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.

Trillions In Secret Fed Bailouts For Global Corporations And Foreign Banks – Has The Federal Reserve Become A Completely Unaccountable Global Bailout Machine?

Has the Federal Reserve become the Central Bank of the World?  That is what some members of Congress are asking after the Federal Reserve revealed the details of 21,000 transactions stretching from December 2007 to July 2010 that totaled more than $3 trillion on Wednesday.  Most of these transactions involved giant loans that were nearly interest-free from the Federal Reserve to some of the largest banks, financial institutions and corporations all over the world.  In fact, it turns out that foreign banks and foreign corporations received a very large share of these bailouts.  So has the Federal Reserve now become a completely unaccountable global bailout machine?  Sadly, the truth is that we would have never learned the details of these bailouts if Congress had not forced this information out of the Fed.  So what other kinds of jaw-dropping details would be revealed by a full audit of the Federal Reserve?

It is important to try to understand exactly what went on here.  Banks and corporations from all over the globe were allowed to borrow gigantic piles of money essentially for free.  Yes, when you are getting interest rates such as 0.25 percent, the money is essentially free.  These loans were not available to everyone.  You or I could not have run over to the Federal Reserve and walked away with tens of billions of dollars in loans that were nearly interest-free.  Rather, it was only the megabanks and megacorporations that are friendly with the Federal Reserve that were able to take advantage of these bailouts.

In this way, the Federal Reserve is now essentially acting like some kind of financial god.  They decide who survives and who fails.  Dozens and dozens and dozens of small to mid-size U.S. banks are failing, but the Federal Reserve does not seem to have much compassion for them.  It is only when the “too big to fail” establishment banks are in trouble that the Federal Reserve starts handing out gigantic sacks of nearly interest-free cash.

Just think about it.  Which financial institution do you think is in a better competitive position – one that must survive on its own, or one that has a “safety net” of nearly unlimited free loans from the Federal Reserve?

Now that is oversimplifying the situation, certainly, but the truth is that the Federal Reserve had fundamentally altered the financial marketplace and is significantly influencing who wins and who loses.

But even more disturbing is what the Federal Reserve is turning into.  This is an institution that is “independent” of the U.S. government, that does not answer to the American people, that controls our money supply and that is just tossing tens of billions of dollars to foreign banks and to foreign corporations whenever it wants to.

In fact, if Congress had not forced the Fed to tell us what was going on with these bailouts we would have never even found out.

The truth is that the Fed is taking incredible risks with “our money” and yet they want to continue to exist in a cloak of almost total secrecy.

In a recent article in the Washington Post, Dallas Federal Reserve President Richard Fisher acknowledged that the Federal Reserve played fast and loose with trillions of dollars of our money….

“We took an enormous amount of risk with the people’s money.”

Are you deeply disturbed by that quote?

Well, if not, you should be.

The American people became so infuriated about the bailouts and stimulus packages passed by Congress, but it turns out that they were nothing compared to these Federal Reserve bailouts.

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders is one of the members of Congress that is now expressing extreme outrage about what the Federal Reserve has done….

“The $700 billion Wall Street bailout turned out to be pocket change compared to trillions and trillions of dollars in near zero interest loans and other financial arrangements that the Federal Reserve doled out to every major financial institution.”

In fact, Senator Sanders was so disgusted by how much of the money went overseas that he was led to make the following remark….

“Has the Federal Reserve become the central bank of the world? I think that is a question that needs to be examined.”

Advocates for the Federal Reserve insist that if all of these foreign banks and foreign corporations were not bailed out the financial crisis would have been much worse.  In fact, they say we should be thankful that the Federal Reserve prevented a total financial collapse.

Well boo-hoo!

If our financial institutions are so fragile that a stiff wind will knock half of them over maybe they need to just fail.

You know what, life is tough.  Nobody is going to cry most of us a river of tears if we lose our jobs.  Most of us have learned to scratch and claw to survive with no safety net underneath us.

So maybe it is time for these big financial institutions to start playing by the same rules the rest of us are playing by.

No, when these “too big to fail” financial institutions get into a little trouble they start whining like a bunch of little babies.

“Give us some big sacks of cash!”

“Waaaaaaah!”

Well guess what?  Most of the rest of us are just not going to have too much sympathy for these big banks from now on.

The following is a list of just a few of the banks, financial institutions and global corporations that received nearly interest-free loans from the Federal Reserve during the financial crisis…..

Big U.S. Banks And Financial Institutions

Goldman Sachs
Citibank
JP Morgan Chase
Morgan Stanley
Merrill Lynch
Bank of America
Bear Stearns
Pacific Investment Management Co. (PIMCO)

Big Global Corporations

General Electric
Caterpillar
Harley-Davidson
Verizon
McDonald’s
BMW
Toyota

Canadian Banks

Royal Bank of Canada
Toronto-Dominion Bank
Scotiabank

European And Asian Banks

Barclays Capital
Bank of Scotland
Deutsche Bank
Credit Suisse
BNP Paribas
Societe Generale
UBS
Dexia
Bayerische Landesbank
Dresdner Bank
Commerzbank
The Korean Development Bank (South Korea)

But those defending the Federal Reserve will insist that the financial world as we know it would have ended if the Fed had done nothing.

That may well be true.

The entire financial system might have gone down in flames.

But that just proves the main point that this column has been trying to make for months.

An economic collapse is coming.

The Federal Reserve can desperately try to keep all of the balls in the air for as long as it can, but eventually it is inevitable that this entire thing is going to come crashing down.

The fact that the Federal Reserve had to resort to such extreme measures to “save” the financial system just shows how desperate things really are.

We really have reached a “tipping point” for the world financial system.  There is going to be crisis after crisis after crisis and even bigger bailouts are going to be required in the future.

The world financial system is a house of cards built on a foundation of sand.  The Federal Reserve can keep throwing around gigantic sacks of “our money” as much as it wants, but in the end there is nothing that can be done to prevent the inevitable collapse that is coming.

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