Europe Tries To Kick The Can Down The Road But It Will Only Lead To Financial Disaster

Have you heard the good news?  Financial armageddon has been averted.  The economic collapse in Europe has been cancelled.  Everything is going to be okay.  Well, actually none of those statements is true, but news of the “debt deal” in Europe has set off a frenzy of irrational exuberance throughout the financial world anyway.  Newspapers all over the globe are declaring that the financial crisis in Europe is over.  Stock markets all over the world are soaring.  The Dow was up nearly 3 percent today, and this recent surge is helping the S&P 500 to have its best month since 1974.  Global financial markets are experiencing an explosion of optimism right now.  Yes, European leaders have been able to kick the can down the road for a few months and a total Greek default is not going to happen right now.  However, as you will see below, the core elements of this “debt deal” actually make a financial disaster in Europe even more likely in the future.

The two most important parts of the plan are a 50% “haircut” on Greek debt held by private investors and highly leveraging the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF) to give it much more “firepower”.

Both of these elements are likely to cause significant problems down the road.  But most investors do not seem to have figured this out yet.  In fact, most investors seem to be buying into the hype that Europe’s problems have been solved.

There is a tremendous lack of critical thinking in the financial community today.  Just because politicians in Europe say that the crisis has been solved does not mean that the crisis has been solved.  But all over the world there are bold declarations that a great “breakthrough” has been achieved.  An article posted on USA Today is an example of this irrational exuberance….

Investors — at least for now — don’t have to worry about a financial collapse like the one in 2008, after Wall Street investment bank Lehman Bros. filed for bankruptcy, sparking a global financial crisis.

“Financial Armageddon seems to have been taken off the table,” says Mark Luschini, chief investment strategist at Janney Montgomery Scott.

Wow, doesn’t that sound great?

But now let’s look at the facts.

You can’t solve a debt problem with even more debt.  But that is what this debt deal is trying to do.

The politicians in Europe did not want to raise more money for the EFSF the “hard way”.  Voters in Germany (and other European nations) are overwhelmingly against contributing even more cash to a fund that many see as a financial black hole.

So what do you do when more money is needed but nobody wants to contribute?

You borrow it.

Essentially, this debt deal calls for the EFSF to become four or five times larger by “leveraging” the existing funds in the EFSF.

But isn’t that risky?

Of course it is.

There are some leaders in Europe that recognize this.  For example, an article in The Telegraph notes the reservations that the president of the Bundesbank has about this plan….

Jens Weidmann, the president of the Bundesbank and a member of the European Central Bank, sounded the alarm over the plan to “leverage” the fund by a factor of four to five times without putting any new money into the pot.

He warned that the scheme could be hit by market turbulence with taxpayers left holding the bill for risky investments in Italian and Spanish bonds.

So who is going to fund all of this new debt?

Well, it turns out that the Europeans are counting on the same folks that the U.S. government is constantly borrowing money from.

The Chinese.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy has already spoken directly with Chinese President Hu Jintao about funding this new bailout effort.

So is borrowing money from the Chinese to fund bailouts for Greece and other weak sisters in Europe sound policy?

Of course not.

And the sad thing is that this expanded EFSF is still not going to be enough to solve the financial problems in Europe.

According to an article in The Telegraph, a recent survey of economists found that most of them do not believe that this new plan is going to raise enough money….

The plan to increase the European Financial and Stability Facility to €1  trillion on paper was attacked by economists as not enough to “stave off” worsening debt problems in Italy and Spain.

In a survey of economists, 26 of 48 thought the firepower was not enough.

But the worst part of this new plan is the 50 percent “haircut” that private investors are being forced to take.

This is essentially a partial default by the Greek government.  A lot of folks are going to get hit really hard by losses from this.  Instead of making financial institutions in Europe stronger, these losses are going to make a lot of them even weaker.

Normally, in the event of a default, credit default swap contracts would be triggered.  But apparently because this was considered to be a “voluntary” haircut, that is not going to happen in this instance.

A Bloomberg article explained this in greater detail.  The following is a brief excerpt….

The EU agreement with investors for a voluntary 50 percent writedown on their Greek bond holdings means $3.7 billion of debt-insurance contracts won’t be triggered, according to the International Swaps & Derivatives Association’s rules.

That means that investors and financial institutions all over the world are just going to have to eat these losses.

Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou is already acknowledging that a number of Greek banks will have to be nationalized because of the severity of this “haircut”.  A recent CNBC article detailed this….

The haircut is expected to impose big losses on the country’s banks and state-run pension funds, which are up their necks in toxic Greek government bonds of about 100 billion euros.

The government will replenish pension funds’ capital, but banks may face temporary nationalisation, Papandreou said.

“It is very likely that a large part of the banks’ shares will pass into state ownership,” Papandreou said. He pledged, however, that these stakes will be sold back to private investors after the banks’ restructuring.

So where will the Greek government get the funds to “replenish” the capital of those banks?

That is a very good question.

But we haven’t even discussed the worst part of this “debt deal” yet.

If you don’t remember any other part of this article, please remember this.

The debt deal in Europe sends a very frightening message to the market.

The truth is that Europe could have totally bailed out Greece without any sort of a “haircut” taking place.

But they didn’t.

So now investors all over the globe have got to be thinking that if they are holding Portuguese bonds, Italian bonds or Spanish bonds there is a really good chance that they will be forced to take a massive “haircut” at some point as well.

At this time last year, the yield on two year Italian bonds was about 2.5 percent.  Now it is about 4.5 percent.  As investors begin to price in the probability of having to take a future “haircut” on Italian debt, those bond yields are going to go much, much higher.

That means that it is going to become much more expensive for the Italian government to borrow money and that also means that it is going to become much more difficult for the Italians to get their financial house in order.

In essence, the haircut on Greek debt is a signal to investors that they should require a much higher rate of return on the debt of all of the PIIGS.  This is going to make the financial collapse of all of the PIIGS much more likely.

Remember, about this time last year the yield on two year Greek bonds was about 10 percent.  Today, it is over 70 percent.

As I wrote about in a previous article, the western world is in debt up to its eyeballs right now and trying to kick the can down the road is not going to solve anything.

Our leaders may succeed in delaying the pain for a while, but it most definitely is coming.

Greece, Portugal, Ireland and Italy all have debt to GDP ratios that are well over 100% right now.  Spain is in a huge amount of trouble as well.

When you add up all the debt, Greece, Portugal, Ireland, Italy and Spain owe the rest of the world about 3 trillion euros combined.

If Italy or Spain goes down, the rest of Europe is going to be helpless to stop it.  There simply is not going to be enough money to bail either one of them out.

That is why this “debt deal” is so alarming.  All investors in Italian or Spanish debt will now have to factor in the probability that they will be required to accept a 50 percent haircut at some point in the future.

If the markets behave rationally (and if the ECB does not manipulate them too much), it appears inevitable that bond yields over in Europe are going to rise substantially, and that will put tremendous additional financial strain on governments all over Europe.

Basically, we have got a huge mess on our hands, and this debt deal just made it a lot worse.

Yes, a financial collapse has been averted in Greece for the moment, but the truth is that there is no real reason to be celebrating this deal.

A massive financial storm is coming to Europe, and this “debt deal” has made that all the more certain.

Once again, politicians in Europe have tried to kick the can down the road, but in the end their efforts are only going to lead to complete and total financial disaster.

Bad Financial News Keeps Pouring In: 14 Facts That Just Might Scare The Living Daylights Out Of You

Will the bad financial news ever stop?  A lot of people in the financial world were hoping for a much better fourth quarter after an absolutely disastrous third quarter.  Well, if Monday was any indication, October could end up being a really rough month for global financial markets.  So much bad financial news keeps pouring in that it really is a challenge to try to keep track of it all.  Greece seems to get closer to defaulting on their debts with each passing day, and it appears that Germany is not going to contribute any more bailout money beyond what they have already committed to.  Major banks on both sides of the Atlantic are on the verge of collapse, and investors all over the world are afraid that we may have another “Lehman Brothers moment” soon.  Shares of American Airlines dropped a staggering 33 percent on Monday as rumors that they will soon be entering bankruptcy swirled.  Yes, things certainly are getting interesting.  Back in 2008, the governments of the western world saved the financial system with gigantic bailouts that were absolutely unprecedented.  If the financial system crashes again at some point in the coming weeks or months, will the political will for more bank bailouts be there?  If not, what is going to happen to the banking system?

On both sides of the Atlantic, the big banks are highly leveraged, they have taken on a ton of risk and they are very deeply exposed to derivatives.  It is as if virtually nobody learned any lessons during the financial crisis of 2008.  Once again we are facing a situation where if a couple of financial dominoes fall it could send dozens of others tumbling to the ground.

Some very significant things happened on Monday.  But the media has gotten so used to reporting on tremendous financial instability that Monday’s events mostly got brushed to the side.  Instead, Amanda Knox captured most of the headlines.

But the reality is that some really, really monumental stuff has been going down.

The following are 14 facts that just might scare the living daylights out of you….

#1 On Monday, the Dow was down 258 points.  Lately it seems as though the Dow has been going up or down by several hundred points almost every single day, and that much volatility is not a good sign for the health of the financial system.

#2 Shares of Wall Street banking giant Morgan Stanley fell by another 8 percent on Monday.  Overall, shares of Morgan Stanley have declined by more than 50 percent since February.

#3 Bank of America stock dropped down to $5.53 a share on Monday.  Just a few years ago, it was trading for more than $50 a share.

#4 There are reports that Goldman Sachs may actually show a loss for the third quarter of 2011 and that yearly bonuses for employees may be slashed to next to nothing.  Yes, not too many people are going to have sympathy for Goldman Sachs, but this just shows how bad things are getting out there for the big Wall Street banks.

#5 Normally Goldman Sachs is quite upbeat, but lately they have been coming out with some really frightening reports.  For example, a new report from Goldman Sachs declares that there is a 40 percent chance that we are entering a “Great Stagnation“.

#6 Shares of European banking giant Dexia plunged by about 10 percent on Monday on rumors that it will soon need a significant bailout.  The stocks of major banks all across Europe have been getting absolutely hammered for weeks.

#7 Shares of American Airlines fell by 33 percent on Monday on rumors that the airline is about to enter bankruptcy.  Amazingly, trading in the stock was stopped 7 different times on Monday.

#8 It is being reported that approximately 240 pilots for American Airlines have retired in the last two months alone.  All of those pilots are retiring so that they can shield their pensions from the upcoming bankruptcy filing.

#9 Nearly the entire airline industry got hit really hard on Monday.  Shares of United Continental, U.S. Airways and Delta were all down more than 10 percent.

#10 Overall, U.S. stocks fell by 14 percent during the third quarter of 2011, and now the fourth quarter is off to a very rocky start.

#11 The incoming head of the European Central Bank, Mario Draghi, has publicly admitted that major European banks are having “funding problems“.  Just like back in 2008, we are rapidly heading for a giant “credit crunch”.

#12 A shocking new Bloomberg survey has found that approximately one out of every three international investors expects a “global economic meltdown” within the next 12 months, and 70 percent of them believe that the global economy is “deteriorating”.  Perhaps they have been reading The Economic Collapse Blog too much.

#13 Financial markets in Europe were rocked on Monday when it was revealed that Greece is not going to hit the deficit reduction targets set for it either this year or next year despite all of the severe austerity measures that have already been implemented.  Needless to say, a lot of financial authorities in Europe were very displeased by this news.

#14 German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble is publicly declaring that Germany will not contribute any more money to the European bailout fund.

The truth is that the political will for more bailouts has totally dried up in Germany.

The recent vote by the Bundestag to approve money for the European rescue fund should not be misinterpreted.

That vote simply approved money that was part of a deal that was agreed to over two months ago.

What is more important is what many major German politicians said after the vote.  Essentially, the overwhelming consensus is that Germany is done contributing money.  Once the money is gone from the current bailout pool (which is not anywhere close to what is really needed), there will be no more money from Germany.

That means that the era of the bailouts in Europe is drawing to a close.

In a recent editorial, Ambrose Evans-Pritchard described the situation in Germany in this manner….

The furious debate over the erosion of German fiscal sovereignty and democracy – as well as the escalating costs of the EU rescue machinery – has made it absolutely clear that the Bundestag will not prop up the ruins of monetary union for much longer.

Horst Seehofer, the leader of Bavaria’s Social Christians, said his party would go “this far, and no further”.

Let that last phrase sink in.

Basically, what politicians all over Germany are saying is that Germany has now done all that it is going to do.

The implications of this are huge.

Ambrose Evans-Pritchard recognized this in his editorial.  In fact, the usually reserved journalist actually used all caps for six straight sentences and broke out some very strong language that is very uncharacteristic for him….

Repeat after me:

THERE WILL BE NO FISCAL UNION.

THERE WILL BE NO EUROBONDS.

THERE WILL BE NO DEBT POOL.

THERE WILL BE NO EU TREASURY.

THERE WILL BE NO FISCAL TRANSFERS IN PERPETUITY.

THERE WILL BE A STABILITY UNION – OR NO MONETARY UNION.

Get used to it. This is the political reality of Europe, since nothing of importance can be done without Germany. All else is wishful thinking, clutching at straws, and evasion. If this means the euro will shed some members or blow apart – as it almost certainly does – then the rest of the world must prepare for the day.

Basically, this is his way of saying that “the sky is falling” and that the financial system of Europe is doomed.

If you have followed the writing of Ambrose Evans-Pritchard for any length of time, then you know that he is one of the most respected financial journalists in the world and that he is not prone to indulge in much “doom and gloom”.  For him to say what he did is very significant.

But even if there were no financial problems in Europe, the United States would probably be slipping into another recession anyway.

Right now our economy is a total mess, and all kinds of people are coming out of the woodwork and are trying to take credit for “calling” the upcoming recession.

Some of the pronouncements are so bold that you would think that some half-crazed blogger wrote them.  For example, just check out the following quote from a report recently put out by the Economic Cycle Research Institute….

“Here’s what ECRI’s recession call really says: If you think this is a bad economy, you haven’t seen anything yet.”

But do the American people really need some experts to tell them that we are going into another recession?

The American people know what is going on.

According to one recent poll, 90 percent of the American people believe that economic conditions in the United States are “poor”.  According to another recent poll, 80 percent of the American people believe that we are actually in a recession right now.

So perhaps the American people are actually ahead of most of the so-called “experts”.

In any event, economic conditions in the United States continue to get worse.  The average American family is having a harder and harder time getting to the end of each month.  According to a Harris Interactive survey taken near the end of last year, 77 percent of all Americans are now living paycheck to paycheck.  In 2007, the same survey found that only 43 percent of Americans were living paycheck to paycheck.

At least Barack Obama is not talking so much about an “economic recovery” these days.  When asked recently if Americans are better off today than they were four years ago, Obama said the following….

“Well, I don’t think they’re better off than they were four years ago.”

Finally, something that we can all agree with Barack Obama about.

Sadly, things are about to get even worse.

Pay close attention to all of the bad financial news that keeps pouring in.

Just like in 2008, something really big is happening.

When the current bailout fund in Europe runs out in a few months, things could really start to unravel.

If Greece (or any other eurozone nation for that matter) defaults, it could set off a chain of financial events so catastrophic that it just might scare the living daylights out of all of us.

Let us hope for the best, but let us also prepare for the worst.

Tremendous fear and panic has gripped the financial world, and the underlying problems causing this crisis are not going to be solved any time soon.

We are about to enter unprecedented territory.

Hold on tight.

Nervous Breakdown? 21 Signs That Something Big Is About To Happen In The Financial World

Will global financial markets reach a breaking point during the month of October?  Right now there are all kinds of signs that the financial world is about to experience a nervous breakdown.  Massive amounts of investor money is being pulled out of the stock market and mammoth bets are being made against the S&P 500 in October.  The European debt crisis continues to grow even worse and weird financial moves are being made all over the globe.  Does all of this unusual activity indicate that something big is about to happen?  Let’s hope not.  But historically, the biggest stock market crashes have tended to happen in the fall.  So are we on the verge of a “Black October”?

The following are 21 signs that something big is about to happen in the financial world and that global financial markets are on the verge of a nervous breakdown….

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

#2 Investors are pulling a huge amount of money out of stocks right now.  Do they know something that we don’t?  The following is from a report in the Financial Post….

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

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

#3 Siemens has pulled more than half a billion euros out of two major French banks and has moved that money to the European Central Bank.  Do they know something or are they just getting nervous?

#4 On Monday, Standard & Poor’s cut Italy’s credit rating from A+ to A.

#5 The European Central Bank is purchasing even more Italian and Spanish bonds in an attempt to cool down the burgeoning financial crisis in Europe.

#6 The Federal Reserve, the European Central Bank, the Bank of England, the Bank of Japan and the Swiss National Bank have announced that they are going to make available an “unlimited” amount of money to European commercial banks in October, November and December.

#7 So far this year, the largest bank in Italy has lost over half of its value and the second largest bank in Italy is down 44 percent.

#8 Angela Merkel’s coalition is getting embarrassed in local elections in Germany.  A recent poll found that an astounding 82 percent of all Germans believe that her government is doing a bad job of handling the crisis in Greece.  Right now, public opinion in Germany is very negative toward the bailouts, and that is really bad news for Greece.

#9 Greece is experiencing a full-blown economic collapse at this point.  Just consider the following statistics from a recent editorial in the Guardian….

Consider first the scale of the crisis. After contracting in 2009 and 2010, GDP fell by a further 7.3% in the second quarter of 2011. Unemployment is approaching 900,000 and is projected to exceed 1.2 million, in a population of 11 million. These are figures reminiscent of the Great Depression of the 1930s.

#10 In 2009, Greece had a debt to GDP ratio of about 115%.  Today, Greece has a debt to GDP ratio of about 160%.  All of the austerity that has been imposed upon them has done nothing to solve their long-term problems.

#11 The yield on 1 year Greek bonds is now over 129 percent.  A year ago the yield on those bonds was under 10 percent.

#12 Greek Deputy Finance Minister Filippos Sachinidis says that Greece only has enough cash to continue operating until next month.

#13 Italy now has a debt to GDP ratio of about 120% and their economy is far, far larger than the economy of Greece.

#14 The yield on 2 year Portuguese bonds is now over 17 percent.  A year ago the yield on those bonds was about 4 percent.

#15 China seems to be concerned about the stability of European banks.  The following is from a recent Reuters report….

A big market-making state bank in China’s onshore foreign exchange market has stopped foreign exchange forwards and swaps trading with several European banks due to the unfolding debt crisis in Europe, two sources told Reuters on Tuesday.

#16 European central banks are now buying more gold than they are selling.  This is the first time that has happened in more than 20 years.

#17 The chief economist at the IMF says that the global economy has entered a “dangerous new phase“.

#18 Israel has dumped 46 percent of its U.S. Treasuries and Russia has dumped 95 percent of its U.S. Treasuries.  Do they know something that we don’t?

#19 World financial markets are expecting that the Federal Reserve will announce a new bond-buying plan this week that will be designed to push long-term interest rates lower.

#20 If some wealthy investors believe that the Obama tax plan has a chance of getting through Congress, they may start dumping stocks before the end of this year in order to avoid getting taxed at a much higher rate in 2012.

#21 According to a study that was recently released by Merrill Lynch, the U.S. economy has an 80% chance of going into another recession.

When financial markets get really jumpy like this, all it takes is one really big spark to set the dominoes in motion.

Hopefully nothing really big will happen in October.

Hopefully global financial markets will not experience a nervous breakdown.

But right now things look a little bit more like 2008 every single day.

None of the problems that caused the financial crisis of 2008 have been fixed, and the world financial system is more vulnerable today than it ever has been since the end of World War II.

As I wrote about yesterday, the U.S. economy has never really recovered from the last financial crisis.

If we see another major financial crash in the coming months, the consequences would be absolutely devastating.

We have been softened up and we are ready for the knockout blow.

Let’s just hope that the financial world can keep it together.

We don’t need more economic pain right about now.

18 Signs That Global Financial Markets Smell Blood In The Water

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

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

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

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

So what happens next?

Well, nobody knows for sure.

But things certainly do not look good.

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

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

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

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

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

#5 Shares in Citigroup fell 2.5 percent on Monday.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But here we are.

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

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

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

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

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

Hopefully things will stabilize.

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

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

But you might want to get prepared just in case.

A Bad Mood Has Descended On World Financial Markets

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

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

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

Does Geithner know something that we don’t?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yes, you read the correctly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Not that the United States needs any more economic problems.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Global Financial Markets Plunge As The World Watches Japan Descend Into A Nuclear Nightmare

Global financial markets are in turmoil as the situation in Japan continues to deteriorate.  Stock markets are plunging all over the world as investors flock to investments that are considered to be safer.  The 9.0 earthquake and the unprecedented tsunami in Japan would have been more than enough to spook investors and unleash chaos on world financial markets, but now the unfolding nightmare at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear facility is really starting to cause panic.  Right now there is a mass exodus out of the city of Tokyo.  But not everyone can leave the city.  There are over 30 million people living in and around Tokyo.  So where in the world could you possibly put 30 million refugees?  Sadly, the truth is that millions of Japanese are going to stay in Tokyo no matter how high the radiation gets.  Let us hope that Japanese authorities can get the situation at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear facility under control, but the fact that they have resorted to dropping water from helicopters and shooting water cannons at these nuclear reactors is not comforting.

World financial markets are certainly not expressing a lot of confidence right now.  This week alone, $300 billion in U.S. stock values have been wiped out.  The Dow Jones industrial average lost about 2 percent of its total value on Wednesday.  The Nikkei 225 stock index has lost about 10 percent of its total value since the beginning of this crisis.  At one point it was down more than 16 percent, but a gigantic monetary injection from the Bank of Japan has helped to stabilize things at least for now.  There are also some that believe that the Japanese government is now directly buying up stocks to keep them from falling even further.

Stock markets across Europe have been plunging as well.  An article posted on the USA Today website described some of the carnage on Wednesday….

In Europe, the FTSE 100 index of leading British shares closed down 97.05 points, or 1.7% at 5,598.23 while France’s CAC-40 fell 84.29 points, or 2.2%, to 3,696.56. Germany’s DAX ended 133.82 points, or 2%, lower at 6,513.84.

The financial ripples from this crisis are going to be felt for a long, long time.

In order to rebuild Japan, the Japanese government is somehow going to have to borrow massive amounts of money.  But the Japanese national debt was already projected to reach 228 percent of GDP this year.

The Japanese government has become an incredibly bad credit risk, but lowering their credit rating right now would seem to be in very bad taste.  So far, all three major credit rating agencies are taking a “wait and see” approach when it comes to Japan.

Unfortunately, the crisis in Japan is far from over.

The situation at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear facility just seems to grow more dire with each passing day.  Right now, the primary concern is the 40 years of spent fuel rods that are stored throughout the complex.

Ed Lyman, a physicist at the Union of Concerned Scientists, recently explained why the pools that store the spent fuel rods are the biggest problem at this point….

“For the time being, the greatest concern is the spent fuel pools because there is a clear pathway for release of radioactivity from the pools into the environment.”

The phrase “spent fuel rods” may make it sound like they should no longer be a threat, but the truth is that these fuel rods remain extremely hot and extremely radioactive for years after they are done being used.  For some reason, someone thought that it would be a good idea to store these spent fuel rods in huge pools of water near the top of each of the nuclear reactor buildings at the Fukushima Dai-ichi complex.

These spent fuel rod pools are not housed in the same kind of containment vessels that the nuclear reactors are.  Therefore there is a much greater danger that radiation from these spent fuel rods could be released into the surrounding environment.

A recent article by Paul Joseph Watson did a great job of explaining just how big of a problem these spent fuel rods represent….

The Fukushima Daiichi plant has seven pools dedicated to spent fuel rods. These are located at the top of six reactor buildings – or were until explosions and fires ravaged the plant. On the ground level there is a common pool in a separate building that was critically damaged by the tsunami. Each reactor building pool holds 3,450 fuel rod assemblies and the common pool holds 6,291 fuel rod assemblies. Each assembly holds sixty-three fuel rods. In short, the Fukushima Daiichi plant contains over 600,000 spent fuel rods – a massive amount of radiation that will soon be released into the atmosphere.

Each of these 600,000 spent fuel rods is a potential “dirty bomb”.

Are you starting to grasp just how serious this all is?

It is absolutely critical that all of these spent fuel rods remain submerged in water.

If the water drops in the spent fuel pools there will be nothing to keep the spent fuel rods cool and they will start to degrade very, very quickly.

Unfortunately, things don’t look good right now.  U.S. authorities today expressed their belief that the spent fuel rods in unit 4 are now exposed and that a great deal of radiation is being released.  In fact, Gregory Jaczko, the chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, stated during Congressional testimony today that he believes that an extremely high level of radiation is being released by exposed spent fuel rods at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear facility at this point….

We believe that radiation levels are extremely high, which could possibly impact the ability to take corrective measures.

It would be hard to understate the courage of those that are working inside the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear facility right now. They all likely realize that they are all going to die very quickly. They are laying down their lives in an effort to save their countrymen. According to a recent report from CBS News these workers say that they are not afraid to die….

Although communication with the workers inside the nuclear plant is nearly impossible, a CBS News consultant spoke to a Japanese official who made contact with one of the workers inside the control center.

The official said that his friend told him that he was not afraid to die, that that was his job.

Would all of us respond the same way?

Even the media that are reporting on this disaster in Japan are starting to be affected by this radiation.  Lester Holt revealed this morning that his entire crew had tested positive for radiation after returning from an assignment.

Meanwhile, Barack Obama is acting as if all of this stuff going on in Japan is no big deal. In fact, as Keith Koffler recently observed, Obama seems to be really enjoying himself in the midst of this crisis….

This morning, as Japan’s nuclear crisis enters a potentially catastrophic phase, we are told that Obama is videotaping his NCAA tournament picks and that we’ll be able to tune into ESPN Wednesday to find out who he likes.

Saturday, he made his 61st outing to the golf course as president, and got back to the White House with just enough time for a quick shower before heading out to party with Washington’s elite journalists at the annual Gridiron Dinner.

If you are curious about Obama’s picks for the NCAA tourney, they are posted on the official White House website.

This weekend, the Obamas are headed down to Brazil. According to an article in Forbes, the Obama plan to do a good bit of sightseeing while they are there….

The Obama family will also take in the sights in Rio. A trip to Corcovado mountain, where the Christ the Redeemer statue stands (France gave us Lady Liberty, gave Brazil Jesus) is supposedly on the itinerary. What trip to Rio would be complete without it?

Isn’t it great to see Obama acting like a true leader in the midst of one of the greatest moments of crisis that the world has seen since World War 2?

What in the world is Obama possibly thinking?

One thing about a major crisis is that it reveals the true character of those affected by it.  Many are responding to this crisis in Japan with great acts of courage and heroism.

Others are not rising to the occasion.

Let us just hope and pray that the Japanese figure out a way to get the situation at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear complex under control.  If a “worst case scenario” happens we could soon be facing an unprecedented nuclear nightmare.

Wars, Rumors Of Wars, Skyrocketing Oil Prices And Global Economic Chaos – Why Is All Of This Happening?

Did anyone out there anticipate that 2011 would be such a wild year?  The year is barely over two months old and we have already seen multiple civil wars erupt, rumors of more wars all over the mainstream media (potentially even including the United States), riots and revolutions breaking out all over the globe, oil prices soaring into the stratosphere and chaos on global financial markets.  So why is all of this happening?  Is all of this one big coincidence or is there a reason why we are witnessing such global chaos right now?  Is it just coincidence that revolutions have broken out in over a dozen countries in the Middle East all at the same time?  Is it just a coincidence that global prices for oil, food and precious metals are all skyrocketing?  Is it just a coincidence that world financial markets suddenly seem more vulnerable than at any time since 2008?  Looking at what is going on in the world right now, it is very tempting to use the phrase “a perfect storm” to describe it.  Unfortunately, this “perfect storm” is very likely to plunge the global economy into yet another financial collapse if it continues to get even worse.

After decades of relative stability, the Middle East has erupted in chaos in 2011.  In the post-World War 2 era, we have never seen a time when there have been so many major internal revolutions all at once.  All of these simultaneous revolutions are driving the price of oil rapidly upwards.

The price of West Texas crude is now over $102 a barrel and the price of Brent crude is now over $116 a barrel and if the chaos in the Middle East continues those numbers are likely to go a lot higher.

Meanwhile, gold has set a new all-time record this week and the price of silver is absolutely exploding.

In fact, just about every kind of “hard asset” that you can possibly name is going up in price.  Investors don’t like all of this instability and they are looking for safe places to put their money.

Unfortunately, the global situation looks like it may become even more heated.

The calls for military action against Libya are rapidly reaching a crescendo.

The U.S. Senate has unanimously passed a resolution calling for the UN Security Council to impose a no-fly zone over Libya, and many members of Congress are openly declaring that the U.S. and NATO should take unilateral action no matter what the UN ultimately decides.

But implementing a no-fly zone is not a simple thing.  It is not just a matter of telling Libya not to fly their planes.  Rather, imposing a no-fly zone over Libya would constitute a major military operation.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates is even admitting that enforcing a no-fly zone over Libya would begin with a huge military strike…..

“Let’s just call a spade a spade. A no-fly zone begins with an attack on Libya to destroy the air defenses … and then you can fly planes around the country and not worry about our guys being shot down.”

U.S. commander General James Mattis made a similar comment on Tuesday….

You would have to remove the air defense capability in order to establish the no-fly zone so it – no illusions here, it would be a military operation.

Essentially, imposing a no-fly zone over Libya would be an act of war.

Most of our representatives in Washington D.C. seem to be quite ready to go to war in Libya, but it is another story entirely when it comes to the American people.  A recent Rasmussen poll found that a whopping 67 percent of Americans do not want the U.S. to get more involved in the unrest going on in Arab countries and only 17 percent of Americans do want the U.S. to get more directly involved.

But the American people don’t get to decide whether we go to war or not.  Our leaders in Washington D.C. do.  The USS Enterprise and other major warships are on their way to Libya, and U.S. forces throughout the Mediterranean are on high alert.

So could the U.S. really get involved in another war in the Middle East?

Well, if the U.S. and NATO choose to get involved they will do it without the approval of the rest of the world.

On Wednesday, the Arab League issued a statement which specifically rejected “any foreign interference within Libya on behalf of the opposition”.

Not only that, but any military action by the UN will most likely be blocked by both China and Russia.

Russia’s ambassador to NATO, Dmitry Rogozin, says that any military action against Libya without UN approval would be a violation of international law….

“If someone in Washington is seeking a blitzkrieg in Libya, it is a serious mistake because any use of military force outside the NATO responsibility zone will be considered a violation of international law.”

But Libya is far from the only crisis point in the Middle East.

In fact, a much larger problem may be brewing in Saudi Arabia.

On Facebook, a “Day of Rage” is being hyped for March 11th.  Other dates being promoted for “revolution” in Saudi Arabia include March 20th and March 21st.

But if Saudi Arabia sees the same kind of chaos that we have seen in other countries in the Middle East there is no telling how high the price of oil could go.

Could we see $125 oil?

Could we see $150 oil?

Could we see $200 oil?

Saudi Arabia exports more oil than anyone else in the world, so if their oil production gets interrupted it is going to have a dramatic impact on the global economy.

For example, are you ready to pay 5 dollars for a gallon of gasoline in the United States?

For decades, the entire globe has been blessed with very cheap oil and this has resulted in a massive economic boom.

But times are changing.

The economic situation over in Europe is already deteriorating and any additional bad news could plunge that entire continent into a major crisis.  A recently released report from Ernst & Young is warning that if oil goes up to 150 dollars a barrel and it stays there, “at least” one eurozone country will default and the entire eurozone will be plunged back into recession.

A much higher price for oil would obviously not be good for the U.S. economy either.  Do you remember what happened back in 2008?  The price of oil hit a record high in June and then the entire financial system came unglued just a few months later.

But if we see a repeat of 2008 it may be a lot worse this time because the global financial system is now more unstable than ever.

The truth is that the entire world is still trying to recover from the last financial crisis.  The Federal Reserve is pumping massive quantities of dollars into the U.S. economy in an attempt to stimulate it back to life, but so far it is not working too well.

The rest of the world does not appreciate all of this “money printing” and the inflation that this is causing is beginning to create massive imbalances on global financial markets.

The world is starting to lose faith in the U.S. dollar.  Right now, approximately 85% of all foreign-exchange transactions in the world involve the U.S. dollar.  Not only that, 60% of all the currency reserves in the world are in U.S. dollars.  With the U.S. dollar rapidly becoming less stable, many are now wondering if it should continue to be used as the reserve currency of the world.

The truth is that if the U.S. dollar falls, it is going to create a tremendous amount of financial chaos in almost every nation on the globe.

Unfortunately, as I have written about so many times previously, the U.S. economy is dying.  The U.S. government is absolutely drowning in debt, and leaders all over the planet are calling for the establishment of a new global reserve currency.

The days of the United States being the “economic engine of the planet” are rapidly coming to an end.

The U.S. economy is not ever going to fully “recover”.  In fact, the U.S. economy is basically “running on empty” at this point as Gerald Celente recently noted during an interview on RT television….

The entire U.S. economy was designed to operate on massive amounts of very cheap oil.  Americans do more driving than anyone else in the world.  Many of us are so lazy that we won’t even walk to a store if it is on the other side of the parking lot.

If oil hits record levels in 2011, it is going to be a massive shock to the U.S. economic system.  Any hopes for an “economic recovery” will be completely dashed.

In fact, if one wanted to “take down” the U.S. economy, driving up the price of oil would be a perfect way to do it.

And if one wanted to drive up the price of oil, a perfect way to do that would be to create all kinds of chaos in the Middle East.

So is all of this craziness that we are seeing in 2011 just a big coincidence or is there a reason why all of this is happening?

Please feel free to leave a comment with your opinion on the matter below….

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