sure what “the new normal” is going to look like after all of this is over.

But one thing is for sure – things never stay the same for long.

The way that things have been in the past is not how things are going to be in the future.

A “perfect storm” is coming.

Everything that can be shaken will be shaken.

You better get ready.

20 Quotes From European Leaders That Prove That They Know That The Financial System In Europe Is Doomed

The financial crisis in Europe has become so severe that it has put the future of the euro, and indeed the future of the EU itself, in doubt.  If the financial system in Europe collapses, it is going to plunge the entire globe into chaos.  The EU has a larger economy and a larger population than the United States does.  The EU also has more Fortune 500 companies that the United States does.  If the financial system in Europe breaks down, we are all doomed.  An economic collapse in Europe would unleash a financial tsunami that would sweep across the globe.  As I wrote about yesterday, the nightmarish sovereign debt crisis in Europe could potentially bring about the end of the euro.  The future of the monetary union in Europe is being questioned all over the continent.  Without massive bailouts, there are at least 5 or 6 nations in Europe that will likely soon default.  The political will for continued bailouts is rapidly failing in northern Europe, so something needs to be done quickly to avert disaster.  Unfortunately, as anyone that has ever lived in Europe knows, things tend to move very, very slowly in Europe.

If the bailouts end and Europe is not able to come up with another plan before then, mass chaos is going to unleashed.  Most major European banks are massively exposed to European sovereign debt, and most of them are also very, very highly leveraged.  If we see nations such as Greece, Portugal and Italy start to default, we could have quite a few major European banks go down in rapid succession.  That could be the “tipping point” that sets off mass financial panic around the globe.

Of course the governments of Europe would probably step in to bail out many of those banks, but when the U.S. did something similar back in 2008 that didn’t prevent the world from plunging into a horrible worldwide recession.

Right now, the way that the monetary union is structured in Europe simply does not work.  Countries that are deep in debt have no flexibility in dealing with those debts, and citizens of wealthy countries such as Germany are becoming deeply resentful that they must keep shoveling money into the financial black holes of southern Europe.

These bailouts cannot go on indefinitely.  Political and financial authorities all over Europe know this and they also know that Europe is rapidly heading toward a day of reckoning.

The quotes that you are about to read are absolutely shocking.  In Europe they openly admit that the financial system is dying, that the euro is in danger of not surviving and that the EU does not work in its present form.

The following are 20 quotes from European leaders that prove that they know that the financial system in Europe is doomed….

#1 Polish finance minister Jacek Rostowski: “European elites, including German elites, must decide if they want the euro to survive – even at a high price – or not. If not, we should prepare for a controlled dismantling of the currency zone.”

#2 Stephane Deo, Paul Donovan, and Larry Hatheway of Swiss banking giant UBS:Under the current structure and with the current membership, the euro does not work. Either the current structure will have to change, or the current membership will have to change.”

#3 EU President Herman Van Rompuy: “The euro has never had the infrastructure that it requires.”

#4 German President Christian Wulff: “I regard the huge buy-up of bonds of individual states by the ECB as legally and politically questionable. Article 123 of the Treaty on the EU’s workings prohibits the ECB from directly purchasing debt instruments, in order to safeguard the central bank’s independence”

#5 Deutsche Bank CEO Josef Ackerman: “It is an open secret that numerous European banks would not survive having to revalue sovereign debt held on the banking book at market levels.”

#6 ECB President Jean-Claude Trichet: “We are experiencing very demanding times”

#7 International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde: “Developments this summer have indicated we are in a dangerous new phase”

#8 Prince Hermann Otto zu Solms-Hohensolms-Lich, the Bundestag’s Deputy President: “We must consider whether it would not be better for the currency union and for Greece itself to go for debt restructuring and an exit from the euro”

#9 Alastair Newton, a strategist for Nomura Securities in London: “We believe that we are just about to enter a critical period for the eurozone and that the threat of some sort of break-up between now and year-end is greater than it has been at any time since the start of the crisis”

#10 Former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder: “The current crisis makes it relentlessly clear that we cannot have a common currency zone without a common fiscal, economic and social policy”

#11 Bank of England Governor Mervyn King: “Dealing with a banking crisis was difficult enough, but at least there were public-sector balance sheets on to which the problems could be moved. Once you move into sovereign debt, there is no answer; there’s no backstop.”

#12 George Soros: “We are on the verge of an economic collapse which starts, let’s say, in Greece. The financial system remains extremely vulnerable.”

#13 German Chancellor Angela Merkel: “The current crisis facing the euro is the biggest test Europe has faced for decades, even since the Treaty of Rome was signed in 1957.”

#14 Stephane Deo, Paul Donovan, and Larry Hatheway of Swiss banking giant UBS: “Member states would be economically better off if they had never joined. European monetary union was generally mis-sold to the population of the Europe.”

#15 Professor Giacomo Vaciago of Milan’s Catholic University: “It’s clear that the euro has virtually failed over the last ten years, even if you are not supposed to say that.”

#16 EU President Herman Van Rompuy: “We’re in a survival crisis. We all have to work together in order to survive with the euro zone, because if we don’t survive with the euro zone we will not survive with the European Union.”

#17 German Chancellor Angela Merkel: “If the euro fails, then Europe fails.”

#18 Deutsche Bank CEO Josef Ackerman: “All this reminds one of the autumn of 2008”

#19 International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde: “There has been a clear crisis of confidence that has seriously aggravated the situation. Measures need to be taken to ensure that this vicious circle is broken”

#20 German Chancellor Angela Merkel: “The euro is in danger … If we don’t deal with this danger, then the consequences for us in Europe are incalculable.”

Most of the individuals quoted above desperately want to save the euro.  They are not going to go down without a fight.  The overwhelming consensus among the political and financial elite in Europe is that increased European integration in Europe is the answer.

For example, EU President Herman Van Rompuy is very clear about what he believes the final result of this crisis will be….

“This crisis in the euro zone will strengthen European integration. That is my firm belief.”

Many of the elite in Europe are now openly talking about the need for a “United States of Europe”.  Just consider what former German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder recently had to say….

“From the European Commission, we should make a government which would be supervised by the European Parliament. And that means the United States of Europe.”

But as mentioned above, things in Europe tend to move very, very slowly.  The debt crisis in Europe is rapidly coming to a breaking point, and it is very doubtful that Europe will be able to move fast enough to head it off.

What we may actually see is at least a partial collapse of the euro and a massive financial crisis in Europe first, and then much deeper European integration being sold by authorities in Europe as “the solution” to the crisis.

This would be yet another example of the classic problem/reaction/solution paradigm.

The “problem” would be a horrible financial crisis and economic downturn in Europe.

The “reaction” would be a cry from the European public for someone to “fix” things and return things back to “normal”.

The “solution” would be a “United States of Europe” with much deeper economic and political integration which is something that many among the political and financial elite of Europe have wanted for a long, long time.

Right now, the people of Europe are very much opposed to deeper economic and political integration. For example, 76 percent of Germans says that they have little or no faith in the euro and one recent poll found that German voters are against the introduction of “Eurobonds” by about a 5 to 1 margin.

It looks like it may take a major crisis in order to get the people of Europe to change their minds.

Unfortunately, it looks like that may be exactly what is going to happen.

18 Signs That Global Financial Markets Smell Blood In The Water

Can you smell it?  There is blood in the water.  Global financial markets are in turmoil.  Banking stocks are getting slaughtered right now.  European bond yields are absolutely soaring.  Major corporations are announcing huge layoffs.  The entire global financial system appears to be racing toward another major crisis.  So could we potentially see a repeat of 2008?  Sadly, when the next big financial crisis happens it might be worse than 2008.  Back in the middle of 2008, the U.S. national debt was less than 10 trillion dollars.  Today it is over 14 trillion dollars. Back in 2008, none of the countries in the EU were on the verge of financial collapse.  Today, several of them are.  This time if the global financial system starts falling apart the big governments around the world are not going to be able to do nearly as much to support it.  That is why what is happening right now is so alarming.  As signs of weakness spread, the short sellers and the speculators are starting to circle.  They can smell the money.

Back in 2008, bank stocks led the decline.  Today, that appears to be happening again.  The “too big to fail” banks are getting absolutely pummeled right now.  Most people don’t have much sympathy for the banksters, but if we do see a repeat of 2008 they are going to be cutting off credit and begging for massive bailouts once again, and that would not be good news for the economy.

In Europe, the EU sovereign debt crisis just seems to get worse by the day.  Bond yields for the PIIGS are going haywire.  The higher the yields go, the worse the crisis is going to get.

Meanwhile, as I have written about previously, a bad mood has descended on world financial markets. Pessimism is everywhere and fear is spreading.  The short sellers and the speculators are eager to jump on any sign of weakness.  Investors all over the globe are extremely nervous right now.

So what happens next?

Well, nobody knows for sure.

But things certainly do not look good.

The following are 18 signs that global financial markets smell blood in the water….

#1 Banks stocks are absolutely getting hammered right now.  Bank of America hit a 52 week low on Monday.  Bank of America shares declined 4 percent to $9.61.

#2 So far this year, Bank of America stock is down about 27 percent.

#3 Bloomberg is reporting that Bank of America may be forced to increase its capital cushion by 50 billion dollars.

#4 Shares of Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley are near two year lows.

#5 Shares in Citigroup fell 2.5 percent on Monday.

#6 Moody’s recently warned that it may be forced to downgrade the debt ratings of Bank of America, Citigroup and Wells Fargo.

#7 Barclays Capital, Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase and Morgan Stanley are all either considering staff cuts or are already laying workers off.

#8 The deputy European director of the International Monetary Fund says that the Greek debt crisis is “on a knife’s edge“.

#9 Moody’s has slashed Ireland’s bond rating all the way to junk status.

#10 The yield on 2 year Portuguese bonds is now over 20 percent, the yield on 2 year Irish bonds is now over 23 percent and the yield on 2 year Greek bonds is now over 35 percent.

#11 Shares of Italy’s largest bank dropped by a whopping 6.4% on Monday.

#12 On Monday, the yield on 10 year Italian bonds was the highest it has been since the euro was adopted.

#13 On Monday, the yield on 10 year Spanish bonds was also the highest it has been since the euro was adopted.

#14 Shares of Germany’s largest bank fell by a staggering 7% on Monday and are down a total of 22% so far this month.

#15 Citigroup’s chief economist, William Buiter, says that without direct intervention by the ECB there is going to be a wave of sovereign defaults across Europe….

“Nothing stands in the way of multiple sovereign defaults except the ECB: they are the only game in town, there is nothing else”

#16 Cisco has announced plans to axe 16 percent of its workers.

#17 Borders Group has announced that it will be liquidating all remaining assets.  That means that 399 stores will be closed and 10,700 workers will lose their jobs.

#18 During times of great crisis, many investors seek safe havens for their money.  On Monday, the price of gold shot past $1600 an ounce.

These are not normal financial times.  The worldwide debt bubble is starting to burst and nobody is quite sure what is going to happen next.  Certainly we are going to continue to see financial authorities all over the world do their best to keep the system going.  But as we saw in 2008, things can spiral out of control very quickly.

Just remember, back at the beginning of 2008 very few people would have ever imagined that the biggest financial institutions in America would be begging for hundreds of billions of dollars in bailouts by the end of that year.

When confidence disappears, the game can change very quickly.  To the vast majority of economists it would have been unimaginable that the yield on 2 year Greek bonds would be over 35 percent in mid-2011.

But here we are.

The entire global financial system is a house of cards built on a foundation of sand.  It is more vulnerable today than it has been at any other time since World War II.  When a couple of major dominoes fall, it is likely to set off a massive chain reaction.

The global financial system of today was not designed with safety and security in mind.  It was designed for greedy people to be able to make as much money as possible as quickly as possible.  The banksters don’t care about the greater good of mankind.  What they care about is making huge piles of cash.

There is way too much risk, way too much debt and way too much leverage in the global financial marketplace.  You would have thought that 2008 should have been a major wake up call for financial authorities around the world, but very few significant changes have been made since that time.

The financial news is just going to keep getting worse.  This financial system is simply unsustainable.  It is fundamentally unsound.  The reality is that financial bubbles cannot keep expanding forever.  Eventually they must burst.

Over the next few weeks, keep a close eye on banking stocks and keep a close eye on European bond yields.

Hopefully things will stabilize.

Hopefully the next wave of the financial collapse is not about to hit us.

Hopefully the entire global financial system is not on the verge of a major implosion.

But you might want to get prepared just in case.

Too Big To Fail?: 10 Banks Own 77 Percent Of All U.S. Banking Assets

Back during the financial crisis of 2008, the American people were told that the largest banks in the United States were “too big to fail” and that was why it was necessary for the federal government to step in and bail them out.  The idea was that if several of our biggest banks collapsed at the same time the financial system would not be strong enough to keep things going and economic activity all across America would simply come to a standstill.  Congress was told that if the “too big to fail” banks did not receive bailouts that there would be chaos in the streets and this country would plunge into another Great Depression.  Since that time, however, essentially no efforts have been made to decentralize the U.S. banking system.  Instead, the “too big to fail” banks just keep getting larger and larger and larger.  Back in 2002, the top 10 banks controlled 55 percent of all U.S. banking assets.  Today, the top 10 banks control 77 percent of all U.S. banking assets.  Unfortunately, these giant banks are also colossal mountains of risk, debt and leverage.  They are incredibly unstable and they could start coming apart again at any time.  None of the major problems that caused the crash of 2008 have been fixed.  In fact, the U.S. banking system is more centralized and more vulnerable today than it ever has been before.

It really is difficult for ordinary Americans to get a handle on just how large these financial institutions are.  For example, the “big six” U.S. banks (Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, Bank of America, and Wells Fargo) now possess assets equivalent to approximately 60 percent of America’s gross national product.

These huge banks are giant financial vacuum cleaners.  Over the past couple of decades we have witnessed a financial consolidation in this country that is absolutely unprecedented.

This trend accelerated during the recent financial crisis.  While the big boys were receiving massive bailouts, the hundreds of small banks that were failing were either allowed to collapse or they were told that they should find a big bank that was willing to buy them.

As a group, Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America and Wells Fargo held approximately 22 percent of all banking deposits in FDIC-insured institutions back in 2000.

By the middle of 2009 that figure was up to 39 percent.

That is not just a trend – that is a landslide.

Sadly, smaller banks continue to fail in large numbers and the big banks just keep growing and getting more power.

Today, there are more than 1,000 U.S. banks that are on the “unofficial list” of problem banking institutions.

In the absence of fundamental changes, the consolidation of the banking industry is going to continue.

Meanwhile, the “too big to fail” banks are flush with cash and they are getting serious about expanding.  The Federal Reserve has been extremely good to the big boys and they are eager to grow.

For example, Citigroup is becoming extremely aggressive about expanding….

Citigroup has been hiring dozens of investment bankers, dialing up advertising and drawing up plans to add several hundred branches worldwide, including more than 200 in major cities across the United States.

Hopefully the big banks will start lending again.  The whole idea behind the bailouts and all of the “quantitative easing” that the Federal Reserve did was to get money into the hands of the big banks so that they would lend it out to ordinary Americans and get the economy rolling again.

Well, a funny thing happened.  The big banks just sat on a lot of that money.

In particular, what they did was they deposited much of it at the Fed and drew interest on it.

Since 2008, excess reserves parked at the Fed have grown by nearly 1.7 trillion dollars.  Just check out the chart posted below….

The American people were promised that TARP and all of the other bailouts would enable the big banks to lend out lots of money which would help get the economy going for ordinary Americans again.

Well, it turns out that in 2009 (the first full year after Congress passed the bailout legislation) U.S. banks posted their sharpest decline in lending since 1942.

Lending has never fully recovered since the crash of 2008.  The big financial institutions like Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and JPMorgan Chase have been able to get all the cash that they need, but they have not passed that generosity along to ordinary Americans.

In fact, the biggest U.S. banks have actually reduced small business lending by about 50 percent since the crash of 2008.

That doesn’t sound like what we were promised.

These “too big to fail” banks have been able to borrow gigantic amounts of money from the Fed for next to nothing and yet they still refuse to let credit flow to local communities.  Instead, the big banks have found other purposes for all of the super cheap money that they have been getting from the Fed as Ellen Brown recently explained….

It can be very profitable indeed for the big Wall Street banks, but the purpose of the near-zero interest rates was supposed to be to get banks to lend again. Instead, they are, indeed, paying “outrageous bonuses to their top executives;” using the money to engage in the same sort of unregulated speculation that nearly brought down the economy in 2008; buying up smaller banks; or investing this virtually interest-free money in risk-free government bonds, on which taxpayers are paying 2.5 percent interest (more for longer-term securities).

What makes things even worse is that these big banks often pay next to nothing in taxes.

For example, between 2008 and 2010, Wells Fargo made a total profit of 49.37 billion dollars.

Over that same time period, their tax bill was negative 681 million dollars.

Do you understand what that means?  Over that 3 year time period, Wells Fargo actually got 681 million dollars back from the U.S. government.

Isn’t that just peachy?

Meanwhile, the big financial giants have not learned their lessons and they continue to do business pretty much as they did it prior to 2008.

The big banks continue to roll up massive amounts of risk, debt and leverage.

Today, Wall Street has become one giant financial casino.  More money is made on Wall Street by making side bets (commonly referred to as “derivatives“) than on the investments themselves.

If the bets pay off for the big financial institutions, mind blowing profits can be made.  But if the bets go against the big financial institutions (as we saw in 2008), firms can collapse almost overnight.

In fact, it was derivatives that almost brought down AIG.  The biggest insurance company in the world almost folded in 2008 because of a whole bunch of really bad bets.

The danger from derivatives is so great that Warren Buffet once called them “financial weapons of mass destruction”.  It has been estimated that the notional value of the worldwide derivatives market is somewhere in the neighborhood of a quadrillion dollars.

The largest banks have tens of trillions of dollars of exposure to derivatives.  When the next great financial collapse happens, derivatives will almost certainly be at the center of it once again.  These side bets do not create anything real for the economy – they just make and lose huge amounts of money.  We never know when the next great derivatives crisis will strike.  Derivatives are essentially like a “sword of Damocles” that perpetually hangs over the U.S. financial system.

When I start talking about derivatives I get a lot of people in the financial community mad at me.  On Wall Street today you can bet on just about anything you can imagine.  Almost everyone in the financial world has gotten so used to making wild bets that they couldn’t even imagine a world without them.  If anyone even tried to put significant limits on futures, options and swaps it would cause Wall Street to throw a hissy fit.

But someday the dominoes are going to start to fall and the house of cards is going to come crashing down.  It is an open secret that our financial system is fundamentally unsound.  Even a lot of people working on Wall Street will admit that.  It is just that people are so busy making such big piles of money that nobody wants the party to stop.

It is only a matter of time until some of these big banks get into a huge amount of trouble again.  When that happens, we might really find out whether they are “too big to fail” or whether we could get along just fine without them.

A Bad Mood Has Descended On World Financial Markets

Have you noticed that a really bad mood seems to have descended on world financial markets?  Fear and pessimism are everywhere.  The global economy never truly recovered from the financial crisis of 2008, and right now everyone is keeping their eyes open for the next “Lehman Brothers moment” that will send world financial markets into another tailspin.  Investors have been very nervous for quite some time now, but this week things seem to be going to a whole new level.  Fears about the spread of the debt crisis in Europe and about the failure of debt ceiling talks in the United States have really hammered global financial markets.  On Monday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 151 points.  Italian stocks fared even worse.  The stock market in Italy fell more than 3 percent on Monday.  The stock markets in Germany and France fell more than 2 percent each.  On top of everything else, the fact that protesters have stormed the U.S. embassy in Syria is causing tensions to rise significantly in the Middle East.  Everywhere you turn there seems to be more bad news and large numbers of investors are getting closer to hitting the panic button.  Hopefully things will cool down soon, because if not we could soon have another full-blown financial crisis on our hands.

Even many of those that have always tried to reassure us suddenly seem to be in a really bad mood.

For example, U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner admitted to “Meet the Press” that the U.S. economy is really struggling and that for many Americans “it’s going to feel very hard, harder than anything they’ve experienced in their lifetime now, for a long time to come.”

Does Geithner know something that we don’t?

To say that what Americans are facing will be “harder than anything they’ve experienced in their lifetime now, for a long time to come” is very, very strong language.

It almost sounds like Timothy Geithner could be writing for The Economic Collapse blog.

It certainly is not helping things that the Democrats and the Republicans still have not agreed on a deal to raise the debt ceiling.  It is mid-July and Barack Obama and John Boehner continue to point fingers at each other.

Of course if they do reach a “deal” it will likely be a complete and total joke just like their last “deal” was.

But for now they are playing politics and trying to position themselves well for the 2012 election season.

Meanwhile, world financial markets are starting to get a little nervous about this situation.  The newly elected head of the IMF, Christine Lagarde, has stated that she “can’t imagine for a second” that we are going to see the U.S. default on any debt.  Most investors seem to agree with Lagarde for now, but if we get to August 2nd without a deal being reached things could change very quickly.

But it isn’t just the debt ceiling crisis that is causing apprehension in the United States.  The truth is that there are a host of indications that the U.S. economy is continuing to struggle.

Even big Wall Street banks are laying people off.  A recent Reuters article described the bad mood that has descended on Wall Street right now….

Goldman Sachs Group Inc (GS.N), Morgan Stanley (MS.N) and some other large U.S. investment banks are not just laying off weak performers and back-office employees. They are also cutting the pay of those they are keeping, scrutinizing expense reports and expecting even the most profitable workers to bring in more business for the same amount of compensation.

That is not a good sign for the U.S. economy.

If the corrupt Wall Street banks are even struggling, what does that mean for the rest of us?

But the big trouble recently has been in Europe.  The sovereign debt crisis continues to get worse and worse.

As I wrote about yesterday, the emerging financial crisis in Italy has EU officials in a bit of a tizzy.  If Italy requires a bailout it is going to be an unmitigated disaster.

One of the most respected financial journalists in Europe, Ambrose Evans Pritchard, says that financial tensions in the EU are rising to dangerous levels….

If the ECB’s Jean-Claude Trichet is right in claiming that Europe was on the brink of a 1930s financial cataclysm a year ago – and I think he is – it is hard see how the threat is any less serious right now.

Fall-out from Greece flattened Portugal and Ireland last week. It is engulfing Spain and Italy, countries with €6.3 trillion of public and private debt between them.

Last year it was just small countries like Greece and Ireland that were causing all the trouble.

Now Italy (the fourth largest economy in the EU) and Spain (the fifth largest economy in the EU) are making headlines.

Up to this point, the EU has had all kinds of nightmares just trying to bail countries like Greece out.

What is going to happen if Italy or Spain goes under?

At this point things with Greece have gone so badly that some EU officials are actually suggesting that Greece should just default on some of the debt.

Yes, you read the correctly.

There are news reports coming out of Europe that say that EU leaders are actually considering allowing the Greek government to default on some of their bonds.  According to The Telegraph, “the move would be part of a new bail-out plan for Greece that would put the country’s overall debt levels on a sustainable footing.”

All of this chaos is causing bond yields in Europe to go soaring.

Earlier today, The Calculated Risk blog detailed some of the stunning bond yields that we are now seeing in Europe….

The Greek 2 year yield is up to a record 31.1%.

The Portuguese 2 year yield is up to a record 18.3%.

The Irish 2 year yield is up to a record 18.1%.

And the big jump … the Italian 2 year yield is up to a record 4.1%. Still much lower than Greece, Portugal and Ireland, but rising.

Could you imagine paying 31.1% interest on your credit cards?

Well, imagine what officials in the Greek government must be feeling right about now.

If these bond yields do not go down, we are going to have a full-blown financial crisis on our hands in Europe.  If these bond yields keep rising, we are going to have a complete and total financial nightmare in Europe.

The only way that any of these nations that are drowning in debt can keep going is if they can borrow more money at low interest rates.  There are very few nations on earth that would be able to survive very high interest rates on government debt for an extended period of time.

Pay attention to what is happening in Europe, because it will eventually happen in the United States.  Right now we are only paying a little more than $400 billion in interest on the national debt each year because of the super low interest rates we are able to get.

When that changes, our interest costs are going to absolutely skyrocket.

Not that the United States needs any more economic problems.

Right now Americans are more pessimistic about the economy than they have been in ages.

In a recent article entitled “16 Reasons To Feel Really Depressed About The Direction That The Economy Is Headed” I noted a number of the recent surveys that seem to indicate that the American people are in a real bad mood about the economy right now….

*One of the key measures of consumer confidence in the United States has hit a seven-month low.

*According to Gallup, the percentage of Americans that lack confidence in U.S. banks is now at an all-time high of 36%.

*According to one recent poll, 39 percent of Americans believe that the U.S. economy has now entered a “permanent decline”.

*Another recent survey found that 48 percent of Americans believe that it is likely that another great Depression will begin within the next 12 months.

The American people are in a really bad mood and investors around the world are in a really bad mood.  More bad financial news seems to come out every single day now.  Everyone seems to be waiting for that one “moment” that is going to set off another financial panic.

Hopefully we can get through the rest of this summer without world financial markets falling apart.  But the truth is that the global economy is even more vulnerable today than it was back in 2008.  None of the things that caused the financial crash of 2008 have been fixed.

We will eventually have a repeat of 2008.  In fact, next time things could be even worse.

The entire world financial system is a house of cards sitting on a foundation of sand.  Eventually another storm is going to come and the crash is going to be great.