A Warning Sign For The World

Any financial system that is based on debt is doomed to fail.  Today, we are living in the greatest debt bubble that the world has ever seen, and if all of a sudden people could not use credit to buy things our economy would immediately ground to a halt.  Unfortunately, no debt bubble can last forever.  When this current debt bubble finally bursts, faith in the financial system is going to disappear, credit is going to freeze up and there is going to be a massive wave of bank failures.  Right now, Greece is a warning sign for the world.  Nobody wants to lend money to Greece, the Greek banking system is dying, one out of every four businesses has already shut down, unemployment is soaring and the Greek economy has now been in recession for five years in a row.  Sadly, the economic implosion in Greece is rapidly accelerating.  The Greek economy shrunk at a 7 percent annual rate during the 4th quarter of 2011.  That wasn’t supposed to happen.  Things were supposed to be getting better in Greece by now.  But instead the Greek depression is getting even worse, and very soon the rest of the world is going to be going through what Greece is currently experiencing.

Unfortunately, most in the mainstream media are treating what is happening in Greece as an “isolated incident” rather than as a very serious warning sign for the world.

Thankfully, there are at least a few reporters out there that are realizing the gravity of the situation.  The following is how one reporter from the New York Times recently described what life is like in Greece now….

By many indicators, Greece is devolving into something unprecedented in modern Western experience. A quarter of all Greek companies have gone out of business since 2009, and half of all small businesses in the country say they are unable to meet payroll. The suicide rate increased by 40 percent in the first half of 2011. A barter economy has sprung up, as people try to work around a broken financial system. Nearly half the population under 25 is unemployed. Last September, organizers of a government-sponsored seminar on emigrating to Australia, an event that drew 42 people a year earlier, were overwhelmed when 12,000 people signed up. Greek bankers told me that people had taken about one-third of their money out of their accounts; many, it seems, were keeping what savings they had under their beds or buried in their backyards. One banker, part of whose job these days is persuading people to keep their money in the bank, said to me, “Who would trust a Greek bank?”

Can you imagine?

Greece is experiencing a full-blown economic collapse and nobody can see a light at the end of the tunnel at this point.

As I have written about previously, the overall rate of unemployment in Greece has now risen above 20 percent and the youth unemployment rate in Greece has soared to an astounding 48 percent.

Deleveraging can be an extremely painful process.  Greece has been forced to try to reduce the size of its budget deficit, but every time it cuts government spending that causes economic activity (and thus government revenues) to slow down as well.

Now the EU and the IMF are demanding that even more very painful austerity measures be implemented in Greece even though Greece is already experiencing a full-blown depression.

The EU and the IMF are demanding that Greece fire 15,000 more government workers immediately and a total of 150,000 government workers by 2015.

The EU and the IMF are demanding that wages for government workers be cut by another 20 percent.

The EU and the IMF are demanding that the minimum wage be slashed by more than 20 percent.

The EU and the IMF are also demanding significant reductions in unemployment benefits and pension benefits.

Of course all of those cuts are going to make the short-term economic conditions in Greece even worse.

The rioting, looting and burning of buildings that we are witnessing right now in Greece is likely to continue for quite some time as exasperated citizens attempt to express their frustrations to politicians that simply do not seem to care.

According to the National Confederation of Greek Commerce, recent rioting resulted in damage to 153 businesses in Athens.  45 of those businesses were totally destroyed.

You can view some stunning footage of the current rioting in Greece right here.

Despite all of the austerity measures that have already been implemented, the truth is that Greece is very likely to default soon anyway.

There is a very good chance that the new austerity agreement that the Greek parliament just approved will never be implemented.  There are new elections scheduled for April and the current party in power is polling in the single digits.

The new Greek government is likely to look much different from the current one, and nobody knows for sure if the new government will follow through on any of the promises being made by the current government.

In addition, the German parliament must approve this new deal with Greece, and the German parliament is not scheduled to vote on it until February 27th.  Considering the mood in Germany right now, approval is not guaranteed.

So there are all kinds of things that could go wrong with the “deals” that are currently being discussed.  The truth is that a Greek default in the coming months seems to become more likely by the day.

Some in the financial world almost seem eager for a Greek default.  The following is what Jon Moulton, the chairman of Better Capital, recently told CNBC….

“If I was Greek, I wouldn’t be going for these measures, I’d be going for default and getting it over with. Would you like two to three years of pain or 20?”

But a disorderly Greek default would not be a pleasant thing for the global economy at all.  A recent article in the Guardian detailed what some of the consequences of a Greek default and exit from the eurozone might be….

But default and “re-drachmatisation” would be a costly and chaotic process. In the long term the euro might be strengthened if some of its weaker members headed for the door. But in the short term banks across the eurozone might have to be closed to prevent a run on the single currency as investors speculated about which country might be next. A new wave of bank nationalisations would be likely to follow as lenders counted their losses on now worthless Greek debt.

Capital controls would have to be imposed and borders shut to stop money flooding out of Greece. Portugal, Italy and Spain would come under intense pressure from investors wary about the risk of another victim. Banks everywhere, already reluctant to lend, would cut back hard, nervous about their exposure to the bonds of all Europe’s crisis-hit states.

And the financial crisis in Europe is going to continue to spread well beyond Greece.  Moody’s Investors Service just downgraded the credit ratings of six European nations.  The following is how Bloomberg described the downgrades….

Spain was downgraded to A3 from A1 with a negative outlook, Italy was downgraded to A3 from A2 with a negative outlook and Portugal was downgraded to Ba3 from Ba2 with a negative outlook, Moody’s said. It also reduced the ratings of Slovakia, Slovenia and Malta.

Countries such as Italy, Spain, Portugal, Ireland and Hungary are heading down the exact same road that Greece has gone.  Greece was the first one to experience a full-blown depression, but soon Greece will have a lot of company.

Greece is most definitely a warning sign for the world.  If you keep recklessly piling up debt, eventually a day of reckoning comes.  It is inevitable.

But Barack Obama does not seem to understand this.  He continues to pile another 150 million dollars on to our national debt every single hour.  He knows that cutting spending significantly right now would hurt the economy and that would significantly hurt his chances for another term.

Needless to say, Barack Obama is not likely to do anything that is going to significantly hurt his chances for another four years in the White House.

So we continue to roll on toward disaster.

The U.S. financial system is like a car with no brakes that is heading straight toward a 5,000 foot drop at 100 miles an hour.

It is all going to seem like fun and games to some people until we hit the canyon floor.

Once that happens, nobody will be laughing.

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

Will 2012 be the year that we see an economic collapse in Europe?  Before you dismiss the title of this article as “alarmist”, read the facts listed in the rest of this article first.  Over the past several months, there has been an astonishing loss of confidence in the European financial system.  Right now, virtually nobody wants to loan money to financially troubled nations in the EU and virtually nobody wants to lend money to major European banks.  Remember, one of the primary reasons for the financial crisis of 2008 was a major credit crunch that happened here in the United States.  This burgeoning credit crunch in Europe is just one element of a “perfect storm” that is rapidly coming together as we get ready to go into 2012.  The signs of trouble are everywhere.  All over Europe, governments are implementing austerity measures and dramatically cutting back on spending.  European banks are substantially cutting back on lending as they seek to meet new capital requirements that are being imposed upon them.  Meanwhile, bond yields are going through the roof all over Europe as investors lose confidence and demand much higher returns for investing in European debt.  It has become clear that without a miracle happening, quite a few European nations and a significant number of European banks are not going to be able to get the funding that they need from the market in 2012.  The only thing that is going to avert a complete and total financial meltdown in Europe is dramatic action, but right now European leaders are so busy squabbling with each other that a bold plan seems out of the question.

The following are 22 reasons why we could see an economic collapse in Europe in 2012….

#1 Germany could rescue the rest of Europe, but that would take an unprecedented financial commitment, and the German people do not have the stomach for that.  It has been estimated that it would cost Germany 7 percent of GDP over several years in order to sufficiently bail out the other financially troubled EU nations.  Such an amount would far surpass the incredibly oppressive reparations that Germany was forced to pay out in the aftermath of World War I.

A host of recent surveys has shown that the German people are steadfastly against bailing out the rest of Europe.  For example, according to one recent poll 57 percent of the German people are against the creation of eurobonds.

At this point, German politicians are firmly opposed to any measure that would place an inordinate burden on German taxpayers, so unless this changes that means that Europe is not going to be saved from within.

#2 The United States could rescue Europe, but the Obama administration knows that it would be really tough to sell that to the American people during an election season.  The following is what White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said today about the potential for a bailout of Europe by the United States….

“This is something they need to solve and they have the capacity to solve, both financial capacity and political will”

Carney also said that the Obama administration does not plan to commit any “additional resources” to rescuing Europe….

“We do not in any way believe that additional resources are required from the United States and from American taxpayers.”

#3 Right now, banks all over Europe are in deleveraging mode as they attempt to meet new capital-adequacy requirements by next June.

According to renowned financial journalist Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, European banks need to reduce the amount of lending on their books by about 7 trillion dollars in order to get down to safe levels….

Europe’s banks face a $7 trillion lending contraction to bring their balance sheets in line with the US and Japan, threatening to trap the region in a credit crunch and chronic depression for a decade.

So what does that mean?

It means that European banks are going to be getting really, really stingy with loans.

That means that it is going to become really hard to buy a home or expand a business in Europe, and that means that the economy of Europe is going to slow down substantially.

#4 European banks are overloaded with “toxic assets” that they are desperate to get rid of.  Just like we saw with U.S. banks back in 2008, major European banks are busy trying to unload mountains of worthless assets that have a book value of trillions of euros, but virtually nobody wants to buy them.

#5 Government austerity programs are now being implemented all over Europe.  But government austerity programs can have very negative economic effects.  For example, we have already seen what government austerity has done to Greece. 100,000 businesses have closed and a third of the population is now living in poverty.

But now governments all over Europe have decided that austerity is the way to go.  The following comes from a recent article in the Economist….

France’s budget plans are close to being agreed on; further cuts are likely but will be delayed until after the elections in spring. Italy has yet to vote through a much-revised package of cuts. Spain’s incoming government has promised further spending cuts, especially in regional outlays, in order to meet deficit targets agreed with Brussels.

#6 The amount of debt owed by some of these European nations is so large that it is difficult to comprehend.  For example, Greece, Portugal, Ireland, Italy and Spain owe the rest of the world about 3 trillion euros combined.

So what will massive government austerity do to troubled nations such as Spain, Portugal, Ireland and Italy?  Ambrose Evans-Pritchard is very concerned about what even more joblessness will mean for many of those countries….

Even today, the jobless rate for youth is near 10pc in Japan. It is already 46pc in Spain, 43pc in Greece, 32pc in Ireland, and 27pc in Italy. We will discover over time what yet more debt deleveraging will do to these societies.

#7 Europe was able to bail out Greece and Ireland, but there is no way that Italy will be able to be rescued if they require a full-blown bailout.

Unfortunately, Italy is in the midst of a massive financial meltdown as you read this.  The yield on two year Italian bonds is now about double what it was for most of the summer.  There is no way that is sustainable.

It would be hard to overstate how much of a crisis Italy represents.  The following is how former hedge fund manager Bruce Krasting recently described the current situation….

At this point there is zero possibility that Italy can refinance any portion of its $300b of 2012 maturing debt. If there is anyone at the table who still thinks that Italy can pull off a miracle, they are wrong. I’m certain that the finance guys at the ECB and Italian CB understand this. I repeat, there is a zero chance for a market solution for Italy.

Krasting believes that either Italy gets a gigantic mountain of cash from somewhere or they will default within six months and that will mean the start of a global depression….

I think the Italian story is make or break. Either this gets fixed or Italy defaults in less than six months. The default option is not really an option that policy makers would consider. If Italy can’t make it, then there will be a very big crashing sound. It would end up taking out most of the global lenders, a fair number of countries would follow into Italy’s vortex. In my opinion a default by Italy is certain to bring a global depression; one that would take many years to crawl out of.

#8 An Italian default may be closer than most people think.  As the Telegraph recently reported, just to refinance existing debt, the Italian government must sell more than 30 billion euros worth of new bonds by the end of January….

Italy’s new government will have to sell more than EURO 30 billion of new bonds by the end of January to refinance its debts. Analysts say there is no guarantee that investors will buy all of those bonds, which could force Italy to default.

The Italian government yesterday said that in talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Prime Minister Mario Monti had agreed that an Italian collapse “would inevitably be the end of the euro.”

#9 European nations other than just the “PIIGS” are getting into an increasing amount of trouble.  For example, S&P recently slashed the credit rating of Belgium to AA.

#10 Credit downgrades are coming fast and furious all over Europe now.  At this point it seems like we see a new downgrade almost every single week.  Some nations have been downgraded several times.  For instance, Fitch has downgraded the credit rating of Portugal again.  At this point it is being projected that Portuguese GDP will shrink by about 3 percent in 2012.

#11 The financial collapse of Hungary didn’t make many headlines in the United States, but it should have.  Moody’s has cut the credit rating of Hungarian debt to junk status, and Hungary has now submitted a formal request to the EU and the IMF for a bailout.

#12 Even faith in German debt seems to be wavering. Last week, Germany had “one of its worst bond auctions ever“.

#13 German banks are also starting to show signs of weakness.  The other day, Moody’s downgraded the ratings of 10 major German banks.

#14 As the Telegraph recently reported, the British government is now making plans based on the assumption that a collapse of the euro is only “just a matter of time”….

As the Italian government struggled to borrow and Spain considered seeking an international bail-out, British ministers privately warned that the break-up of the euro, once almost unthinkable, is now increasingly plausible.

Diplomats are preparing to help Britons abroad through a banking collapse and even riots arising from the debt crisis.

The Treasury confirmed earlier this month that contingency planning for a collapse is now under way.

A senior minister has now revealed the extent of the Government’s concern, saying that Britain is now planning on the basis that a euro collapse is now just a matter of time.

#15 The EFSF was supposed to help bring some stability to the situation, but the truth is that the EFSF is already a bad joke.  It has been reported that the EFSF has already been forced to buy up huge numbers of its own bonds.

#16 Unfortunately, it looks like a run on the banks has already begun in Europe.  The following comes from a recent article in The Economist….

“We are starting to witness signs that corporates are withdrawing deposits from banks in Spain, Italy, France and Belgium,” an analyst at Citi Group wrote in a recent report. “This is a worrying development.”

#17 Confidence in European banks has been absolutely shattered and virtually nobody wants to lend them money right now.

The following is a short excerpt from a recent CNBC article….

Money-market funds in the United States have quite dramatically slammed shut their lending windows to European banks. According to the Economist, Fitch estimates U.S. money market funds have withdrawn 42 percent of their money from European banks in general.

And for France that number is even higher — 69 percent. European money-market funds are also getting in on the act.

#18 There are dozens of major European banks that are in danger of failing.  The reality is that most major European banks are leveraged to the hilt and are massively exposed to sovereign debt.  Before it fell in 2008, Lehman Brothers was leveraged 31 to 1.  Today, major German banks are leveraged 32 to 1, and those banks are currently holding a massive amount of European sovereign debt.

#19 According to the New York Times, the economy of the EU is already projected to shrink slightly next year, and this doesn’t even take into account what is going to happen in the event of a total financial collapse.

#20 There are already signs that the European economy is seriously slowing down.  Industrial orders in the eurozone declined by 6.4 percent during September.  That was the largest decline that we have seen since the midst of the financial crisis in 2008.

#21 Panic and fear are everywhere in Europe right now.  The European Commission’s index of consumer confidence has declined for five months in a row.

#22 European leaders are really busy fighting with each other and a true consensus on how to solve the current problems seems way off at the moment.  The following is how the Express recently described rising tensions between German and British leaders….

The German Chancellor rejected outright Mr Cameron’s opposition to a new EU-wide financial tax that would have a devastating impact on the City of London.

And she refused to be persuaded by his call for the European Central Bank to support the euro. Money markets took a dip after their failure to agree.

Are you starting to get the picture?

The European financial system is in a massive amount of trouble, and when it melts down the entire globe is going to be shaken.

But it isn’t just me that is saying this.  As I mentioned in a previous article, there are huge numbers of respected economists all over the globe that are now saying that Europe is on the verge of collapse.

For example, just check out what Credit Suisse is saying about the situation in Europe….

“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.”

Many European leaders are promoting much deeper integration and a “European superstate” as the answer to these problems, but it would take years to implement changes that drastic, and Europe does not have that kind of time.

If Europe experiences a massive economic collapse and a prolonged depression, it may seem like “the end of the world” to some people, but things will eventually stabilize.

A lot of people out there seem to think that the global economy is going to go from its present state to “Mad Max” in a matter of weeks.  Well, that is just not going to happen.  The coming troubles in Europe will just be another “wave” in the ongoing economic collapse of the western world.  There will be other “waves” after that.

Of course this current sovereign debt crisis could be entirely averted if the countries of the western world would just shut down their central banks and start issuing debt-free money.

The truth is that there is no reason why any sovereign nation on earth ever has to go a penny into debt to anyone.  If a nation is truly sovereign, then the government has the right to issue all of the debt-free money that it wants.  Yes, inflation would always be a potential danger in such a system (just as it is under central banking), but debt-free money would mean that government debt problems would be a thing of the past.

Unfortunately, most of the countries of the world operate under a system where more government debt is created when more currency is created.  The inevitable result of such a system is what we are witnessing now.  At this point, nearly the entire western world is drowning in debt.

There are alternatives to our current system.  But nobody in the mainstream media ever talks about them.

So instead of focusing on truly creative ways to deal with our current problems, we are all going to experience the bitter pain of the coming economic collapse instead.

Things did not have to turn out this way.

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