The Beginning Of The End
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Serious Financial Trouble Is Erupting In Germany And Japan

Stock Market Collapse - Public DomainThere are some who believe that the next great financial crash will not begin in the United States.  Instead, they are convinced that a financial crisis that begins in Europe or in Japan (or both) will end up spreading across the globe and take down the U.S. too.  Time will tell if they are ultimately correct, but even now there are signs that financial trouble is already starting to erupt in both Germany and Japan.  German stocks have declined 10 percent since July, and that puts them in “correction” territory.  In Japan, the economy is a total mess right now.  According to figures that were just released, Japanese GDP contracted at a 7.1 percent annualized rate during the second quarter and private consumption contracted at a 19 percent annualized rate.  Could a financial collapse in either of those nations be the catalyst that sets off financial dominoes all over the planet?

This week, the worst German industrial production figure since 2009 rattled global financial markets.  Germany is supposed to be the economic “rock” of Europe, but at this point that “rock” is starting to show cracks.

And certainly the civil war in Ukraine and the growing Ebola crisis are not helping things either.  German investors are becoming increasingly jittery, and as I mentioned above the German stock market has already declined 10 percent since July

German stocks, weighed down by the economic fallout spawned by the Ukraine-Russia crisis and the eurzone’s weak economy, are now down more than 10% from their July peak and officially in correction territory.

The DAX, Germany’s benchmark stock index, has succumbed to recent data points that show the German economy has ground to a halt, hurt in large part by the economic sanctions levied at its major trading partner, Russia, by the U.S. and European Union as a way to get Moscow to butt out of Ukraine’s affairs. The economic slowdown in the rest of the debt-hobbled eurozone has also hurt the German economy, considered the economic locomotive of Europe.

In trading today, the DAX fell as low as 8960.43, which put it down 10.7% from its July 3 closing high of 10,029.43 and off nearly 11% from its June 20 intraday peak of 10,050.98.

And when you look at some of the biggest corporate names in Germany, things look even more dramatic.

Just check out some of these numbers

The hardest hit sectors have been retailers, industrials and leisure stocks with sports clothing giant Adidas down 37.7pc for the year, airline Lufthansa down 27pc, car group Volkswagen sliding 23.6pc and Deutchse Bank falling 20.2pc so far this year.

Meanwhile, things in Japan appear to be going from bad to worse.

The government of Japan is more than a quadrillion yen in debt, and it has been furiously printing money and debasing the yen in a desperate attempt to get the Japanese economy going again.

Unfortunately for them, it is simply not working.  The revised economic numbers for the second quarter were absolutely disastrous.  The following comes from a Japanese news source

On an annualized basis, the GDP contraction was 7.1 percent, compared with 6.8 percent in the preliminary estimate. That makes it the worst performance since early 2009, at the height of the global financial crisis.

The blow from the first stage of the sales tax hike in April extended into this quarter, with retail sales and household spending falling in July. The administration signaled last week that it is prepared to boost stimulus to help weather a second stage of the levy scheduled for October 2015.

Corporate capital investment dropped 5.1 percent from the previous quarter, more than double the initial estimate of 2.5 percent.

Private consumption was meanwhile revised to a 5.1 percent drop from the initial reading of 5 percent, meaning it sank 19 percent on an annualized basis from the previous quarter, rather than the initial estimate of 18.7 percent, Monday’s report said.

For the moment, things are looking pretty good in the United States.

But as I have written about so many times, our financial markets are perfectly primed for a fall.

Other experts see things the same way.  Just consider what John Hussman wrote recently…

As I did in 2000 and 2007, I feel obligated to state an expectation that only seems like a bizarre assertion because the financial memory is just as short as the popular understanding of valuation is superficial: I view the stock market as likely to lose more than half of its value from its recent high to its ultimate low in this market cycle.

At present, however, market conditions couple valuations that are more than double pre-bubble norms (on historically reliable measures) with clear deterioration in market internals and our measures of trend uniformity. None of these factors provide support for the market here. In my view, speculators are dancing without a floor.

And it isn’t just stocks that could potentially be on the verge of a massive decline.  The bond market is also experiencing an unprecedented bubble right now.  And when that bubble bursts, the carnage will be unbelievable.  This has become so obvious that even CNBC is talking about it…

Picture this: The bond market gets spooked by a sudden interest rate scare, sending a throng of buyers streaming toward the exits, only to find a dearth of buyers on the other side.

As a result, liquidity evaporates, yields soar, and the U.S. finds itself smack in the middle of another debt crisis no one saw coming.

It’s a scenario that TABB Group fixed income head Anthony J. Perrotta believes is not all that far-fetched, considering the market had what could be considered a sneak preview in May 2013. That was the “taper tantrum,” which saw yields spike and stocks sell off after then-Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke made remarks that the market construed as indicating rates would rise sooner than expected.

If the strength of our financial markets reflected overall strength in the U.S. economy there would not be nearly as much cause for concern.

But at this point our financial markets have become completely and totally divorced from economic reality.

The truth is that our economic fundamentals continue to decay.  In fact, the IMF says that China now has the largest economy on the planet on a purchasing power basis.  The era of American economic dominance is ending.  It is just that the financial markets have not gotten the memo yet.

Hopefully we still have at least a few more months before stock markets all over the world start crashing.  But remember, we are entering the seventh year of the seven year cycle of economic crashes that so many people are talking about these days.  And we are definitely primed for a global financial collapse.

Sadly, most people did not see the crash of 2008 coming, and most people will not see the next one coming either.

Spain And Italy Are Toast Unless Germany Allows The ECB To Print Trillions Of Euros

The financial chess game in Europe is still being played out, but in the end it is going to boil down to one very fundamental decision.  Is Germany going to allow the ECB to print up trillions of euros and use those euros to buy up the sovereign debt of troubled eurozone members such as Spain and Italy or not?  Nothing short of this is going to solve the problems in Europe.  You can forget the ESM and the EFSF.  Anyone that thinks they are going to solve the problems in Europe is someone that would also take a water pistol to fight a raging wildfire.  No, the only thing that is going to keep Spain and Italy from collapsing under the weight of a mountain of debt is a financial nuke.  The ECB needs to have the power to print up trillions of euros and use that money to buy up massive amounts of sovereign debt in order to guarantee that Spain and Italy will be able to borrow lots more money at very low interest rates.  In fact, this is probably what European Central Bank President Mario Draghi has in mind when he says that he is going to “do whatever it takes to preserve the euro”.  However, there is one giant problem.  The ECB is not going to be able to do this unless Germany allows them to.  And after enduring the horror of hyperinflation under the Weimar Republic, Germany is not too keen on introducing trillions upon trillions of new euros into the European economy.  If Germany allows the ECB to go down this path, Germany will end up experiencing tremendous inflation and the only benefit for Germany will be that the eurozone was kept together.  That doesn’t sound like a very good deal for Germany.

Right now, the yield on 10 year Spanish bonds is above 7 percent and the yield on 10 year Italian bonds is above 6 percent.

Those are unsustainable levels.

The only thing that is going to bring those bond yields down permanently to where they need to be is unlimited ECB intervention.

But that is not going to happen without German permission.

Meanwhile, the situation in Spain gets worse by the day.

An article in Der Spiegel recently described the slow motion bank run that is systematically ripping the Spanish banking system to shreds….

Capital outflows from Spain more than quadrupled in May to €41.3 billion ($50.7 billion) compared with May 2011, according to figures released on Tuesday by the Spanish central bank.

In the first five months of 2012, a total of €163 billion left the country, the figures indicate. During the same period a year earlier, Spain recorded a net inflow of €14.6 billion.

If those numbers sound really bad to you, that is because they are really bad.

At this point, authorities in Spain are starting to panic.  According to Graham Summers, Spain has imposed the following new capital restrictions during the last month alone….

  • A minimum fine of  €10,000 for taxpayers who do not report their foreign accounts.
  • Secondary fines of  €5,000 for each additional account
  • No cash transactions greater than €2,500
  • Cash transaction restrictions apply to individuals and businesses

How would you feel if the U.S. government permanently banned all cash transactions greater than $2,500?

That is how crazy things have already become in Spain.

We should see the government of Spain formally ask for a bailout pretty soon here.

Italy should follow fairly quickly thereafter.

But right now there is not enough money to completely bail either one of them out.

In the end, either the ECB is going to do it or it is not going to get done.

A moment of truth is rapidly approaching for Europe, and nobody is quite sure what is going to happen next.  According to the Wall Street Journal, the central banks of the world are on “red alert” at this point….

Ben Bernanke and Mario Draghi, with words but not yet actions, demonstrated this week that they are on red alert about the global economy.

Expectations are now high that Mr. Bernanke’s Federal Reserve and Mr. Draghi’s European Central Bank will act soon to address those worries. But both face immense tactical and political challenges and neither has a handbook to follow.

So what happens if Germany does not allow the ECB to print up trillions of new euros?

Financial journalist Ambrose Evans-Pritchard recently described what is at stake in all of this….

Failure to halt a full-blown debt debacle in Spain and Italy at this delicate juncture – with China, India and Brazil by now in the grip of a broken credit cycle and the US on the cusp of fresh recession even before the “fiscal cliff” hits – would tip the entire global system into a downward spin, triggering the sort of feedback loop that caused such havoc in late 2008.

As I have written about so frequently, time is running out for the global financial system.

Even Germany is starting to feel the pain.  This week we learned that unemployment in Germany has risen for four months in a row.

So what comes next?

There is actually a key date that is coming up in September.  The Federal Constitutional Court in Germany will rule on the legality of German participation in the European Stability Mechanism on September 12th.

If it is ruled that Germany cannot participate in the European Stability Mechanism then that is going to create all sorts of chaos.  At that point all future European bailouts would be called into question and many would start counting down the days to the break up of the entire eurozone.

If Germany did end up leaving the eurozone, the transition would not be as difficult as many may think.

For example, most Americans may not realize this but Deutsche Marks are currently accepted at many retail stores throughout Germany.  The following comes from a recent Wall Street Journal article….

Shopping for pain reliever here on a recent sunny morning, Ulrike Berger giddily counted her coins and approached the pharmacy counter. She had just enough to make the purchase: 31.09 deutsche marks.

“They just feel nice to hold again,” the 55-year-old preschool teacher marveled, cupping the grubby coins fished from the crevices of her castaway living room sofa. “And they’re still worth something.”

Behind the counter of Rolf-Dieter Schaetzle’s pharmacy in this southern German village lay a tray full of deutsche mark notes and coins—a month’s worth of sales.

I have a feeling that it would be much easier for Germany to leave the euro than it would be for most other eurozone members to.

The months ahead are certainly going to be very interesting, that is for sure.

Europe is heading for a date with destiny, and what transpires in Europe is going to shake the rest of the globe.

Sadly, most Americans still aren’t too concerned with what is going on in Europe right now.

Well, if you still don’t think that the problems in Europe are going to affect the United States, just check this news item from the Guardian….

General Motors’ profits fell 41% in the second quarter as troubles in Europe undercut strong sales in North America.

America’s largest automaker made $1.5bn in the second quarter of 2012, compared with $2.5bn for the same period last year. Revenue fell to $37.6bn from $39.4bn in the second quarter of 2011. The results exceeded analysts’ estimates, but further underlined Europe’s drag on the US economy.

Profits at General Motors are down 41 percent and Europe is being blamed.

The global economy is more tightly integrated than ever before, and there is no way that the financial system of Europe collapses without it taking down the United States as well.

And considering the fact that the U.S. economy has already been steadily collapsing, the last thing we need is for Europe to come along and take our legs out from underneath us.

So what do all of you think about the problems in Europe?

Do you see any possible solution?

Please feel free to post a comment with your thoughts below….

Eurobonds: The Issue That Could Shatter Europe

Would you pool your debt with a bunch of debt addicts that have no intention of reducing their wild spending habits?  Of course you wouldn’t.  But that is exactly what Germany is being asked to do.  Increasingly, “eurobonds” are being touted as the best long-term solution to the financial crisis in Europe.  These eurobonds would represent jointly issued debt by all 17 members of the eurozone.  This debt would also be guaranteed by all 17 members of the eurozone.  This would allow all countries in the eurozone to enjoy the same credit rating that Germany does, and borrowing costs for nations such as Greece, Portugal, Italy and Spain would plummet.  But borrowing costs for Germany would rise substantially.  In fact, it is being estimated that Germany could be facing an extra 50 billion euros a year in interest expenses.  So over ten years that would come to about 500 billion euros.  Needless to say, Germany is not thrilled about this idea.  But new French President Francois Hollande is pushing eurobonds very hard, and he has the support of the OECD, the IMF and many top Italian politicians.  In the end, this could be the key to the future of the eurozone.  If the Germans give in and decide that they are willing to deeply subsidize their profligate neighbors indefinitely, then the euro could potentially be saved.  If not, then this issue could end up shattering Europe.

It is easy to try to portray the Germans as the “bad guys” in all this, but try to step into their shoes for a minute.

If you had some relatives that were spending wildly and that had already run up $100,000 in credit card debt, would you be a co-signer on their next credit card application?

Of course not.

The recent elections in France and Greece made it abundantly clear that the populations of those two countries are rejecting austerity.

Instead, they want a return to the debt-fueled prosperity that they have always enjoyed in the past.

Unfortunately, they need German help to be able to do that.

That is why new French President Francois Hollande is pushing so hard for eurobonds.  He wants the rest of the eurozone to be able to “piggyback” on Germany’s sterling credit rating so that everyone can return to the days of wild borrowing and spending.

But Germans greatly fear what a co-mingling of eurozone debt could eventually mean.  Not only would Germany’s borrowing costs rise dramatically, but there is also a concern that the rest of the eurozone could eventually pull Germany down with them.

Austria, Finland and the Netherlands are also against eurobonds, but the key is Germany.

For now, Germany is not budging on the issue of eurobonds at all.  The following is a statement that German Chancellor Angela Merkel made during a recent speech in Berlin….

“It’s just about not spending more than you collect. It’s astonishing that this simple fact leads to such debates”

And she is right.

Why is it so controversial to insist that people not spend more than they bring in?

But this is the problem that is created when you create a false lifestyle fueled by debt that goes on for decades.  People become accustomed to that false standard of living and they throw hissy fits when that false standard of living begins to disappear.

The Germans don’t want to make great sacrifices just so the Greeks, the French and the Italians can go back to borrowing and spending wildly.

Why would the Germans want to do that?

And as a recent CNN article noted, German politicians believe that eurobonds are explicitly banned under existing EU treaties anyway….

“There is no way of introducing them under the current [EU] treaties. Indeed, there is an explicit ban on them,” one senior German official said, adding Berlin would not drop its opposition in the foreseeable future. “That’s a firm conviction which will not change in June.”

But politicians such as Hollande are complaining that austerity could seriously damage living standards throughout Europe.

And Hollande is right about that.

When you inflate your standard of living with borrowed money for many years, eventually there comes a time when you must pay a great price.

Anyone that has ever been in trouble with credit card debt knows how painful that can be.

It is shameful for the rest of Europe to be pleading and begging Germany to help them.

They should take care of themselves.

As I wrote about the other day, Greece would be much better off in the long run if it left the euro and created a new financial system based on sound financial principles.

But in the financial press all over the world there are calls for someone to come up with a “plan” to “rescue” Europe.  For example, the following is from a recent Wall Street Journal article….

There have been two main responses to the crisis: austerity, and kicking cans down roads. Austerity, in case you haven’t noticed, is so last year. It’s out. Which means that unless something else is found, some other comprehensive plan, the other main response, can kicking, is going to run out of road.

Just about everybody backed the idea of eurobonds, except for the Germans, and since they’re the ones with all the money, they’re kind of the only ones whose vote counts anyway. So, it’s time to go to plan B. Only there’s no Plan B, and there’s no time, either.

If Germany does not agree to subsidize the rest of the eurozone, will that ultimately mean that the eurozone will be forced to break up?

Probably.

And that would cause a huge amount of pain in the short-term.

But the euro never was a good idea in the first place.  It was foolish to expect a monetary union to work smoothly in the absence of fiscal and political union.

And to be honest, the entire world would be a better place with less European integration.  The EU has become a horrifying bureaucratic nightmare and it would be wonderful if the entire thing broke up.

But for now, the only thing that is in danger is the euro.

Increasingly, it is looking like Greece may be the first country to exit the euro.

This week, former Greek Prime Minister Lucas Papademos admitted that the Greek government is considering making preparations for Greece to leave the euro.

Not only that, Reuters is reporting that top officials in the eurozone are now working on “contingency plans” for a Greek exit from the euro….

Each euro zone country will have to prepare a contingency plan for the eventuality of Greece leaving the single currency, euro zone sources said on Wednesday.

Officials reached the consensus on Monday afternoon during an hour-long teleconference of the Eurogroup Working Group (EWG).

As well as confirmation from three euro zone officials, Reuters has seen a memo drawn up by one member state detailing some of the elements that euro zone countries should consider.

So obviously a Greek exit from the euro has become a very real possibility.

A recent Bloomberg article detailed how a Greek exit from the euro could play out during the 46 hours that global financial markets are closed over the weekend….

Greece may have only a 46-hour window of opportunity should it need to plot a route out of the euro.

That’s how much time the country’s leaders would probably have to enact any departure from the single currency while global markets are largely closed, from the end of trading in New York on a Friday to Monday’s market opening in Wellington, New Zealand, based on a synthesis of euro-exit scenarios from 21 economists, analysts and academics.

Over the two days, leaders would have to calm civil unrest while managing a potential sovereign default, planning a new currency, recapitalizing the banks, stemming the outflow of capital and seeking a way to pay bills once the bailout lifeline is cut. The risk is that the task would overwhelm any new government in a country that has had to be rescued twice since 2010 because it couldn’t manage its public finances.

Right now, nobody is quite sure what is going to happen next and panic is spreading throughout the European financial system.

At this point, everyone is afraid of what is going to happen if Greece is forced to start issuing drachmas again.  As CNBC is reporting, some big European corporations are already beginning to implement their own “contingency plans”….

Big tourism operators like TUI of Germany and Kuoni of Britain are demanding the addition of so-called drachma clauses to contracts with Greek hoteliers should the euro no longer be in use here. British newspapers are filled with advice columns for travelers worried about the wisdom of planning a vacation in Greece, or even Portugal and Spain, should the euro crisis worsen. Large multinational companies like Vodafone Group, Reckitt Benckiser and Diageo have taken to sweeping cash every day from euro accounts back to Britain to limit their exposure.

Sadly, this is probably only a small taste of the financial anarchy that is coming.

France is likely to keep pushing hard for the creation of eurobonds.

Germany is likely to keep fiercely resisting this.

At some point, a moment of crisis will arrive and a call will have to be made.

Will Germany give in or will political turmoil end up shattering Europe?

It will be interesting to see how all of this plays out.

The Countdown To The Break Up Of The Euro Has Officially Begun

The results of the elections in France and Greece have made it abundantly clear that there is a tremendous backlash against the austerity approach that Germany has been pushing.  All over Europe, prominent politicians and incumbent political parties are being voted out.  In fact, Nicolas Sarkozy has become the 11th leader of a European nation to be defeated in an election since 2008.  We have seen governments fall in the Netherlands, the UK, Spain, Ireland, Italy, Portugal and Greece.  Whenever they get a chance, the citizens of Europe are using the ballot box to send a message that they do not like what is going on.  It turns out that austerity is extremely unpopular.  But if newly elected politicians all over Europe begin rejecting austerity, this puts Germany in a very difficult position.  Should Germany be expected to indefinitely bail out all of the members of the eurozone that choose to live way beyond their means?  If Germany pulled out of the euro tomorrow, the euro would absolutely collapse, bond yields for the rest of the eurozone would skyrocket to unprecedented heights, and without German bailout money troubled nations such as Greece would be headed directly for default.  The rest of the eurozone is absolutely and completely dependent on Germany at this point.  But as we have seen, much of the rest of the eurozone is sick and tired of taking orders from Germany and is rejecting austerity.  A lot of politicians in Europe apparently believe that they should be able to run up gigantic amounts of debt indefinitely and that the Germans should be expected to always be there to bail them out whenever they need it.  Will the Germans be willing to tolerate such a situation, or will they simply pick up their ball and go home at some point?

Over the past several years, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy have made a formidable team.  They worked together to push the eurozone on to the path of austerity, but now Sarkozy is out.

Francois Hollande, the new French president, has declared that the financial world is his “greatest enemy“.

He may regret making that statement.

One of the primary reasons why Hollande was elected was because he clearly rejected the austerity approach favored by the Germans.  Shortly after winning the election in France, he made the following statement….

“Europe is watching us, austerity can no longer be the only option”

Hollande says that he wants to “renegotiate” the fiscal pact that European leaders agreed to under the leadership of Merkel and Sarkozy.

But Merkel says that is not going to happen.  The following Merkel quotes are from a recent CNBC article….

“We in Germany are of the opinion, and so am I personally, that the fiscal pact is not negotiable. It has been negotiated and has been signed by 25 countries,” Merkel told a news conference.

“We are in the middle of a debate to which France, of course, under its new president will bring its own emphasis. But we are talking about two sides of the same coin — progress is only achievable via solid finances plus growth,” she added.

So instead of being on the same page, Germany and France are now headed in opposite directions.

But if the French do not get their debt under control, they could be facing a huge crisis of their own very quickly.  The following is from a recent article by Ambrose Evans-Pritchard….

“They absolutely must cut public spending and control the debt,” said Marc Touati from Global Equities in Paris. “It will soon be clear that we are in deep recession. If they don’t act fast, interest rates will shoot up and we will have a catastrophe by September,” he said.

Without German help, France is not going to be able to handle its own financial problems – much less bail out the rest of Europe.

Germany is holding all of the cards, but much of the rest of the eurozone does not seem afraid to defy Germany at this point.

In Greece, anti-bailout parties scored huge gains in the recent election.

None of the political parties in Greece were able to reach 20 percent of the vote, and there is a tremendous amount of doubt about what comes next.

New Democracy (the “conservatives”) won about 19 percent of the vote, but they have already announced that they have failed to form a new government.

So now it will be up to the second place finishers, the Syriza party (the radical left coalition), to try to form a new government.

Alexis Tsipras, the leader of the Syriza party, is very anti-austerity.  He made the following statement the other night….

“The people of Europe can no longer be reconciled with the bailouts of barbarism.”

But at this point, it seems very doubtful that Syriza will be able to form a new government either.

PASOK, the socialists that have been pushing through all of the recent austerity measures, only ended up with about 13 percent of the vote.  In the 2009 election, PASOK got 44 percent of the vote.  Obviously their support of the austerity measures cost them dearly.

So what happens if none of the parties are able to form a new government?

It means that new elections will be held.

Meanwhile, Greece must somehow approve more than 11 billion euros in additional budget cuts by the end of June in order to receive the next round of bailout money.

Greece is currently in its 6th year of economic contraction, and there is very little appetite for more austerity in Greece at this point.

Citibank analysts are saying that there is now a 50 to 75 percent chance that Greece is going to be forced to leave the euro….

Overall, the outcome of the Greek election shows that it will be very difficult to form a viable coalition and to implement the measures required in the MoU. Particularly, the identification of the 7% GDP of budget savings for 2013 and 2014 by the end of June looks very unlikely to us. As a consequence, in a first step, the Troika is likely to delay the disbursement of the next tranche of the programme. Note that for 2Q 2012, disbursements of €31.3bn from the bailout programme are scheduled. If Greece does not make progress, in a second step, the Troika is likely to stop the programme. If that happens, the Greek sovereign and its banking sector would run out of funding. As a consequence, we expect that Greece would be forced to leave the euro area. With the outcome of the election, to us the probability of a Greek exit is now larger than our previous estimate of 50%, and rises to between 50-75%. However, even after the elections in Greece, France and Germany, we regard the probability of a broad-based break up of the monetary union as very low. We continue to expect that in reaction to Greece leaving the euro area, more far-reaching measures from governments and the ECB would be put in place.

But if Greece rejects austerity that does not mean that it has to leave the eurozone.

There is no provision that allows for the other nations to kick them out.

Greece could say no to austerity and dare Germany and the rest of the eurozone to keep the bailout money from them.

If Greece defaulted, it would severely damage the euro and bond yields all over the eurozone would likely skyrocket – especially for troubled countries like Spain and Italy.

If Greece wanted to play hardball, they could simply choose to play a game of “chicken” with Germany and see what happens.

Would Germany and the rest of the eurozone be willing to risk a financial disaster just to teach Greece a lesson?

But Greece is not the only one that is in trouble.

As I wrote about recently, the Spanish economy is rapidly heading into an economic depression.

Now it has come out that the Spanish government is going to bail out a major Spanish bank.  The following is from a recent Bloomberg article….

Rodrigo Rato stepped down as head of the Bankia group as a government bailout loomed after Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy retreated from a pledge to avoid using public money to save lenders.

Rato, a former International Monetary Fund managing director, proposed Jose Ignacio Goirigolzarri, ex-president and chief operating officer of Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria SA (BBVA), as Bankia executive chairman, he said in a statement today in Madrid. The government plans to inject funds into the lender by buying contingent-capital securities, said an Economy Ministry official who declined to be named as the plan isn’t public.

But this is just the beginning.

Major banks all over Europe are going to need to be bailed out, and countries such as Portugal, Italy and Spain are going to need huge amounts of financial assistance.

So does Germany want to keep rescuing the rest of the eurozone over and over again during the coming years?  The cost of doing this would likely be astronomical.  The following is from a recent New York Times article….

Bernard Connolly, a persistent critic of Europe, estimates it would cost Germany, as the main surplus-generating country in the euro area, about 7 percent of its annual gross domestic product over several years to transfer sufficient funds to bail out Europe’s debt-burdened countries, including France.

That amount, he has argued, would far surpass the huge reparations bill foisted upon Germany by the victorious powers after World War I, the final payment of which Germany made in 2010.

At some point, Germany may decide that enough is enough.

In fact, there have been persistent rumors that Germany has been very quietly preparing to leave the euro.

A while back, German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union party approved a resolution that would allow a nation to leave the euro without leaving the European Union.

Many believed that this resolution was aimed at countries like Greece or Portugal, but the truth is that the resolution may have been setting the stage for an eventual German exit from the euro.

The following is an excerpt from that resolution….

“Should a member [of the euro zone] be unable or unwilling to permanently obey the rules connected to the common currency he will be able to voluntarily–according to the rules of the Lisbon Treaty for leaving the European Union–leave the euro zone without leaving the European Union. He would receive the same status as those member states that do not have the euro.”

Most analysts will tell you that they think that it is inconceivable that Germany could leave the euro.

But stranger things have happened.

And Germany has made some very curious moves recently.

For example, Germany recently reinstated its Special Financial Market Stabilization Funds.  Those funds could be utilized to bail out German banks in the event of a break up of the euro.  The following is from a recent article by Graham Summers….

In short, Germany has given the SoFFIN:

  1. €400 billion to be used as guarantees for German banks.
  2. €80 billion to be used for the recapitalization of German banks
  3. Legislation that would permit German banks to dump their euro-zone government bonds if needed.

That is correct. Any German bank, if it so chooses, will have the option to dump its EU sovereign bonds into the SoFFIN during a Crisis.

In simple terms, Germany has put a €480 billion firewall around its banks. It can literally pull out of the Euro any time it wants to.

So has Germany been quietly preparing a plan “B” just in case the rest of the eurozone rejected the path of austerity?

Most people have assumed that it will be a nation such as Greece or Portugal that will leave the euro first, but in the end it just might be Germany.

And the “smart money” is definitely betting on something big happening.

Right now some of the largest hedge funds in the world are betting against the eurozone as a recent Daily Finance article described….

Some of the world’s most prominent hedge fund managers are betting against the eurozone — and not just the peripheral countries everyone knows are in trouble. They’re taking positions against the core countries, economies that — until now — everyone has assumed were rock-solid.

Yes, the countdown to the break up of the euro has officially begun.

A great financial crisis is going to erupt in Europe, and it is going to shake the world to the core.

If you were frightened by what happened back in 2008, then you are going to be absolutely horrified by what is coming next.

Is Germany Actually Preparing To Leave The Euro?

For a long time, most analysts have believed that if someone was going to leave the euro, it would be a weak nation such as Greece or Portugal.  But the truth is that financially troubled nations such as Greece and Portugal don’t want to leave the euro.  The leaders of those nations understand that if they leave the euro their economies will totally collapse and nobody will be there to bail them out.  And at this point there really is not a formal mechanism which would enable other members of the eurozone to kick financially troubled nations such as Greece or Portugal out of the euro.  But there is one possibility that is becoming increasingly likely that could actually cause the break up of the euro.  Germany could leave the euro.  Yes, it might actually happen.  Germany is faced with a very difficult problem right now.  It is looking at a future where it will be essentially forced to bail out most of the rest of the nations in the eurozone for many years to come, and those bailouts will be extremely expensive.  Meanwhile, the mood in much of the rest of Europe is becoming decidedly anti-German.  In Greece, Angela Merkel and the German government are being openly portrayed as Nazis.  Financially troubled nations such as Greece want German bailout money, but they are getting sick and tired of the requirements that Germany is imposing upon them in order to get that money.  Increasingly, other nations in Europe are simply ignoring what Germany is asking them to do or are openly defying Germany.  In the end, Germany will need to decide whether it is worth it to continue to pour billions upon billions of euros into countries that don’t appreciate it and that are not doing what Germany has asked them to do.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union party recently approved a resolution that would allow a country to leave the euro without leaving the European Union.

Many thought that the resolution was aimed at countries like Greece or Portugal, but the truth is that this resolution may be setting the stage for a German exit from the euro.

The following is an excerpt from that resolution….

“Should a member [of the euro zone] be unable or unwilling to permanently obey the rules connected to the common currency he will be able to voluntarily–according to the rules of the Lisbon Treaty for leaving the European Union–leave the euro zone without leaving the European Union. He would receive the same status as those member states that do not have the euro.”

So was that paragraph written for Greece?

Or was it written for Germany?

That is a very interesting question.

What is clear is that the status quo cannot last much longer.

Voters in Germany are definitely not in the mood to give any more bailout money to other nations in Europe, but if Germany is going to continue to stay in the eurozone many more bailouts will be required in the coming years.

Meanwhile, Germany is rapidly losing control over the rest of the eurozone….

*Greece has implemented some of the austerity measures that have been required of it, but many others have not been implemented.  In a few weeks there will be a national election, and parties that are opposed to the austerity measures are surging in the polls.  It is likely that the new government will be much less friendly toward Germany.

*The Spanish government is already defying the budgetary requirements that the EU is trying to impose upon it.  Spain is definitely going to miss the debt targets mandated by the EU, and the Spanish government has absolutely no plans of making more reductions to government spending.

*The upcoming election in France could be absolutely crucial.  Nicolas Sarkozy is not doing well in the polls and the new French government could totally wreck the recent fiscal agreement that the members of the eurozone recently agreed to.

The following is how Graham Summers recently summarized the current situation in France….

We should also take Schäuble’s statements in the context of Angela Merkel’s recent backing of Nicolas Sarkozy’s re-election campaign in France against hardened socialist François Hollande, who wants to engage in a rampant socialist mission to lower France’s retirement age, cut tax breaks to the wealthy, and break the recent new EU fiscal requirements Germany convinced 17 members of the EU to agree to.

Obviously Germany has been trying very hard to keep the eurozone together.  But the German government also believes that if it is going to be bailing everyone out that it should also be able to set the rules.

So what happens if the rest of Europe tells Germany to stick their rules where the sun doesn’t shine?

Well, Germany would be forced to make a very difficult decision, and Germany appears to making plans for that eventuality.

For example, Germany recently reinstated its Special Financial Market Stabilization Funds.  This money would be used to bail out German banks in the event of a break up of the euro.  The following is from a recent article by Graham Summers….

In short, Germany has given the SoFFIN:

  1. €400 billion to be used as guarantees for German banks.
  2. €80 billion to be used for the recapitalization of German banks
  3. Legislation that would permit German banks to dump their euro-zone government bonds if needed.

That is correct. Any German bank, if it so chooses, will have the option to dump its EU sovereign bonds into the SoFFIN during a Crisis.

In simple terms, Germany has put a €480 billion firewall around its banks. It can literally pull out of the Euro any time it wants to.

If the rest of Europe continues to defy Germany, then at some point Germany may decide to simply pick up the ball and go home.

Germany is the strongest economy in the eurozone by far, and if Germany were to pull out the euro would absolutely collapse.  Whatever currency Germany decided to issue would be extremely valuable.  Such an event would actually have some tremendous side benefits for Germany.

Right now, the German national debt is denominated in euros.

If Germany left the euro, the value of euros would plummet and would likely keep declining as the rest of the eurozone fell apart financially and Germany would be able to pay back its debt in rapidly appreciating “marks” or whatever other currency it decided to issue.

All other debts in Germany would also be denominated in euros and would also be repaid with a much stronger currency.

Are you starting to get the picture?

Yes, Germany would likely have to bail out German banks if it left the euro, but leaving the euro could also prove to be a tremendous windfall for Germany.

If Germany chooses to say in the euro, it is going to be faced with extremely expensive bailouts of other countries for as far as the eye can see.

How expensive?

The following is from a New York Times article….

Bernard Connolly, a persistent critic of Europe, estimates it would cost Germany, as the main surplus-generating country in the euro area, about 7 percent of its annual gross domestic product over several years to transfer sufficient funds to bail out Europe’s debt-burdened countries, including France.

That amount, he has argued, would far surpass the huge reparations bill foisted upon Germany by the victorious powers after World War I, the final payment of which Germany made in 2010.

If Germany leaves the euro, that does not mean that the dream of a single currency is dead.  Germany could just let the rest of the eurozone collapse and then invite them to join the new German currency eventually after all the carnage is over.

At that point, Germany would have all the leverage and Germany would be able to dictate all the rules.

What is clear is that the status quo in Europe is becoming extremely unacceptable in Germany.  The Germans do not intend to give endless bailouts to other nations that do not appreciate them and that do not intend to follow the rules.

At some point Germany may actually decide to walk, and there are lots of whispers that Germany has been steadily preparing for that day.

For example, there are persistent rumors that Germany has ordered printing plates for the printing of new German marks.  Philippa Malmgren, a former economic adviser to President George W. Bush, says that she believes that this is already happening….

“I think they have already got the printing machines going and are bringing out the old deutschmarks they have left over from when the euro was introduced.”

Increasingly, it really is looking as if Germany is actually preparing to leave the euro.

If Germany did leave the euro, the consequences for the rest of Europe would be catastrophic.

The euro would rapidly drop to all-time lows.

The global financial system would be thrown in chaos.

Countries such as Greece would lose their major source of bailout money and would be forced to default.

The recession in Europe would likely deepen into a devastating economic depression.

So there would be a lot of downside.

But Germany would fare much better than most of the rest of Europe, and in the end Germany would be left holding most of the cards.

Keep a close eye on the upcoming European elections and the evolving political situation in Europe.

If things don’t go well for Germany, at some point Germany may just get fed up and walk away from the euro.

Stranger things have happened.

17 Facts About The Decline Of The U.S. Auto Industry That Are Almost Too Crazy To Believe

Very few things illustrate how dramatically America has been deindustrialized than the stunning decline of the U.S. auto industry.  Once upon a time, the United States literally taught the rest of the world how to make cars.  We were the ones that invented the assembly line.  We were the ones that showed the rest of the world what mass production could do for an economy.  For decades, we produced more cars than anyone else and we sold more cars than anyone else.  Detroit was known as “the Motor City” and our manufacturing prowess dominated the planet.  But now all of that has changed.  Japan makes far more vehicles than we do today.  So does Germany.  As you read this, state of the art production facilities are going up all over China.  Meanwhile, the U.S. auto industry continues to rot and thousands upon thousands of good automotive jobs continue to leave our shores.  The rest of the world is making cars better than we are, they are making them cheaper than we are and they really don’t care that many of our formerly great manufacturing cities are turning into rotting, stinking hellholes.  The U.S. auto industry was once a symbol of American dominance, but now it is just a symbol of American decline.  If we want to remain a great nation, then we need to start becoming great at making things once again.

The following are 17 facts about the decline of the U.S. auto industry that are almost too crazy to believe….

#1 The average age of an automobile in the United States has gone up more than 50% since 1990 and is now sitting at an all-time record of 10.8 years.  The average length of a marriage in the United States that ends in divorce is only 8 years.

#2 Germany made 5.5 million cars in 2010.  The United States made less than half that (2.7 million).

#3 When you add up salary and benefits, the average auto worker in Germany makes $67.14 an hour.  In the United States, auto workers only make $33.77 an hour in salary and benefits.

#4 Back in 2000, about 17 million new automobiles were sold in the United States.  During 2011, less than 13 million new automobiles were sold in the United States.

#5 Do you remember when the United States was the dominant manufacturer of automobiles and trucks on the globe?  Well, in 2010 the U.S. ran a trade deficit in automobiles, trucks and parts with the rest of the world of $110 billion.

#6 Japan builds more cars than anyone else on the globe.  Japan now manufactures about 5 million more automobiles than the United States does.

#7 In 2010, South Korea exported approximately 12 times as many automobiles to us as we exported to them.

#8 According to the New York Times, a Jeep Grand Cherokee that costs $27,490 in the United States costs about $85,000 in China thanks to new tariffs.

#9 U.S. car companies are spending hundreds of millions of dollars building shiny new automobile factories in China.

#10 In 1970, General Motors had about a 60 percent share of the U.S. automobile market.  Today, that figure is down to about 20 percent.

#11 The combined U.S. market share of the “Big Three” American car companies fell from 70% in 1998 to 53% in 2008.

#12 Detroit was once known as the “Motor City”, but in recent decades automobile production has been leaving Detroit at a staggering pace.  One analysis of census figures found that 48.5% of all men living in Detroit from age 20 to age 64 did not have a job during 2008.

#13 Today, only Chrysler still operates an automobile assembly line within Detroit city limits.

#14 Since Alan Mulally became CEO of Ford, the company has reduced its North American workforce by nearly half.

#15 Today, only about 40 percent of Ford’s 178,000 workers are employed in North America, and a significant portion of those jobs are in Canada and Mexico.

#16 The average Mexican auto worker brings in less than a tenth of the total compensation that a U.S. auto worker makes.

#17 In the year 2000, the U.S. auto industry employed more than 1.3 million Americans.  Today, the U.S. auto industry employs about 698,000 people.

Sadly, it is not just the auto industry in America that is falling apart.  In fact, almost everywhere you look in our economy (and in our society as a whole) there is decay and decline.

For example, our infrastructure was once the envy of the entire globe.  Today, U.S. infrastructure is ranked 23rd.

Recently, I wrote an article entitled “24 Statistics To Show To Anyone Who Believes That America Has A Bright Economic Future“.  In that article, I discussed many of the long-term trends that are systematically destroying this nation.

Just because we have had it so good for so long does not mean that it will always be that way.

As a nation, our wealth is declining.  A decade ago, the United States was ranked number one in average wealth per adult.  By 2010, the United States had fallen to seventh.

We lived off the wealth created by previous generations for a long time, but that was not enough for us.  We always wanted more.  Eventually we started going into massive amounts of debt so that we could keep this bubble of “false prosperity” going.

Today, when you add up all forms of debt in America, it comes to over 50 trillion dollars.

We are a great nation that is in an accelerating state of decline.

We have got to quit living off of the past accomplishments of previous generations.

We have got to quit being so lazy and decadent and spoiled.

There is absolutely no guarantee that America will always be a great nation.  In fact, when great nations fall, it usually happens very quickly.

I’m still proud to be an American, but the decay and the decline that I see all across this country sickens me.

And it should sicken you too.

Ack! They Are Actually Going To Let Greece Default!

I wish that I had an “aha moment” to share with you today, but instead all I have is an “ack moment” to share.  As I was analyzing all of the info coming out of Europe in recent days, I came to the following realization: “Ack! They are actually going to let Greece default!”  The only question is whether it is going to be an orderly default or a disorderly default.  Of course the EU (led by Germany) could save Greece financially if it wanted to.  But Germany has decided against that course of action.  Many in the German government are sick and tired of pouring bailouts into Greece and then watching Greek politicians fail to fully implement the austerity measures that were agreed upon.  At this point a lot of German politicians are talking as if a Greek default is a foregone conclusion.   For example, Michael Fuchs, the deputy leader of Angela Merkel’s political party, recently made the following statement: “I don’t think that Greece, in its current condition, can be saved.”  But that is not entirely accurate.  Greece could be saved, but the Germans don’t want to make the deep financial sacrifices necessary to save Greece.  So instead they are going to let Greece default.

Many prominent voices in the financial world that have been watching all of this play out are now openly declaring the Greece is about to default.  Moritz Kraemer, the head of S&P’s European sovereign ratings unit, made the following statement on Bloomberg Television on Monday: “Greece will default very shortly. Whether there will be a solution at the end of the current rocky negotiations I cannot say.”

You might want to go back and read that again.

One of the top officials at one of the top credit rating agencies in the world publicly declared on television that “Greece will default very shortly.”

That should chill you to your bones.

If the EU allows Greece to default, that would be a signal to investors that the EU would allow Italy, Spain and Portugal to all default someday too.

Confidence in the bonds of those countries would disintegrate and bond yields would go through the roof.

Right now, confidence in government debt is one of the things holding up the fragile global financial system.  Governments must be able to borrow gigantic piles of very cheap money for the system to keep going, and once confidence is gone it is going to be incredibly difficult to rebuild it.

That is why a Greek default (whether orderly or disorderly) is so dangerous.  Investors all over the world would be wondering who is next.

At the end of last week, negotiations between the Greek government and private holders of Greek debt broke down.  Negotiations are scheduled to resume Wednesday, and there is a lot riding on them.

The Greek government desperately needs private bondholders to agree to accept a “voluntary haircut” of 50% or more.  Not that such a “haircut” will enable the Greek government to avoid a default.  It would just enable them to kick the can down the road a little farther.

But if Greece is able to get a 50% haircut from private investors, then why shouldn’t Italy, Spain, Portugal and Ireland all get one?

Once you start playing the haircut game, it is hard to stop it and it rapidly erodes confidence in the financial system.

This point was beautifully made in a recent article by John Mauldin….

So our problem country goes to its lenders and says, “We think you should share our pain. We are only going to pay you back 50% of what we owe you, and you must let us pay a 4% interest rate and pay you over a longer period. We think we can do that. Oh, and give us some more money in the meantime. And if you refuse, we won’t pay you anything and you will all have a banking crisis. Thanks for everything.”

The difficult is that if our problem country A gets to cut its debt by 50%, what about problem countries B, C, and D? Do they get the same deal? Why would voters in one country expect any less, if you agree to such terms for the first country?

But if Greece is able to negotiate an “orderly default” with private bondholders, that would be a lot better than a “disorderly default”.  A disorderly default would cause mass panic throughout the entire global financial system.

One key moment is coming up in March.  In March, 14 billion euros of Greek debt is scheduled to come due.  If Greece does not receive the next scheduled bailout payment, Greece would default at that time.

But the EU, the ECB and the IMF are not sure they want to give Greece any more money.  There are a whole host of austerity measures that the Greek government agreed to that they have not implemented.

Since the Greeks have not fully honored their side of the deal, the “troika” is considering cutting off financial aid.  The following comes from the New York Times….

Officials from the so-called troika of foreign lenders to Greece — the European Central Bank, European Union and International Monetary Fund — have come to believe that the country has neither the ability nor the will to carry out the broad economic reforms it has promised in exchange for aid, people familiar with the talks say, and they say they are even prepared to withhold the next installment of aid in March.

But the austerity measures that Greece has implemented so far have pushed the Greek economy into a full-blown depression.  Greece is experiencing a complete and total economic collapse at this point.  The following comes from the New York Times….

Greece’s dire economic condition can hardly be overstated. After two years of tax increases and wage cuts, Greek civil servants have seen their income shrink by 40 percent since 2010, and private-sector workers have suffered as well. More than $75 billion has left the country as people move their savings abroad. Some 68,000 businesses closed in 2010, and another 53,000 — out of 300,000 still active — are said to be close to bankruptcy, according to a report issued in the fall by the Greek Co-Federation of Chambers of Commerce.

“It’s an implosion — it’s an endless sequence of implosions from bad to worse, to worse, to worse,” said Yanis Varoufakis, an economics professor at the University of Athens and commentator on the Greek economy. “There’s nothing to stop the Greek economy losing 60 percent of its G.D.P., given the path it is at.”

But Greece is not the only one in Europe with major economic problems.  The unemployment rate for those under the age of 25 in the EU is an astounding 22.7%.  And as I have written about previously, there are a whole host of signs that Europe is on the verge of a major recession.

Greece is just the canary in the coal mine.  The truth is that the entire European financial system is in danger of collapsing.

Today, it was announced that S&P has downgraded the European Financial Stability Facility.  It is pretty sad when even the European bailout fund is getting downgraded.

Of course most of you know what happened on Friday by now.  Very shortly after U.S. financial markets closed, S&P downgraded the credit ratings of nine different European nations.

Only four eurozone nations (Germany, Luxembourg, Finland, and the Netherlands) still have a AAA credit rating from S&P.

But even more importantly, the nightmarish decline of the euro is showing no signs of stopping.

Right now, the EUR/USD is down to 1.2650.  It is hard to believe how fast the EUR/USD has fallen, but if a major financial crisis erupts in Europe it is probably going to go down a whole lot more.

So what happens next?

Well, if there is a Greek default all hell will break loose in Europe.

But even if Greece does not default, the coming recession in Europe is going to put an incredible amount of strain on the eurozone.

Many have been speculating that Greece or Italy could be the first to leave the euro, but actually it may be the strongest members that exit first.

The number of prominent voices inside Germany that are calling for Germany to leave the euro continues to increase.

In addition, public opinion in Germany is rapidly turning against the euro.  One recent poll found that only 47 percent of Germans were glad that Germany joined the euro, and only 36 percent of Germans want “a more federal Europe”.

As this crisis continues to unfold, there will probably be even more “ack moments”.  European leaders have mismanaged this crisis very badly from the start, and there is no reason to believe that they are suddenly going to become much wiser.

Once again, it is important to emphasize the role that confidence plays in our financial system.  The entire global financial system runs on credit.  Banks and investors lend out money because they have confidence that they will be paid back.  When you take that confidence away, the system does not work.

Let us hope that the folks over in Europe understand this, because right now we are steamrolling toward a credit crunch that could potentially make 2008 look tame by comparison.

***Epilogue***

Now another of the three major credit rating agencies, Fitch, is publicly saying that Greece will default….

“It is going to happen. Greece is insolvent so it will default,” Edward Parker, Managing Director for Fitch’s Sovereign and Supranational Group in Europe, the Middle East and Africa told Reuters on the sidelines of a conference in the Swedish capital. “So in that sense it shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone.”

The Collapse Of The Euro, The Death Of The Euro And The End Of The Euro

The euro was a doomed project from the start, and now we are starting to see the endgame play out.  Today, the euro fell to an 11-month low against the U.S. dollar.  As I write this, the EUR/USD is at 1.2983.  Back in July, the EUR/USD was over 1.45.  As panic has swept the financial markets, the euro has lost more than 3 percent over the past three days.  But this is just the beginning.  When the euro drops below 1.20, analysts will talk about the collapse of the euro.  When the euro falls toward parity with the dollar, headlines around the world will scream about the death of the euro.  But when the European financial system finally collapses, we may very well actually see the end of the euro.  Yes, it actually could happen.  The eurozone, as it is currently constructed, simply does not work.  You just can’t take 17 different nations that have 17 different fiscal policies, 17 different tax policies and 17 different economic agendas and cram them all into a single currency and expect the thing to work.  The euro is a doomed currency, and if a big nation like Germany decides to walk away at some point the game is going to be over.

It is not as if the euro is just having a bad week.  Just check out this chart that shows what the euro has done relative to the U.S. dollar over the past 6 months.

The truth is that a collapse of the euro has already begun.

And a whole lot of investors expect it to continue.  Right now, huge amounts of money are being poured into bets that the euro is going to go even lower.

All over the world, financial professionals are speculating about how far the euro will eventually fall.  Scott Mather, the head of global bond portfolio management at PIMCO, says that he believes that the euro is going to go much, much lower….

“Parity with the dollar next year is not out of the question”

Of course the central banks of the world could step in at some point with coordinated action to help support the value of the euro.  This kind of thing has happened before.  But such support would only be temporary.

Central banks can manipulate the markets for a while, but in the end the long-term trends are going to prevail.  Just look at what is happening with European bond yields.

European bond yields are rising once again even though the European Central Bank has already spent over 274 billion dollars buying up European government bonds.

There will be more efforts to try to prevent the death of the euro, but those efforts will be kind of like spitting into the wind.

A recent article posted on Crackerjack Finance talked about some of the fundamental problems that make the euro such a flawed currency….

The problems of the Eurozone’s flawed construct are now completely exposed. A block of 17 sovereign nations have adopted a common currency and outsourced monetary policy to a common central bank. Yet each of the 17 sovereign nations have different comparative advantages, industries, debt levels, interest rates, budget deficits, labor market rules, and tax policies. Reflecting on all the differences, it is amazing that the Eurozone has survived in the current construct for over a decade.

Greece would probably not be going through an economic depression right now if they had not joined the euro.  But now, 100,000 businesses have closed since the beginning of the recent crisis and a third of the country is living in poverty.

As this crisis spreads throughout the rest of Europe, it is going to put an incredible amount of stress on the European financial system.  Many now believe that the euro may not be able to make it through the tough times that are ahead.

The following comes from a report recently produced by Credit Suisse’s Fixed Income Research unit….

“We seem to have entered the last days of the euro as we currently know it. That doesn’t make a break-up very likely, but it does mean some extraordinary things will almost certainly need to happen – probably by mid-January – to prevent the progressive closure of all the euro zone sovereign bond markets, potentially accompanied by escalating runs on even the strongest banks.”

So will we actually see the end of the euro?

Only time will tell.

But one thing is for sure – the situation in Europe is rapidly getting worse.

In Greece, approximately 20 percent of all bank deposits have been withdrawn since the start of 2011.

If you still have money in a Greek bank, you might want to do something about it before the run on the banks gets even worse.

In fact, if you still have money in any European bank, you might want to consider your options.

Today it was revealed that Germany’s second largest bank is going to need a bailout.

The following comes from a Sky News report….

Germany’s second largest bank, Commerzbank, is reportedly in discussions with the German government about a bailout after regulators said it needed to raise more money to cope with a potential default on its loans to governments.

“Intense talks” have been going on for several days, according to sources who spoke to the news agency Reuters.

Let the bailouts begin!

European governments are going to save the banks that they want to save, and the rest they are going to let fail.

So who will live and who will die?

We just don’t know.

But without a doubt, a whole lot of European banks are in trouble.  In fact, Fitch Ratings downgraded the credit ratings of five more major European banks on Wednesday.

The eurozone worked well for a while, but now the flaws in the system are becoming appallingly evident.  To get an idea of just how badly the European financial system is unraveling, just check out this chart.  European bond yields are not supposed to be acting like that.

In the end, someone is going to leave the euro.  There has been a lot of talk about Greece or Italy leaving the euro, but the truth is that it is probably more likely that a strong nation such as Germany will be the first to make a move.

If Germany leaves the euro, will they start printing up new German currency?

No, I believe in that case that Germany would seek to establish an entirely new European currency for an entirely new European financial system.  Germany is very committed to the idea of a “European superstate“, and just because the euro is a failure does not mean that they are ready to give up on the idea.

But time will tell who is right and who is wrong.

For much more on why we are on the verge of a massive financial collapse in Europe, please check out these articles….

*”Mega Fail: 17 Signs That The European Financial System Is Heading For An Implosion Of Historic Proportions

*”22 Reasons Why We Could See An Economic Collapse In Europe In 2012

As I have written about previously, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out what is happening in Europe.  The equation is simple….

Brutal austerity + toxic levels of government debt + rising bond yields + a lack of confidence in the financial system + banks that are massively overleveraged + a massive credit crunch = A financial implosion of historic proportions

Unfortunately, the United States is not going to escape all of this chaos unscathed either.

The financial systems of the United States and Europe are more deeply tied together than ever before.  When the financial crisis in Europe fully erupts, we are going to see lots of banks in the United States fail too.

The U.S. economy never recovered from the financial crisis of 2008, and this next financial crisis could send us into a huge tailspin.

2012 is going to be a very interesting year for the financial world.  I hope that you all are ready for what is about to happen.

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