Is something about to happen in Germany that will shake the entire world? According to disturbing new intel that I have received, a major financial event in Germany could be imminent. Now when I say imminent, I do not mean to suggest that it will happen tomorrow. But I do believe that we have entered a season of time when another “Lehman Brothers moment” may occur. Most observers tend to regard Germany as the strong hub that is holding the rest of Europe together economically, but the truth is that serious trouble is brewing under the surface. As I write this, the German DAX stock index is down close to 20 percent from the all-time high that was set back in April, and there are lots of signs of turmoil at Germany’s largest bank. There are very few banks in the world that are more prestigious or more influential than Deutsche Bank, and it has been making headlines for all of the wrong reasons recently.
Just like we saw with Lehman Brothers, banks that are “too big to fail” don’t suddenly collapse overnight. The truth is that there are always warning signs in advance if you look closely enough.
In early 2014, shares of Deutsche Bank were trading above 50 dollars a share. Since that time, they have fallen by more than 40 percent, and they are now trading below 29 dollars a share.
It is common knowledge that the corporate culture at Deutsche Bank is deeply corrupt, and the bank has been exceedingly reckless in recent years.
If you are exceedingly reckless and you win all the time, that is okay. Unfortunately for Deutsche Bank, they have increasingly been on the losing end of things.
Prior to the “sudden collapse” of Lehman Brothers on September 15th, 2008, there had been media reports of mass layoffs at the firm. To give you just a couple of examples, CNBC reported on this on March 10th, 2008 and the New York Times reported on this on August 28th, 2008.
When big banks start getting into serious trouble, this is what they do. They start getting rid of staff. That is why the massive job cuts that Deutsche Bank just announced are so troubling…
Deutsche Bank aims to cut roughly 23,000 jobs, or about one quarter of total staff, through layoffs mainly in technology activities and by spinning off its PostBank division, financial sources said on Monday.
That would bring the group’s workforce down to around 75,000 full-time positions under a reorganization being finalised by new Chief Executive John Cryan, who took control of Germany’s biggest bank in July with the promise to cut costs.
Cryan presented preliminary details of the plan to members of the supervisory board at the weekend. A spokesman for the bank declined comment.
Deutsche Bank has also been facing mounting legal troubles. The following is a brief excerpt from a recent Zero Hedge article…
The bank, which has paid out more than $9 billion over the past three years alone to settle legacy litigation, has become something of a poster child for corrupt corporate culture.
In April, Deutsche settled rate rigging charges with the DoJ for $2.5 billion (or about $25,474 per employee) and subsequently paid $55 million to the SEC (an agency that’s been run by former Deutsche Bank employees and their close associates for years) in connection with allegations it deliberately mismarked its crisis-era LSS book to the tune of at least $5 billion.
But it was out of the frying pan and into the fire so to speak, because early last month, the DoJ announced it would seek to extract a fresh round of MBS-related settlements from banks that knowingly packaged and sold shoddy CDOs in the lead up to the crisis. JP Morgan, Bank of America, and Citi settled MBS probes when the DoJ was operating under the incomparable (and we mean that in a derisive way) Eric Holder but now, emboldened by her pyrrhic victory over Wall Street’s FX manipulators, new Attorney General Loretta Lynch is set to go after Barclays PLC, Credit Suisse Group AG, Deutsche Bank AG, HSBC Holdings PLC, Royal Bank of Scotland Group PLC,UBS AG and Wells Fargo & Co.
Of course the legal troubles are just the tip of the iceberg of what has been going on over at Deutsche Bank over the past couple of years. The following is a pretty good timeline of some of the major events that have hit Deutsche Bank since the beginning of last year. It comes from a NotQuant article that was published back in June entitled “Is Deutsche Bank the next Lehman?“…
- In April of 2014, Deutsche Bank was forced to raise an additional 1.5 Billion of Tier 1 capital to support its capital structure. Why?
- 1 month later in May of 2014, the scramble for liquidity continued as DB announced the selling of 8 billion euros worth of stock – at up to a 30% discount. Why again? It was a move which raised eyebrows across the financial media. The calm outward image of Deutsche Bank did not seem to reflect their rushed efforts to raise liquidity. Something was decidedly rotten behind the curtain.
- Fast forwarding to March of this year: Deutsche Bank fails the banking industry’s “stress tests” and is given a stern warning to shore up it’s capital structure.
- In April, Deutsche Bank confirms its agreement to a joint settlement with the US and UK regarding the manipulation of LIBOR. The bank is saddled with a massive $2.1 billion payment to the DOJ. (Still, a small fraction of their winnings from the crime).
- In May, one of Deutsche Bank’s CEOs, Anshu Jain is given an enormous amount of new authority by the board of directors. We guess that this is a “crisis move”. In times of crisis the power of the executive is often increased.
- June 5: Greece misses its payment to the IMF. The risk of default across all of its debt is now considered acute. This has massive implications for Deutsche Bank.
- June 6/7: (A Saturday/Sunday, and immediately following Greece’s missed payment to the IMF) Deutsche Bank’s two CEO’s announce their surprise departure from the company. (Just one month after Jain is given his new expanded powers). Anshu Jain will step down first at the end of June. Jürgen Fitschen will step down next May.
- June 9: S&P lowers the rating of Deutsche Bank to BBB+ Just three notches above “junk”. (Incidentally, BBB+ is even lower than Lehman’s downgrade – which preceded its collapse by just 3 months)
Are you starting to get the picture? These are not signs of a healthy bank.
What makes things even worse is how recklessly Deutsche Bank has been behaving. At one point, it was estimated that Deutsche Bank had a staggering 75 trillion dollars worth of exposure to derivatives. Keep in mind that German GDP for an entire year is only about 4 trillion dollars. So when Deutsche Bank finally collapses, there won’t be enough money in Europe (or anywhere else for that matter) to clean up the mess. This is a perfect example of why I am constantly hammering on the danger of these “weapons of financial mass destruction”.
If Deutsche Bank were to totally collapse, it would be a financial disaster far worse than Lehman Brothers. It would literally take down the entire European financial system and cause global financial panic on a scale that none of us have ever seen before.
On a personal note, I apologize for not posting anything last week. I traveled to two very important conferences and was living out of a suitcase for about eight days.
There has been a bit of a lull in the action over the past couple of weeks, but I expect that to end very shortly. I believe that the rest of 2015 is going to be incredibly chaotic, and we are going to see some things happen that most people could not even conceive of right now.
In the days that are directly ahead, I encourage people to keep a close eye on both Germany and Japan.
Big things are about to happen, and millions are about to be totally shaken out of their complacency.
The “deal that was designed to fail” has already begun to unravel. The IMF, which was expected to provide a big chunk of the financing, has indicated that it may walk away from the deal unless Greece is granted extensive debt relief. This is something that the Germans and their allies have resolutely refused to do. Meanwhile, outrage is pouring in from all over Europe regarding what the Greek government is being forced to do to their own people. Most of this anger is being directed at the Germans, but the truth is that without German money the Greek banking system and the Greek economy will completely and utterly collapse. So even though Greek Prime Minister Alex Tsipras admits that this is a deal that he does not believe in, he is attempting to get it pushed through the Greek parliament, and we should know on Wednesday whether he was successful or not. But even if the Greek parliament approves it, we could still see either the German or the Finnish parliaments reject it. It seems as though nobody is really happy with this deal, and these negotiations have exposed very deep divisions within Europe. Could this be the beginning of the end for the eurozone?
The Germans appear to believe that they can push the Greeks out of the eurozone and that everything will be okay somehow. This is something that I wrote about extensively yesterday, and it turns out that a lot of other prominent voices agree with me. For example, just consider what Paul Krugman of the New York Times had to say about this. I am kind of amazed that he finally got something right…
Suppose you consider Tsipras an incompetent twerp. Suppose you dearly want to see Syriza out of power. Suppose, even, that you welcome the prospect of pushing those annoying Greeks out of the euro.
Even if all of that is true, this Eurogroup list of demands is madness. The trending hashtag ThisIsACoup is exactly right. This goes beyond harsh into pure vindictiveness, complete destruction of national sovereignty, and no hope of relief. It is, presumably, meant to be an offer Greece can’t accept; but even so, it’s a grotesque betrayal of everything the European project was supposed to stand for.
Greece desperately wants to stay in the euro, and they desperately want money from the rest of Europe to keep coming in. At this point, they will agree to just about anything to keep from getting booted out of the common currency. That is why the Germans and their allies had to make the deal so horrible. They were attempting to find some way to make things so harsh on the Greeks that they would finally choose to walk away.
And to a certain extent it seems to be working. Even some members of Syriza are publicly declaring that they are going to vote against this package. The following comes from the Washington Post…
Greek Energy Minister Panagiotis Lafazanis, who leads a hard-line leftist faction within Syriza, said in a statement Tuesday that the country’s creditors had “acted like cold-blooded blackmailers and economic assassins.”
Yet he also took indirect aim at Tsipras, calling on the Greek prime minister to reverse himself and tear up the agreement, which he described as a violation of the party’s ideals.
Even if Tsipras can pass the deal in Parliament, as he is expected to do, Lafazanis vowed that the Greek people would “annul it through their unity and struggle.”
Right now, the vote looks like it could be quite close. Even though Greek Prime Minister Alex Tsipras has publicly admitted that this is a deal that “I do not believe in“, he is really pushing hard to get the votes that he needs. In fact, according to Reuters he has been actively reaching out to opposition parties to secure votes…
Having staved off a financial meltdown, Tsipras has until Wednesday night to pass measures tougher than those rejected in a referendum days ago. With as many as 30-40 hardliners in his own ranks expected to mutiny, Tsipras will likely need the support of pro-European opposition parties to muster the 151 votes he needs to pass the law in parliament.
But even if this deal gets through parliament, it is highly questionable whether Greece will actually be able to do what is being required of them. For instance, the 50 billion euro “privatization fund” seems to be something of a pipe dream…
Privatisation agency Taiped has put out to tender assets with a nominal value of 7.7 billion euros since 2011, but has cashed in only just over 3.0 billion euros, according to 2014 figures.
On June 26 even the International Monetary Fund (IMF), one of Greece’s creditors, raised eyebrows over the idea of raking in lots of money from privatisations.
It stressed that the sale of public banking assets was supposed to raise tens of billions of euros but it was “highly unlikely that these proceeds will materialise” considering the high levels of nonperforming loans in the banking system.
It said that realistically only 500 million euros of proceeds were likely to materialise each year — at which rate it would take around 100 years to reach the 50 billion euro goal.
For the moment, though, let’s assume that the Greek parliament agrees to these demands and that by some miracle the Greek government can find a way to do everything that is being required of them.
And for the moment, let’s assume that this deal is approved by both the German and Finnish parliaments.
Even if everything else goes right, this deal can still be killed by the IMF…
The International Monetary Fund has sent its strongest signal that it may walk away from Greece’s new bailout programme, arguing in a confidential analysis that the country’s debt is skyrocketing and budget surplus targets set by Athens cannot be achieved, reports FT.
In the three-page memo, sent to EU authorities at the weekend and obtained by FT, the IMF said the recent turmoil in the Greek economy would lead debt to peak at close to 200 percent of economic output over the next two years. At the start of the eurozone crisis, Athens’ debt stood at 127 percent.
In order for the IMF to participate in this new Greek bailout, the IMF must deem Greek debt to be sustainable. And at this point that does not appear to be the case…
Under its rules, the IMF is not allowed to participate in a bailout if a country’s debt is deemed unsustainable and there is no prospect of it returning to private bond markets for financing. The IMF has bent its rules to participate in previous Greek bailouts, but the memo suggests it can no longer do so.
But the Germans made it very clear that there would be no bailout unless the IMF was involved.
So what would satisfy the IMF?
The IMF study seems to indicate that massive debt relief for Greece would be required. The following comes from Reuters…
The study, seen by Reuters, said European countries would have to give Greece a 30-year grace period on servicing all its European debt, including new loans, and a dramatic maturity extension. Or else they must make annual transfers to the Greek budget or accept “deep upfront haircuts” on existing loans.
Needless to say, those kinds of concessions are anathema to the Germans. There is no way that anything like that could ever get through the German parliament.
But to be honest, the Germans never intended for this deal to be successful anyway. Just consider what German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schauble told reporters on Tuesday…
German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schauble made clear in Brussels on Tuesday that some members of the Berlin government think it would make more sense for Athens to leave the euro zone temporarily rather than take another bailout.
This is what Schauble and his allies have wanted all along. This entire “deal” was crafted with the intent of creating conditions under which Greece could be forced out of the euro.
By this time tomorrow, we should know what the Greek parliament is going to do. However, that won’t be the end of the story. One way or another, the Germans are going to get their wish. But once they do, I think that they will be quite surprised by the chaos that is unleashed.
Greece is saved? All over the planet, news headlines are boldly proclaiming that a “deal” has been reached which will give Greece the money that it needs and keep it in the eurozone. But as you will see below, this is not true at all. Yesterday, when I wrote that “there never was going to be any deal“, I was not exaggerating. This “deal” was not drafted with the intention of “saving Greece”. As I explained in my previous article, these negotiations were all about setting up Greece for eviction from the euro. You see, the truth is that Greece desperately wants to stay in the euro, but Germany (and allies such as Finland) want Greece out. Since Germany can’t simply order Greece to leave the euro, they need some sort of legal framework which will make it possible, and that is what this new “deal” provides. As I am about to explain, there are all kinds of conditions that must be satisfied and hurdles that must be crossed before Greece ever sees a single penny. If there is a single hiccup along the way, and this is what the Germans are counting on, Greece will be ejected from the eurozone. This “deal” has been designed to fail so that the Germans can get what they have wanted all along. I think that three very famous words from Admiral Ackbar sum up the situation very well: “It’s a trap!”
So why is this “Greek debt deal” really a German trap?
The following are three big reasons…
#1 The “Deal” Is Designed To Be Rejected By The Greek Parliament
If Germany really wanted to save Greece, they would have already done so. Instead, now they have forced Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to agree to much, much harsher austerity terms than Greek voters overwhelmingly rejected during the recent referendum by a vote of 61 percent to 39 percent. Tsipras has only been given until Wednesday to pass a whole bunch of new laws, and another week to make another series of major economic changes. The following comes from CNN…
Greece has to swiftly pass a series of new laws. Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has until Wednesday to convince Parliament to pass the first few, including pension cuts and higher taxes.
Assuming that happens, Greek lawmakers have another week, until July 22, to enact another batch of economic changes. These include adopting European Union rules on how to manage banks in crisis, and do a major overhaul to make Greece’s civil courts faster and more efficient.
Can Tsipras actually get all this done in such a short amount of time?
The Germans are hoping that he can’t. And already, two of Syriza’s coalition partners have publicly declared that they have no intention of voting in favor of this “deal”. The following is from a Bloomberg report…
Discontent brewed as Tsipras arrived back in the Greek capital. Left Platform, a faction within Syriza, and his coalition partners, the Independent Greeks party, both signaled they won’t be able to support the deal. That opposition alone would wipe out Tsipras’s 12-seat majority in parliament, forcing him to rely on opposition votes to carry the day.
The terms of the “deal” are not extremely draconian because the Germans want to destroy Greek sovereignty as many are suggesting. Rather, they are designed to provoke an overwhelmingly negative reaction in Greece so that the Greeks will willingly choose to reject the deal and thus be booted out of the euro.
And this is what we are seeing. So far, the response of the Greek public toward this deal has been overwhelmingly negative…
Haralambos Rouliskos, a 60-year-old economist who was out walking in Athens, described the deal as “misery, humiliation and slavery”.
Katerina Katsaba, a 52-year-old working for a pharmaceutical company, said: “I am not in favour of this deal. I know they (the eurozone creditors) are trying to blackmail us.”
On Wednesday, the union for Greek public workers has even called a 24 hour strike to protest this “agreement”…
Greece’s public workers are being called to stage a 24-hour strike on Wednesday, the day their country’s parliament is to vote on reforms needed to unlock the bankster eurozone plan agreed to by Greek Prime Minster Alex Tsipras.
Their union, Adedy, called for the stoppage in a statement issued today, saying it was against the agreement reached with the eurozone.
The Greek government is not guaranteed any money right now.
According to Bloomberg, the Greek government must pass all of the laws being imposed upon them by the EU “before Greece can even begin negotiations with creditors to access a third international bailout in five years.”
The Germans and their allies are actually hoping that there is a huge backlash in Greece and that Tsipras fails to get this package pushed through the Greek parliament. If that happens, Greece gets ejected from the euro, and Germany doesn’t look like the bad guy.
#2 Even If The “Deal” Miraculously Gets Through The Greek Parliament, It May Not Survive Other European Parliaments
The Greek parliament is not the only legislative body that must approve this new deal. The German and Finnish parliaments (among others) must also approve it. According to USA Today, it is being projected that the German and Finnish parliaments will probably vote on this new deal on Thursday or Friday…
Thursday/Friday, July 16/17: Eurozone parliaments must also agree to the plan for Greece’s $95 billion bailout. The biggest tests may come from Finland and Germany, two nations especially critical of Greece’s handling of the crisis. Berlin has contributed the most to Greece’s loans.
Either Germany or Finland could kill the entire “deal” with a single “no” vote.
Finnish Finance Minister Alexander Stubb has already stated that Finland “cannot agree” with a new bailout for Greece, and it is highly questionable whether or not the German parliament will give it approval.
I think that the Germans and their allies would much prefer for the Greeks to reject the deal and walk away, but it may come down to one of these parliaments drawing a line in the sand.
#3 The Deal Makes Implementation Extraordinarily Difficult
If Greece fails to live up to each and every one of the extremely draconian measures demanded in the “deal”, they will be booted from the eurozone.
And if you take a look at what is being demanded of them, it is extremely unrealistic. Here is just one example…
For instance, the Greek government agreed to transfer up to 50 billion euros worth of Greek assets to an independent fund that will raise money from privatization.
According to the document, 25 billion euros from this fund will be poured into the banks, 12.5 billion will be used to pay off debt, and the remaining 12.5 billion to boost the economy through investment.
The fund will be based in Greece and run by the Greeks, but with supervision from European authorities.
Where in the world is the Greek government going to find 50 billion euros worth of assets at this point? The Greek government is flat broke and the banks are insolvent.
But if they don’t find 50 billion euros worth of assets, they have violated the agreement and they get booted.
This whole thing is about setting up Greece for failure so that there is a legal excuse to boot them out of the euro.
And it actually almost happened very early on Monday morning. The following comes from Business Insider…
As the FT tells it, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras rose from their chairs at 6 a.m. on Monday and headed for the door, resigned to a Greek exit from the euro.
“Sorry, but there is no way you are leaving this room,” European Council president Donald Tusk reportedly said.
And so a Grexit was avoided.
For the moment, Greece has supposedly been “saved”.
But anyone that believes that this crisis is “over” is just being delusional.
The Germans and their allies have successfully lured the Greek government into a trap. Thanks to Tsipras, they have been handed a legal framework for getting rid of Greece.
All they have to do now is wait for just the right moment to spring the trap, and it might just happen a lot sooner than a lot of people may think.
There never was going to be any deal. All along, Germany has been seeking to establish conditions that would never be met so that they could force Greece out of the eurozone. But the Germans had to do this subtly so that they would end up looking “reasonable” and would not turn the rest of the eurozone against them. So why does Germany want to get rid of Greece? Well, to be honest, it is because the Germans are sick and tired of paying for Greek mistakes. In Germany, there is an obsession with having a balanced budget. They even have a term for it – “the black zero“. So it absolutely infuriates the Germans that the Greeks can never seem to get their act together and that German citizens have to keep paying for it. At this point, the amount of money that Germany has already poured into Greece breaks down to more than 700 euros per citizen, and now Greece is going to need a new bailout of somewhere between 82 billion and 86 billion euros over the next three years. Needless to say, the Germans are fed up with pouring money down a financial black hole, and they know that if they keep bailing Greece out that it is only a matter of time before they will have to bail out Italy, Spain, Portugal, France, etc.
So, no, it hasn’t been the Greeks holding up a deal all this time.
It has been the Germans.
And now that we have reached the endgame, the Germans are pushing for what they have always wanted from the very beginning…
The German government has begun preparations for Greece to be ejected from the eurozone, as the European Union faces 24 hours to rescue the single currency project from the brink of collapse.
Finance ministers failed to break the deadlock with Greece over a new bail-out package, after nine hours of acrimonious talks as creditors accused Athens of destroying their trust…
Should no deal be forthcoming, the German government has made preparations to negotiate a temporary five-year euro exit, providing Greece with humanitarian aid while it makes the transition….
The Germans are sick and tired of having the Greeks be so financially dependent on them. So the Germans would really like to cut them off and have them go fend for themselves.
So that is why the EU laid out such draconian conditions for the Greeks over the weekend. The following is how Zero Hedge summarized where things currently stand…
For those who missed today’s festivities in Brussels, here is the 30,000 foot summary: Europe has given Greece a “choice”: hand over sovereignty to Europe or undergo a 5 year Grexit “time out”, which is a polite euphemism for get the hell out.
As noted earlier, here are the 12 conditions laid out as a result of the latest Eurogroup meeting, which are far more draconian than anything presented to Greece yet and which effectively require that Greece cede sovereignty to Europe, this time even without the implementation of a technocratic government.
- Streamlining VAT
- Broadening the tax base
- Sustainability of pension system
- Adopt a code of civil procedure
- Safeguarding of legal independence for Greece ELSTAT – the statistics office
- Full implementation of autmatic spending cuts
- Meet bank recovery and resolution directive
- Privatize electricity transmission grid
- Take decisive action on non-performing loans
- Ensure independence of privatization body TAIPED
- De-Politicize the Greek administration
- Return of the Troika to Athens (the paper calls them the institutions… for now)
Greece has been given until Wednesday to pass all of the legislation necessary to implement all of those conditions.
And if Greece does somehow get all that done, it still won’t get them a deal. All it will do is allow them to come back and restart negotiations.
Needless to say, the Greeks are steaming mad at this point. This new “deal” is being called “very bad” and “insulting” by Greek politicians.
But what they may not understand is that Germany does not actually want any deal to happen. Instead, they are working very, very hard to get the Greeks booted out of the euro. The following comes from the Washington Post…
The simple story is that Germany and the other hardline countries don’t trust Greece’s anti-austerity Syriza party to actually implement, well, austerity. And so rather than coughing up another 60 or 70 or 80 billion euros, they seem to want to push to kick Greece out of the common currency instead. That, at least, was the plan that leaked on Saturday. And now it’s part of the actual plan on Sunday. Indeed, it’s tentatively been included in the European finance ministers’ latest joint statement. This isn’t just what Germany is considering. It’s what Germany is trying to get the rest of Europe to go along with.
If anyone still doubts what the Germans are trying to do, here it is in black and white…
And this is not an idea that is new. In fact, some hardliners in Germany have been pushing for a “temporary Greek exit” since at least 2012…
This weekend’s events in Europe have clarified who is really running the show across the ‘union’. Hans-Werner Sinn, Chairman of the Ifo Institute for Economic Research, vehemnt euroskeptic, and head of the so-called ‘five wise men’ advising the German government and specifically Angela Merkel, confirmed his call from 2012 for a “temporary grexit from the euro.” The right wing economist previously explained “Greece and Portugal have to become 30-40% less expensive to be competitive again. This is being attempted through excessive austerity measures within the euro zone, but it won’t work. It will drive these countries to the brink of civil war before it succeeds. Temporary exits would very quickly stabilize these countries, create new jobs and free the population from the yoke of the euro.”
The Germans absolutely hate having to open up their wallets for someone else’s mess. And they know that if they endlessly bail out Greece that it won’t end there. Eventually, much of the rest of the continent will come to them for bailouts too. I think that Nigel Farage nailed it when he summed up what Germany is thinking this way…
“The German thinking is: ‘Let’s get rid of this mess,'” Farage said. Expressing what he thought Germany was thinking about other troubled peripheral euro zone economies, he added: “‘let’s send a message to Italy, France, Spain and Portugal that actually, if you’re members of this club, you got to abide by our rules.'”
But I believe that Germany is greatly, greatly underestimating the damage that a “Grexit” is going to do to Greece and to the rest of the members of the EU.
In Greece, the banking system is already on the verge of total collapse. We are being told that capital controls will remain in place “for at least six months”, and now Greek politicians are even talking about “a possible forced ‘bail-in’ of depositors”…
Capital controls will stay in place at Greek banks for at least six months, senior officials in Athens warned yesterday, as the government fights to keep lenders afloat.
Leaders of the four main banks and finance ministry officials will meet tomorrow to discuss how to save the banking system from collapse after a run on deposits.
Options under consideration include a consolidation of four main banks down to two, creation of a “bad bank” to house toxic loans, and a possible forced “bail-in” of depositors.
Hmmm – I seem to recall someone warning about this exact scenario nearly two months ago: “Are They About To Confiscate Money From Bank Accounts In Greece Just Like They Did In Cyprus?”
The economic depression in Greece is about to accelerate. But things are also going to get hairy for the rest of the continent as well. As I have warned about so many times, the euro is going to plunge like a rock, European stocks are going to crater, European bond yields are going to soar, and eventually we are actually going to see “too big to fail” banks all over Europe start to fail.
This is the big flaw in the German plan. They truly believe that they can remove the “cancer” of Greece without causing any lasting damage to the rest of the eurozone.
Sadly, they are dead wrong.
Did you notice that Greece’s creditors are not rushing to offer the Greeks a new deal in the wake of the stunning referendum result on Sunday? In fact, it is being reported that the initial reaction to the “no” vote from top European politicians was “a thunderous silence“. Needless to say, the European elite were not pleased by how the Greek people voted, but they still have all of the leverage. In particular, it is the Germans that are holding all of the cards. If the Germans want to cave in and give the Greeks the kind of deal that they desire, everyone else would follow suit. And if the Germans want to maintain a hard line with Greece, they can block any deal from happening all by themselves. So in the final analysis, this is really an economic test of wills between Germany and Greece, and time is on Germany’s side. Germany doesn’t have to offer anything new. The Germans can just sit back and wait for the Greek government to default on their debts, for Greek banks to totally run out of cash and for civil unrest to erupt in Greek cities as the economy grinds to a standstill.
In ancient times, if a conquering army came up against a walled city that was quite formidable, often a decision would be made to conduct a siege. Instead of attacking a heavily defended city directly and taking heavy casualties, it was often much more cost effective to simply surround the city from a safe distance and starve the inhabitants into submission.
In a sense, that is exactly what the Germans appear to want to do to the Greeks. Without more cash, the Greek government cannot pay their bills. Without more cash, Greek banks are going to start collapsing left and right. Without more cash, the Greek economy is going to completely and utterly collapse.
So yes, the Greeks voted for change, but the Germans still hold the purse strings.
And right now the Germans do not sound like they are in any mood to compromise. The following comes from a Reuters report that was published on Monday…
German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s deputy said Athens had wrecked any hope of compromise with its euro zone partners by overwhelmingly rejecting further austerity.
Merkel and French President Francois Hollande conferred by telephone and will meet in Paris on Monday afternoon to seek a joint response. Responding to their call, European Council President Donald Tusk announced that euro zone leaders would meet in Brussels on Tuesday evening (1600 GMT).
German Vice-Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel, leader of Merkel’s centre-left Social Democratic junior coalition partner, said it was hard to conceive of fresh negotiations on lending more billions to Athens after Greeks voted against more austerity.
Leftist Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras had “torn down the last bridges on which Greece and Europe could have moved towards a compromise,” Gabriel told the Tagesspiegel daily.
In addition, Angela Merkel’s office released a statement on Monday that placed the onus on making a new proposal to end this crisis on the Greek government…
“It is up to Greece to make something of this. We are waiting to see which proposals the Greek government makes to its European partners,” the office of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Europe’s leading austerity advocate, said in a statement.
Just because the Greek people want the Germans to give them a very favorable deal does not mean that the Germans will be inclined to do so. The Germans know that whatever they do with the Greeks will set a precedent for the rest of the financially-troubled nations all across Europe. If Greece gets a free lunch, then Italy, Spain, Portugal, Ireland and France will expect the same kind of treatment…
Angelos Chryssogelos, an expert on Greek politics at the London-based think tank Chatham House, said the strength of Sunday’s mandate handed to Tsipras means it will be almost impossible for the prime minister’s leftist Syriza party to make a deal with European creditors.
“The Europeans made it pretty clear where they stand, and they have been consistent,” Chryssogelos said, adding that the creditors also are unlikely to back down. “Right now, voters across the eurozone largely support the tough stance taken by the eurozone.”
Chryssogelos said Greek voters may have underestimated the resolve of the creditors to reach an accord on their terms. “If someone is seen getting preferential treatment, then someone else will want that treatment,” he said, referring to other eurozone debtors such as Ireland and Portugal.
And remember, there is a very important Spanish election coming up in December.
If Syriza comes out as the big winner in this crisis, it will empower similar movements in Spain and all over the rest of the continent.
So look for Greece’s creditors to tighten the screws over the coming days. In fact, we already saw a bit of screw tightening on Monday when the ECB announced that Greek banks would not be receiving additional emergency assistance…
In a move sure to increase pressure on Greece’s flailing banks, the European Central Bank on Monday decided not to expand an emergency assistance program, raising fears that Greece could soon go completely bankrupt.
The move put a swift crimp on Greek leaders’ jubilation after winning a landslide endorsement from their citizens to reject Europe’s austerity demands and seek a new bailout bargain. Now they must seek a bargain before the money runs out within days, which would likely force them off the euro.
Basically we are watching a very high stakes game of chicken play out. And as the cash dwindles, economic activity in Greece is slowly grinding to a halt. The following comes from the Washington Post…
The dwindling cash is sucking the life out of everything from coffee shops to taxis, as anxious Greeks economize amid fears for the future. Greek leaders also banned transfers of money abroad, meaning that very little can now be imported into the country.
Printing plants are warning that they may run out of paper to print newspapers by the end of the week. Butchers say that stocks of imported meat are dwindling.
Some are even projecting that we could see civil unrest erupt in Greece in about “48 hours” once the ATM machines run out of cash…
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras probably has 48 hours to resolve a standoff with creditors before civil unrest breaks out and ATMs run out of cash, hedge fund Balyasny Asset Management said.
Yes, the Greek people exhibited great resolve in voting against the demands of the creditors on Sunday.
But how long can they endure this economic siege?
It is inevitable that a breaking point will come. Either the Greek government will give in, or the Greeks will leave the euro and start to transition back to the drachma.
If we do see a “Grexit”, and many analysts believe that one is coming, it could set off a chain of events that could cause immense financial pain all over the planet. There are tens of trillions of dollars of derivatives that are tied to European bond yields, European interest rates, etc. The following is an excerpt from a piece authored by Phoenix Capital Research that explains what kind of jeopardy we could potentially be facing…
The global derivatives market is roughly $700 trillion in size. That’s over TEN TIMES the world’s GDP. And sovereign bonds… including even bonds from bankrupt countries such as Greece… are one of, if not the primary collateral underlying all of these trades.
Greece is not the real issue for Europe. The entire Greek debt market is about €345 billion in size. So we’re not talking about a massive amount of collateral… though the turmoil this country has caused in the last three years gives a sense of the importance of the issue.
Spain, by comparison has over €1.0 trillion in debt outstanding… and Italy has €2.6 trillion. These bonds are backstopping tens of trillions of Euros’ worth of derivatives trades. A haircut on them would trigger systemic failure in Europe.
If Greece gets a “haircut” on their debt, other European nations would want the same and that would cause massive chaos in the derivatives markets.
But if Greece does not get a deal and ends up leaving the eurozone, that will cause bond yields to go crazy all over Europe and that would also cause tremendous chaos in the derivatives markets.
So much depends on keeping this system of legalized gambling that we call “derivatives trading” stable. We have allowed the global derivatives bubble to become many times larger than the GDP of the entire planet, and in the end we will pay a great price for this foolishness.
Every pyramid scheme eventually collapses, and this one will too.
But the difference with this pyramid scheme is that it is going to take the entire global financial system down with it.
The result of the referendum in Greece is a great victory for freedom, but it is also threatens to unleash unprecedented economic chaos all across Europe. With almost all of the votes counted, it is being reported that approximately 61 percent of Greeks have voted “no” and only about 39 percent of Greeks have voted “yes”. This is a much larger margin of victory for the “no” side than almost everyone was anticipating, and it represents a stunning rejection of European austerity. Massive celebrations have erupted on the streets of Athens and other major Greek cities, but the euphoria may not last long. Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is promising that Greece will be able to stay in the euro, but that gives EU bureaucrats and the IMF a tremendous amount of power, because at this point the Greek government is flat broke. Without more money from the EU and the IMF, the Greek government will not be able to pay its bills and virtually all Greek banks will inevitably collapse. Meanwhile, the rest of Europe is about to experience a tremendous amount of pain as financial markets respond to the results of this referendum. The euro is already plummeting, and most analysts expect European bond yields to soar and European stocks to drop substantially when trading opens on Monday morning.
Personally, I love the fact that the Greek people decided not to buckle under the pressure being imposed on them by the EU and the IMF. But amidst all of the celebration, the cold, hard reality of the matter is that your options are extremely limited when you are out of money.
How is the Greek government going to pay its bills without any money?
How are the insolvent Greek banks going to operate without any money?
How is the Greek economy going to function without any money?
Now that the Greek people have overwhelmingly rejected the demands of the creditors, it will be very interesting to see what the EU and the IMF do. Prior to the referendum, European leaders were insisting that a “no” vote would put an end to negotiations and would force Greece to leave the euro.
Now that the results are in, are they going to change their tune? Because the ball is definitely in their court…
“This does two things: it legitimises the stance of the Greek government and it leaves the ball in Europe’s court,” ANZ Bank analysts said in a note.
“Europe either folds or Greece goes bankrupt; over to you Merkel.”
So would they actually let Greece go bankrupt?
It is going to be fascinating to watch what happens over the next few days. Right now, Greek banks are on life support. If the European Central Bank decides to pull the plug, they would essentially destroy the entire Greek banking system. The only thing that can keep Greek banks alive and kicking is more intervention from the ECB. The following comes from the New York Times…
Now that Greek voters have said no to the economic demands of its international creditors, the fate of the country’s struggling banks is in the hands of the European Central Bank.
Greece’s banks, closed since last Monday because they are perilously low on cash, have been kept alive in recent weeks by emergency loans from the European Central Bank. On Monday, the central bank’s policy makers plan to convene to determine how much longer they are willing to prop up the Greek banks, now that the country has essentially said no to the unpopular dictates of the other eurozone countries.
Of much greater concern to the rest of the world is how financial markets are going to respond to all of this. As I write this article, things already appear to be unraveling. The following comes from CNBC…
Germany’s Dax is indicated sharply lower from Friday’s close at around 4 percent, while the euro was down 2 percent against the yen as the news emerged. U.S. stocks are expected to open around 1 percent lower Monday, according to recent stock futures data.
What could be most important for those worried about contagion from the Greek crisis is how Portuguese, Spanish and Italian government bonds perform in Monday morning trade.
If these peripheral euro zone countries, often lumped in with Greece, suffer a sharp spike in yields, this could cause alarm about whether Greece leaving the currency might cause further contagion to other weaker euro zone economies.
This could potentially become a “trigger event” that unleashes a wave of financial panic all over Europe. And once financial panic begins, it is very difficult to end.
If the EU and the IMF want to avoid a crisis, they could just give in to the new Greek government. But that would be politically risky for certain high profile European leaders. For instance, Angela Merkel would face a huge backlash back home if she conceded to the new Greek government now. And other German leaders are already calling the referendum result a “disaster”…
German politicians branded the result a ‘disaster’, with the country’s economy minister Sigmar Gabriel Sigmar accusing Tsipras of ‘tearing down the last bridges on which Greece and Europe could have moved towards a compromise’.
He added: ‘Tsipras and his government are leading the Greek people on a path of bitter abandonment and hopelessness.’
And the president of the European Parliament, a German, told a German radio station over the weekend that a “no” vote would almost certainly mean that the Greeks will be forced out of the euro…
“If after the referendum, the majority is a ‘no,’ they will have to introduce another currency because the euro will no longer be available for a means of payment,” Martin Schulz, European Parliament president, said on German radio.
That is pretty strong language, eh?
Here is yet another quote from Schulz…
“Without new money, salaries won’t be paid, the health system will stop functioning, the power network and public transport will break down, and they won’t be able to import vital goods because nobody can pay,” he said.
So at this point it is all up to the EU and the IMF, and in particular the focus will be on the Germans.
What will they decide to do?
Will they give in, or will they force the Greeks to leave the euro?
If the Greeks do transition from the euro to a new currency, it will be a process that takes months (if not longer). You just can’t change ATMs, computer systems, cash registers, etc. overnight. So a move to the drachma would not be as simple as many are suggesting…
British firms like De La Rue, which prints 150 currencies worldwide, are believed to have been contacted with a view to providing such services.
It’s done in great secrecy to prevent currency speculation. The other big problem is the logistical challenges of switching a currency. All ATMs, computers and other machinery of commerce that bears the euro symbol will have to be adjusted. It could, and would, take months.
And if Greece does leave, it will be a massive shock for global financial markets. Faith in the European project will be shattered, the euro will drop like a rock, bond yields all over the continent will rise to unsustainable levels and major banks all over Europe will fail.
I think that the following quote from Romano Prodi sums things up quite well…
Romano Prodi, former chief of the European Commission and Italy’s ex-premier, said it is the EU’s own survival that is now at stake as the botched handling of the Greek crisis escalates into a catastrophe. “If the EU cannot resolve a small problem the size of Greece, what is the point of Europe?“
Meanwhile, we should all keep in mind that a financial crisis has already erupted over in Asia as well. Chinese stocks have lost 30 percent of their value in just the last three weeks. In fact, the amount of “paper wealth” wiped out in China over the past three weeks is approximately equivalent to “10 times Greece’s gross domestic product”…
A dizzying three-week plunge in Chinese equities has wiped out $2.36 trillion in market value — equivalent to about 10 times Greece’s gross domestic product last year.
The great financial collapse of 2015 is well underway, and it should be a very interesting week for global markets.
But no matter what happens this week, we all need to keep in mind that this is just the tip of the iceberg.
A “perfect storm” is on the way, and we all need to get prepared for it while we still can.
Is 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.
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.