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3 Big Reasons Why The ‘Greek Debt Deal’ Is Really A German Trap

Trap - Public DomainGreece is saved? All over the planet, news headlines are boldly proclaiming that a “deal” has been reached which will give Greece the money that it needs and keep it in the eurozone.  But as you will see below, this is not true at all.  Yesterday, when I wrote that “there never was going to be any deal“, I was not exaggerating.  This “deal” was not drafted with the intention of “saving Greece”.  As I explained in my previous article, these negotiations were all about setting up Greece for eviction from the euro.  You see, the truth is that Greece desperately wants to stay in the euro, but Germany (and allies such as Finland) want Greece out.  Since Germany can’t simply order Greece to leave the euro, they need some sort of legal framework which will make it possible, and that is what this new “deal” provides.  As I am about to explain, there are all kinds of conditions that must be satisfied and hurdles that must be crossed before Greece ever sees a single penny.  If there is a single hiccup along the way, and this is what the Germans are counting on, Greece will be ejected from the eurozone.  This “deal” has been designed to fail so that the Germans can get what they have wanted all along.  I think that three very famous words from Admiral Ackbar sum up the situation very well: “It’s a trap!

So why is this “Greek debt deal” really a German trap?

The following are three big reasons…

#1 The “Deal” Is Designed To Be Rejected By The Greek Parliament

If Germany really wanted to save Greece, they would have already done so.  Instead, now they have forced Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to agree to much, much harsher austerity terms than Greek voters overwhelmingly rejected during the recent referendum by a vote of 61 percent to 39 percent.  Tsipras has only been given until Wednesday to pass a whole bunch of new laws, and another week to make another series of major economic changes.  The following comes from CNN

Greece has to swiftly pass a series of new laws. Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has until Wednesday to convince Parliament to pass the first few, including pension cuts and higher taxes.

Assuming that happens, Greek lawmakers have another week, until July 22, to enact another batch of economic changes. These include adopting European Union rules on how to manage banks in crisis, and do a major overhaul to make Greece’s civil courts faster and more efficient.

Can Tsipras actually get all this done in such a short amount of time?

The Germans are hoping that he can’t.  And already, two of Syriza’s coalition partners have publicly declared that they have no intention of voting in favor of this “deal”.  The following is from a Bloomberg report

Discontent brewed as Tsipras arrived back in the Greek capital. Left Platform, a faction within Syriza, and his coalition partners, the Independent Greeks party, both signaled they won’t be able to support the deal. That opposition alone would wipe out Tsipras’s 12-seat majority in parliament, forcing him to rely on opposition votes to carry the day.

The terms of the “deal” are not extremely draconian because the Germans want to destroy Greek sovereignty as many are suggesting.  Rather, they are designed to provoke an overwhelmingly negative reaction in Greece so that the Greeks will willingly choose to reject the deal and thus be booted out of the euro.

And this is what we are seeing.  So far, the response of the Greek public toward this deal has been overwhelmingly negative

Haralambos Rouliskos, a 60-year-old economist who was out walking in Athens, described the deal as “misery, humiliation and slavery”.

Katerina Katsaba, a 52-year-old working for a pharmaceutical company, said: “I am not in favour of this deal. I know they (the eurozone creditors) are trying to blackmail us.”

On Wednesday, the union for Greek public workers has even called a 24 hour strike to protest this “agreement”

Greece’s public workers are being called to stage a 24-hour strike on Wednesday, the day their country’s parliament is to vote on reforms needed to unlock the bankster eurozone plan agreed to by Greek Prime Minster Alex Tsipras.

Their union, Adedy, called for the stoppage in a statement issued today, saying it was against the agreement reached with the eurozone.

The Greek government is not guaranteed any money right now.

According to Bloomberg, the Greek government must pass all of the laws being imposed upon them by the EU “before Greece can even begin negotiations with creditors to access a third international bailout in five years.”

The Germans and their allies are actually hoping that there is a huge backlash in Greece and that Tsipras fails to get this package pushed through the Greek parliament.  If that happens, Greece gets ejected from the euro, and Germany doesn’t look like the bad guy.

#2 Even If The “Deal” Miraculously Gets Through The Greek Parliament, It May Not Survive Other European Parliaments

The Greek parliament is not the only legislative body that must approve this new deal.  The German and Finnish parliaments (among others) must also approve it.  According to USA Today, it is being projected that the German and Finnish parliaments will probably vote on this new deal on Thursday or Friday…

Thursday/Friday, July 16/17: Eurozone parliaments must also agree to the plan for Greece’s $95 billion bailout. The biggest tests may come from Finland and Germany, two nations especially critical of Greece’s handling of the crisis. Berlin has contributed the most to Greece’s loans.

Either Germany or Finland could kill the entire “deal” with a single “no” vote.

Finnish Finance Minister Alexander Stubb has already stated that Finland “cannot agree” with a new bailout for Greece, and it is highly questionable whether or not the German parliament will give it approval.

I think that the Germans and their allies would much prefer for the Greeks to reject the deal and walk away, but it may come down to one of these parliaments drawing a line in the sand.

#3 The Deal Makes Implementation Extraordinarily Difficult

If Greece fails to live up to each and every one of the extremely draconian measures demanded in the “deal”, they will be booted from the eurozone.

And if you take a look at what is being demanded of them, it is extremely unrealistic.  Here is just one example…

For instance, the Greek government agreed to transfer up to 50 billion euros worth of Greek assets to an independent fund that will raise money from privatization.

According to the document, 25 billion euros from this fund will be poured into the banks, 12.5 billion will be used to pay off debt, and the remaining 12.5 billion to boost the economy through investment.

The fund will be based in Greece and run by the Greeks, but with supervision from European authorities.

Where in the world is the Greek government going to find 50 billion euros worth of assets at this point?  The Greek government is flat broke and the banks are insolvent.

But if they don’t find 50 billion euros worth of assets, they have violated the agreement and they get booted.

This whole thing is about setting up Greece for failure so that there is a legal excuse to boot them out of the euro.

And it actually almost happened very early on Monday morning.  The following comes from Business Insider

As the FT tells it, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras rose from their chairs at 6 a.m. on Monday and headed for the door, resigned to a Greek exit from the euro.

“Sorry, but there is no way you are leaving this room,” European Council president Donald Tusk reportedly said.

And so a Grexit was avoided.

For the moment, Greece has supposedly been “saved”.

But anyone that believes that this crisis is “over” is just being delusional.

The Germans and their allies have successfully lured the Greek government into a trap. Thanks to Tsipras, they have been handed a legal framework for getting rid of Greece.

All they have to do now is wait for just the right moment to spring the trap, and it might just happen a lot sooner than a lot of people may think.

Germany Never Intended For Greece To Stay In The Euro

No Deal - Public DomainThere never was going to be any deal.  All along, Germany has been seeking to establish conditions that would never be met so that they could force Greece out of the eurozone.  But the Germans had to do this subtly so that they would end up looking “reasonable” and would not turn the rest of the eurozone against them.  So why does Germany want to get rid of Greece?  Well, to be honest, it is because the Germans are sick and tired of paying for Greek mistakes.  In Germany, there is an obsession with having a balanced budget.  They even have a term for it – “the black zero“.  So it absolutely infuriates the Germans that the Greeks can never seem to get their act together and that German citizens have to keep paying for it.  At this point, the amount of money that Germany has already poured into Greece breaks down to more than 700 euros per citizen, and now Greece is going to need a new bailout of somewhere between 82 billion and 86 billion euros over the next three years.  Needless to say, the Germans are fed up with pouring money down a financial black hole, and they know that if they keep bailing Greece out that it is only a matter of time before they will have to bail out Italy, Spain, Portugal, France, etc.

So, no, it hasn’t been the Greeks holding up a deal all this time.

It has been the Germans.

And now that we have reached the endgame, the Germans are pushing for what they have always wanted from the very beginning

The German government has begun preparations for Greece to be ejected from the eurozone, as the European Union faces 24 hours to rescue the single currency project from the brink of collapse.

Finance ministers failed to break the deadlock with Greece over a new bail-out package, after nine hours of acrimonious talks as creditors accused Athens of destroying their trust…

Should no deal be forthcoming, the German government has made preparations to negotiate a temporary five-year euro exit, providing Greece with humanitarian aid while it makes the transition….

The Germans are sick and tired of having the Greeks be so financially dependent on them.  So the Germans would really like to cut them off and have them go fend for themselves.

So that is why the EU laid out such draconian conditions for the Greeks over the weekend.  The following is how Zero Hedge summarized where things currently stand…

For those who missed today’s festivities in Brussels, here is the 30,000 foot summary: Europe has given Greece a “choice”: hand over sovereignty to Europe or undergo a 5 year Grexit “time out”, which is a polite euphemism for get the hell out.

As noted earlier, here are the 12 conditions laid out as a result of the latest Eurogroup meeting, which are far more draconian than anything presented to Greece yet and which effectively require that Greece cede sovereignty to Europe, this time even without the implementation of a technocratic government.

  1. Streamlining VAT
  2. Broadening the tax base
  3. Sustainability of pension system
  4. Adopt a code of civil procedure
  5. Safeguarding of legal independence for Greece ELSTAT – the statistics office
  6. Full implementation of autmatic spending cuts
  7. Meet bank recovery and resolution directive
  8. Privatize electricity transmission grid
  9. Take decisive action on non-performing loans
  10. Ensure independence of privatization body TAIPED
  11. De-Politicize the Greek administration
  12. Return of the Troika to Athens (the paper calls them the institutions… for now)

Greece has been given until Wednesday to pass all of the legislation necessary to implement all of those conditions.

And if Greece does somehow get all that done, it still won’t get them a deal.  All it will do is allow them to come back and restart negotiations.

Needless to say, the Greeks are steaming mad at this point.  This new “deal” is being called “very bad” and “insulting” by Greek politicians.

But what they may not understand is that Germany does not actually want any deal to happen.  Instead, they are working very, very hard to get the Greeks booted out of the euro.  The following comes from the Washington Post

The simple story is that Germany and the other hardline countries don’t trust Greece’s anti-austerity Syriza party to actually implement, well, austerity. And so rather than coughing up another 60 or 70 or 80 billion euros, they seem to want to push to kick Greece out of the common currency instead. That, at least, was the plan that leaked on Saturday. And now it’s part of the actual plan on Sunday. Indeed, it’s tentatively been included in the European finance ministers’ latest joint statement. This isn’t just what Germany is considering. It’s what Germany is trying to get the rest of Europe to go along with.

If anyone still doubts what the Germans are trying to do, here it is in black and white…

And this is not an idea that is new.  In fact, some hardliners in Germany have been pushing for a “temporary Greek exit” since at least 2012

This weekend’s events in Europe have clarified who is really running the show across the ‘union’. Hans-Werner Sinn, Chairman of the Ifo Institute for Economic Research, vehemnt euroskeptic, and head of the so-called ‘five wise men’ advising the German government and specifically Angela Merkel, confirmed his call from 2012 for a “temporary grexit from the euro.” The right wing economist previously explained “Greece and Portugal have to become 30-40% less expensive to be competitive again. This is being attempted through excessive austerity measures within the euro zone, but it won’t work. It will drive these countries to the brink of civil war before it succeeds. Temporary exits would very quickly stabilize these countries, create new jobs and free the population from the yoke of the euro.”

The Germans absolutely hate having to open up their wallets for someone else’s mess.  And they know that if they endlessly bail out Greece that it won’t end there.  Eventually, much of the rest of the continent will come to them for bailouts too.  I think that Nigel Farage nailed it when he summed up what Germany is thinking this way…

“The German thinking is: ‘Let’s get rid of this mess,'” Farage said. Expressing what he thought Germany was thinking about other troubled peripheral euro zone economies, he added: “‘let’s send a message to Italy, France, Spain and Portugal that actually, if you’re members of this club, you got to abide by our rules.'”

But I believe that Germany is greatly, greatly underestimating the damage that a “Grexit” is going to do to Greece and to the rest of the members of the EU.

In Greece, the banking system is already on the verge of total collapse.  We are being told that capital controls will remain in place “for at least six months”, and now Greek politicians are even talking about “a possible forced ‘bail-in’ of depositors”

Capital controls will stay in place at Greek banks for at least six months, senior officials in Athens warned yesterday, as the government fights to keep lenders afloat.

Leaders of the four main banks and finance ministry officials will meet tomorrow to discuss how to save the banking system from collapse after a run on deposits.

Options under consideration include a consolidation of four main banks down to two, creation of a “bad bank” to house toxic loans, and a possible forced “bail-in” of depositors.

Hmmm – I seem to recall someone warning about this exact scenario nearly two months ago: “Are They About To Confiscate Money From Bank Accounts In Greece Just Like They Did In Cyprus?

The economic depression in Greece is about to accelerate.  But things are also going to get hairy for the rest of the continent as well.  As I have warned about so many times, the euro is going to plunge like a rock, European stocks are going to crater, European bond yields are going to soar, and eventually we are actually going to see “too big to fail” banks all over Europe start to fail.

This is the big flaw in the German plan.  They truly believe that they can remove the “cancer” of Greece without causing any lasting damage to the rest of the eurozone.

Sadly, they are dead wrong.

Greece Votes NO – Let The Chaos Begin…

No - Public DomainThe result of the referendum in Greece is a great victory for freedom, but it is also threatens to unleash unprecedented economic chaos all across Europe.  With almost all of the votes counted, it is being reported that approximately 61 percent of Greeks have voted “no” and only about 39 percent of Greeks have voted “yes”.  This is a much larger margin of victory for the “no” side than almost everyone was anticipating, and it represents a stunning rejection of European austerity.  Massive celebrations have erupted on the streets of Athens and other major Greek cities, but the euphoria may not last long.  Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is promising that Greece will be able to stay in the euro, but that gives EU bureaucrats and the IMF a tremendous amount of power, because at this point the Greek government is flat broke.  Without more money from the EU and the IMF, the Greek government will not be able to pay its bills and virtually all Greek banks will inevitably collapse.  Meanwhile, the rest of Europe is about to experience a tremendous amount of pain as financial markets respond to the results of this referendum.  The euro is already plummeting, and most analysts expect European bond yields to soar and European stocks to drop substantially when trading opens on Monday morning.

Personally, I love the fact that the Greek people decided not to buckle under the pressure being imposed on them by the EU and the IMF.  But amidst all of the celebration, the cold, hard reality of the matter is that your options are extremely limited when you are out of money.

How is the Greek government going to pay its bills without any money?

How are the insolvent Greek banks going to operate without any money?

How is the Greek economy going to function without any money?

Now that the Greek people have overwhelmingly rejected the demands of the creditors, it will be very interesting to see what the EU and the IMF do.  Prior to the referendum, European leaders were insisting that a “no” vote would put an end to negotiations and would force Greece to leave the euro.

Now that the results are in, are they going to change their tune?  Because the ball is definitely in their court

“This does two things: it legitimises the stance of the Greek government and it leaves the ball in Europe’s court,” ANZ Bank analysts said in a note.

Europe either folds or Greece goes bankrupt; over to you Merkel.”

So would they actually let Greece go bankrupt?

It is going to be fascinating to watch what happens over the next few days.  Right now, Greek banks are on life support.  If the European Central Bank decides to pull the plug, they would essentially destroy the entire Greek banking system.  The only thing that can keep Greek banks alive and kicking is more intervention from the ECB.  The following comes from the New York Times

Now that Greek voters have said no to the economic demands of its international creditors, the fate of the country’s struggling banks is in the hands of the European Central Bank.

Greece’s banks, closed since last Monday because they are perilously low on cash, have been kept alive in recent weeks by emergency loans from the European Central Bank. On Monday, the central bank’s policy makers plan to convene to determine how much longer they are willing to prop up the Greek banks, now that the country has essentially said no to the unpopular dictates of the other eurozone countries.

Of much greater concern to the rest of the world is how financial markets are going to respond to all of this.  As I write this article, things already appear to be unraveling.  The following comes from CNBC

Germany’s Dax is indicated sharply lower from Friday’s close at around 4 percent, while the euro was down 2 percent against the yen as the news emerged. U.S. stocks are expected to open around 1 percent lower Monday, according to recent stock futures data.

What could be most important for those worried about contagion from the Greek crisis is how Portuguese, Spanish and Italian government bonds perform in Monday morning trade.

If these peripheral euro zone countries, often lumped in with Greece, suffer a sharp spike in yields, this could cause alarm about whether Greece leaving the currency might cause further contagion to other weaker euro zone economies.

This could potentially become a “trigger event” that unleashes a wave of financial panic all over Europe.  And once financial panic begins, it is very difficult to end.

If the EU and the IMF want to avoid a crisis, they could just give in to the new Greek government.  But that would be politically risky for certain high profile European leaders.  For instance, Angela Merkel would face a huge backlash back home if she conceded to the new Greek government now.  And other German leaders are already calling the referendum result a “disaster”

German politicians branded the result a ‘disaster’, with the country’s economy minister Sigmar Gabriel Sigmar accusing Tsipras of ‘tearing down the last bridges on which Greece and Europe could have moved towards a compromise’.

He added: ‘Tsipras and his government are leading the Greek people on a path of bitter abandonment and hopelessness.’

And the president of the European Parliament, a German, told a German radio station over the weekend that a “no” vote would almost certainly mean that the Greeks will be forced out of the euro

If after the referendum, the majority is a ‘no,’ they will have to introduce another currency because the euro will no longer be available for a means of payment,” Martin Schulz, European Parliament president, said on German radio.

That is pretty strong language, eh?

Here is yet another quote from Schulz

Without new money, salaries won’t be paid, the health system will stop functioning, the power network and public transport will break down, and they won’t be able to import vital goods because nobody can pay,” he said.

So at this point it is all up to the EU and the IMF, and in particular the focus will be on the Germans.

What will they decide to do?

Will they give in, or will they force the Greeks to leave the euro?

If the Greeks do transition from the euro to a new currency, it will be a process that takes months (if not longer).  You just can’t change ATMs, computer systems, cash registers, etc. overnight.  So a move to the drachma  would not be as simple as many are suggesting…

British firms like De La Rue, which prints 150 currencies worldwide, are believed to have been contacted with a view to providing such services.

It’s done in great secrecy to prevent currency speculation. The other big problem is the logistical challenges of switching a currency. All ATMs, computers and other machinery of commerce that bears the euro symbol will have to be adjusted. It could, and would, take months.

And if Greece does leave, it will be a massive shock for global financial markets.  Faith in the European project will be shattered, the euro will drop like a rock, bond yields all over the continent will rise to unsustainable levels and major banks all over Europe will fail.

I think that the following quote from Romano Prodi sums things up quite well

Romano Prodi, former chief of the European Commission and Italy’s ex-premier, said it is the EU’s own survival that is now at stake as the botched handling of the Greek crisis escalates into a catastrophe. “If the EU cannot resolve a small problem the size of Greece, what is the point of Europe?

Meanwhile, we should all keep in mind that a financial crisis has already erupted over in Asia as well.  Chinese stocks have lost 30 percent of their value in just the last three weeks.  In fact, the amount of “paper wealth” wiped out in China over the past three weeks is approximately equivalent to “10 times Greece’s gross domestic product”

A dizzying three-week plunge in Chinese equities has wiped out $2.36 trillion in market value — equivalent to about 10 times Greece’s gross domestic product last year.

The great financial collapse of 2015 is well underway, and it should be a very interesting week for global markets.

But no matter what happens this week, we all need to keep in mind that this is just the tip of the iceberg.

A “perfect storm” is on the way, and we all need to get prepared for it while we still can.

The Next Great European Financial Crisis Has Begun

European Financial CrisisThe Greek financial system is in the process of totally imploding, and the rest of Europe will soon follow.  Neither the Greeks nor the Germans are willing to give in, and that means that there is very little chance that a debt deal is going to happen by the end of June.  So that means that we will likely see a major Greek debt default and potentially even a Greek exit from the eurozone.  At this point, credit default swaps on Greek debt have risen 456 percent in price since the beginning of this year, and the market has priced in a 75 percent chance that a Greek debt default will happen.  Over the past month, the yield on two year Greek bonds has skyrocketed from 20 percent to more than 30 percent, and the Greek stock market has fallen by a total of 13 percent during the last three trading days alone.  This is what a financial collapse looks like, and if Greece does leave the euro, we are going to see this kind of carnage happen all over Europe.

Officials over in Europe are now openly speaking of the need to prepare for a “state of emergency” now that negotiations have totally collapsed.  At one time, it would have been unthinkable for Greece to leave the euro, but now it appears  that this is precisely what will happen unless a miracle happens…

Greece is heading for a state of emergency and an exit from the euro following the collapse of talks to agree a bailout deal, senior EU officials warned last night.

Europe must be prepared to step in otherwise Greek society would face an unprecedented crisis with power blackouts, medicine shortages and no money to pay for police, they said.

In the past, the Greeks have always buckled under pressure.  But this new Greek government was elected with a mandate to end austerity, and so far they have shown a remarkable amount of resolve.  In order for a debt deal to happen, one side is going to have to blink, and at this point it does not look like it will be the Greeks

The world’s financial markets are facing up to the possibility that Greece could soon become the first country to crash out of Europe’s single currency. Talks between Athens and its eurozone creditors have collapsed in acrimony just days before a final deadline for Greece to unlock the €7.2bn (£5.2bn) in bailout funds it needs to avoid a catastrophic debt default.

The Greek Prime Minister, Alexis Tsipras, accused the creditor powers of hidden “political motives” in their demands that Greece make further cuts to public pension payments in return for the financial aid. “We are shouldering the dignity of our people, as well as the hopes of the people of Europe,” Mr Tsipras said in a defiant statement. “We cannot ignore this responsibility. This is not a matter of ideological stubbornness. This is about democracy.”

As we approach the point of no return, both sides are preparing for the endgame.

In Greece, members of parliament have been studying what happened in Iceland a few years ago.  Many of them believe that a Greek debt default combined with a nationalization of Greek banks and a Greek exit from the euro could set the nation back on the path to prosperity fairly rapidly.  The following comes from the Telegraph

The radical wing of Greece’s Syriza party is to table plans over coming days for an Icelandic-style default and a nationalisation of the Greek banking system, deeming it pointless to continue talks with Europe’s creditor powers.

Syriza sources say measures being drafted include capital controls and the establishment of a sovereign central bank able to stand behind a new financial system. While some form of dual currency might be possible in theory, such a structure would be incompatible with euro membership and would imply a rapid return to the drachma.

The confidential plans were circulating over the weekend and have the backing of 30 MPs from the Aristeri Platforma or ‘Left Platform’, as well as other hard-line groupings in Syriza’s spectrum. It is understood that the nationalist ANEL party in the ruling coalition is also willing to force a rupture with creditors, if need be.

Meanwhile, in a desperate attempt to get the Greeks to give in at the last moment, Greek’s creditors are preparing to pull out all the stops in order to put as much financial pressure on Greece as possible

Germany’s Suddeutsche Zeitung reported that the creditors are drawing an ultimatum to the Greeks, threatening to cut off Greek access to the European payments system and forcing capital controls on the country as soon as this weekend. The plan would lead to the temporary closure of the banks, followed by a rationing of cash withdrawals.

For a long time, most in the financial world assumed that a debt deal would eventually happen.  But now reality is setting in.  As I mentioned at the top of this article, the cost to insure Greek debt has risen by an astounding 456 percent since the beginning of this year

Given these dramatic stakes, the risk of a Greek default has gone way up. One way to measure that risk is by looking at the skyrocketing price of insurance policies that would pay out if Greek bonds go bust. The cost to insure Greek debt for one year against the risk of default has skyrocketed 456% since the start of the 2015, according to FactSet data.

These insurance-like contracts, known as credit default swaps, imply there is a 75% to 80% probability of Greece defaulting on its debt, according to Jigar Patel, a credit strategist at Barclays.

The probability of a Greek default soars to a whopping 95% for five-year CDS, Patel said.

“Default is looking more and more likely,” Peter Boockvar, chief market analyst at The Lindsey Group, wrote in a note to clients on Tuesday.

And in recent days, we have also seen Greek stocks and Greek bonds totally crash.  The following comes from CNN

The Greek stock market has plummeted 13% over the past three trading days, including a 3% drop on Tuesday alone.

In the bond market, the yield on Greek two-year debt has skyrocketed to 30.2%. A month ago, the yield was only 20%. Yields rise as bond prices fall.

Of course if there is a Greek debt default and Greece does leave the euro, it won’t just be Greece that pays the price.

As I have written about previously, there are tens of trillions of dollars in derivatives that are directly tied to currency exchange rates and 505 trillion dollars in derivatives that are directly tied to interest rates.  A “Grexit” would cause the euro to drop like a rock and interest rates all over the continent would start to go crazy.  The financial chaos that a “Grexit” would cause should not be underestimated.

And there are signs that some of Europe’s biggest banks are already on the verge of collapse.  For example, just consider what has been going on at the biggest bank in Germany.  Both of the co-CEOs at Deutsche Bank recently resigned, and it is increasingly looking as if it could soon become Europe’s version of Lehman Brothers.  The following summary of the recent troubles at Deutsche Bank comes from an article that was posted on NotQuant

Here’s a re-cap of what’s happened at Deutsche Bank over the past 15 months:

  • In April of 2014,  Deutsche Bank was forced to raise an additional 1.5 Billion of Tier 1 capital to support it’s capital structure.  Why?
  • 1 month later in May of 2014, the scramble for liquidity continued as DB announced the selling of 8 billion euros worth of stock – at up to a 30% discount.   Why again?  It was a move which raised eyebrows across the financial media.  The calm outward image of Deutsche Bank did not seem to reflect their rushed efforts to raise liquidity.  Something was decidedly rotten behind the curtain.
  • Fast forwarding to March of this year:   Deutsche Bank fails the banking industry’s “stress tests” and is given a stern warning to shore up it’s capital structure.
  • In April,  Deutsche Bank confirms it’s agreement to a joint settlement with the US and UK regarding the manipulation of LIBOR.   The bank is saddled with a massive $2.1 billion payment to the DOJ.  (Still, a small fraction of their winnings from the crime). 
  • In May,  one of Deutsche Bank’s CEOs, Anshu Jain is given an enormous amount of new authority by the board of directors.  We guess that this is a “crisis move”.  In times of crisis the power of the executive is often increased.
  • June 5:  Greece misses it’s payment to the IMF.   The risk of default across all of it’s debt is now considered acute.   This has massive implications for Deutsche Bank.
  • June 6/7:  (A Saturday/Sunday, and immediately following Greece’s missed payment to the IMF) Deutsche Bank’s two CEO’s announce their surprise departure from the company.  (Just one month after Jain is given his new expanded powers).   Anshu Jain will step down first at the end of June.  Jürgen Fitschen will step down next May.
  • June 9: S&P lowers the rating of Deutsche Bank to BBB+  Just three notches above “junk”.  (Incidentally,  BBB+ is even lower than Lehman’s downgrade – which preceded it’s collapse by just 3 months)

And that’s where we are now.  How bad is it?  We don’t know because we won’t be permitted to know.  But these are not the moves of a healthy company.

For a very long time, I have been warning that a major financial crisis was coming to Europe, and for a very long time the authorities in Europe have been able to successfully kick the can down the road.

But now it looks like we have reached the end of the road, and a day of reckoning is finally here.

Nobody is quite sure what is going to happen next, but almost everyone agrees that it isn’t going to be pretty.

So you better buckle up, because it looks like we are all in for a wild ride as we enter the second half of this year.

The Last, Great Run For The U.S. Dollar, The Death Of The Euro And 74 Trillion In Currency Derivatives At Risk

Dollars Euros - Public DomainAre we on the verge of an unprecedented global currency crisis?  On Tuesday, the euro briefly fell below $1.07 for the first time in almost a dozen years.  And the U.S. dollar continues to surge against almost every other major global currency.  The U.S. dollar index has now risen an astounding 23 percent in just the last eight months.  That is the fastest pace that the U.S. dollar has risen since 1981.  You might be tempted to think that a stronger U.S. dollar is good news, but it isn’t.  A strong U.S. dollar hurts U.S. exports, thus harming our economy.  In addition, a weak U.S. dollar has fueled tremendous expansion in emerging markets around the planet over the past decade or so.  When the dollar becomes a lot stronger, it becomes much more difficult for those countries to borrow more money and repay old debts.  In other words, the emerging market “boom” is about to become a bust.  Not only that, it is important to keep in mind that global financial institutions bet a tremendous amount of money on currency movements.  According to the Bank for International Settlements, 74 trillion dollars in derivatives are tied to the value of the U.S. dollar, the value of the euro and the value of other global currencies.  When currency rates start flying around all over the place, you can rest assured that someone out there is losing an enormous amount of money.  If this derivatives bubble ends up imploding, there won’t be enough money in the entire world to bail everyone out.

Do you remember what happened the last time the U.S. dollar went on a great run like this?

As you can see from the chart below, it was in mid-2008, and what followed was the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression…

Dollar Index 2015

A rapidly rising U.S. dollar is extremely deflationary for the overall global economy.

This is a huge red flag, and yet hardly anyone is talking about it.

Meanwhile, the euro continues to spiral into oblivion…

Euro U.S. Dollar

How many times have I said it?  The euro is heading to all-time lows.  It is going to go to parity with the U.S. dollar, and then it is eventually going to go below parity.

This is going to cause massive headaches in the financial world.

The Europeans are attempting to cure their economic problems by creating tremendous amounts of new money.  It is the European version of quantitative easing, but it is having some very nasty side effects.

The markets are starting to realize that if the value of the U.S. dollar continues to surge, it is ultimately going to be very bad for stocks.  In fact, the strength of the U.S. dollar is being cited as the primary reason for the Dow’s 332 point decline on Tuesday

The Dow Jones industrial average fell more than 300 points to below the index’s 50-day moving average, wiping out gains for the year. The S&P 500 also closed in the red for the year and breached its 50-day moving average, which is an indicator of the market trend. Only the Nasdaq held onto gains of 2.61 percent for the year.

There’s “concern that energy and the strength in the dollar will somehow be negative for the equities,” said Art Hogan, chief market strategist at Wunderlich Securities. He noted that the speed of the dollar’s surge was the greatest market driver, amid mixed economic data and concerns about the Federal Reserve raising interest rates.

And as I noted above, when the U.S. dollar rises the things that we export to other nations become more expensive and that hurts our businesses.

This is so basic that even the White House understands it

Despite reassurance from The Fed that a strengthening dollar is positive for US jobs, The White House has now issued a statement that a “strengthening USD is a headwind for US growth.”

But even more important, a surging U.S. dollar makes it more difficult for emerging markets all over the world to borrow new money and to repay old debts.  This is especially true for nations that heavily rely on exporting commodities

It becomes especially ugly for emerging market economies that produce commodities. Many emerging market countries rely on their natural resources for growth and haven’t yet developed more advanced industries. As the products of their principal industries decline in value, foreign investors remove available credit while their currency is declining against the U.S. dollar. They don’t just find it difficult to pay their debt – it is impossible.

It has been estimated that emerging markets have borrowed more than 3 trillion dollars since the last financial crisis.

But now the process that created the emerging markets “boom” is starting to go into reverse.

The global economy is fueled by cheap dollars.  So if the U.S. dollar continues to rise, that is not going to be good news for anyone.

And of course the biggest potential threat of all is the 74 trillion dollar currency derivatives bubble which could end up bursting at any time.

The sophisticated computer algorithms that financial institutions use to trade currency derivatives are ultimately based on human assumptions.  When currencies move very little and the waters are calm in global financial markets, those algorithms tend to work really, really well.

But when the unexpected happens, some of the largest financial firms in the world can implode seemingly overnight.

Just remember what happened to Lehman Brothers back in 2008.  Unexpected events can cripple financial giants in just a matter of hours.

Today, there are five U.S. banks that each have more than 40 trillion dollars of total exposure to derivatives of all types.  Those five banks are JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Goldman Sachs, Citibank and Morgan Stanley.

By transforming Wall Street into a gigantic casino, those banks have been able to make enormous amounts of money.

But they are constantly performing a high wire act.  One of these days, their reckless gambling is going to come back to haunt them, and the entire global financial system is going to be severely harmed as a result.

As I have said so many times before, derivatives are going to be at the heart of the next great global financial crisis.

And thanks to the wild movement of global currencies in recent months, there are now more than 74 trillion dollars in currency derivatives at risk.

Anyone that cannot see trouble on the horizon at this point is being willingly blind.

It’s Germany vs. Greece, And The Very Survival Of The Eurozone Is At Stake

Boxing - Public DomainIs this the beginning of the end for the eurozone?  On Thursday, Germany rejected a Greek request for a six-month loan extension.  The Germans insisted that the Greek proposal did not require the Greeks to adhere to the austerity restrictions which previous agreements had forced upon them.  But Greek voters have already very clearly rejected the status quo, and the new Greek government has stated unequivocally that it will not be bound by the current bailout arrangement.  So can Germany and Greece find some sort of compromise that will be acceptable to both of them?  It certainly does not help that some Greek politicians have been comparing the current German government to the Nazis, and the Germans have fired back with some very nasty comments about the Greeks.  Unfortunately for both of them, time is running out.  The Greek government will run out of money in just a couple of weeks, and without a deal there is a very good chance that Greece will be forced to leave the euro.  In fact, this week Commerzbank AG increased the probability of a “Grexit” to 50 percent.  And if Greece does leave the eurozone, it could spark a full blown European financial crisis which would be absolutely catastrophic.

What the Greeks want right now is a six month loan extension which would give them much more economic flexibility than under the current agreement.  Unfortunately for the Greeks, Germany has rejected this proposal

Germany rejected a Greek proposal for a six-month extension to its euro zone loan agreement on Thursday, saying it was “not a substantial solution” because it did not commit Athens to stick to the conditions of its international bailout.

Berlin’s stance set the scene for tough talks at a crucial meeting of euro zone finance ministers on Friday when Greece’s new leftist-led government, racing to avoid running out of money within weeks, will face pressure to make further concessions.

As the biggest creditor and EU paymaster, Germany has the clout to block a deal and cast Greece adrift without a financial lifeline, potentially pushing it toward the euro zone exit.

Even though Germany is already saying no to this deal, Greece is still hoping that the Eurogroup will accept the deal that it has proposed…

“The Greek government submitted a letter to the Eurogroup asking for a six-month extension of the loan agreement. Tomorrow’s Eurogroup has only two options: either to accept or reject the Greek request,” a government  official said. “It will then be clear who wants to find a solution and who doesn’t.” Earlier on Thursday, the German finance ministry rejected Athens’ request for an extension by saying it fell short of the conditions set out earlier this week by the euro zone.

At this point, the odds of a deal going through don’t look good.

But there is always next week.  It is possible that something could still happen.

However, if there is no deal and Greece is forced out of the euro, the consequences for Greece and for the rest of the eurozone could be quite dramatic.

The following is how the Independent summarized what could happen to Greece…

An immediate financial crisis and a new, deep, recession. Without external financial support the country would have to default on its debts and, probably, start printing its own currency again in order to pay civil servants. Its banks would also lose access to funding from the European Central Bank.

To prevent these institutions collapsing Athens would have impose controls on the movement of money out of the country. The international value of the new Greek currency would inevitably be much lower than the euro. That would mean an instant drop in living standards for Greeks as import prices spike. And if Greeks have foreign debts which they have to pay back in euros they will also be instantly worse off. There could be a cascade of defaults.

That doesn’t sound pretty at all.

The most frightening part for those that have money in Greek banks would be the capital controls that would be imposed.  People would have to deal with strict restrictions on how much money they could take out of their accounts and on how much money they could take out of the country.

In anticipation of this happening, people are already pulling money out of Greek banks at a staggering pace

In the midst of the dramatic showdown in Brussels between the new Greek government and its European creditors, many Greek depositors—spooked by the prospect of a Greek default or, worse, an exit from the euro zone and a possible return to the drachma—have been pulling euros out of the nation’s banks in record amounts over the last few days.

The Bank of Greece and the European Central Bank won’t report official cash outflows for January until the end of the month. But sources in the Greek banking sector have told Greek newspapers that as much as 25 billion euros (US $28.4 billion) have left Greek banks since the end of December. According to the same sources, an estimated 900 million euros flowed out of Greek banks on Tuesday alone, the day after the talks broke up in Brussels, sparking fears that measures will be taken to stem the outflow. On Thursday, by mid-afternoon, deposits had shrunk by about 680 million euros (US $77.3 million).

If outflows reach 1 billion euros, capital controls might need to be imposed,” said Thanasis Koukakis, a financial editor for Estia a conservative daily, and To Vima, an influential Sunday newspaper.

And if we do indeed witness a “Grexit”, the rest of Europe would be deeply affected as well.

The following is how the Independent summarized what could happen to the rest of the continent…

There would probably be some financial contagion as financial investors wake up to the fact that euro membership is not irreversible. There could a “flight to safety” as depositors pull euros out of other potentially vulnerable eurozone members such as Portugal, Spain or Italy to avoid taking a hit. European company share prices could also fall sharply if investors panic and divert their cash into the government bonds of states such as Germany and Finland.

The question is how severe this contagion would be. The continent’s politicians and regulators seem to think the impact would be relatively small, saying that Europe’s banks have reduced their cross-border exposure to Greece and that general confidence in the future of the eurozone is much stronger than it was a few years ago. But others think this is too complacent. The truth is that no one knows for sure.

To be honest, I think that the rest of the eurozone is being far too complacent about what Greece leaving would mean.

There are all kinds of implications that most people are not even discussing yet.

For example, just consider what a “Grexit” would mean for the European interbank payment system known as Target2.  The following comes from an article by Ambrose Evans-Pritchard

In normal times, Target2 adjustments are routine and self-correcting. They occur automatically as money is shifted around the currency bloc. The US Federal Reserve has a similar internal system to square books across regions. They turn nuclear if monetary union breaks up.

The Target2 “debts” owed by Greece’s central bank to the ECB jumped to €49bn in December as capital flight accelerated on fears of a Syriza victory. They may have reached €65bn or €70bn by now.

A Greek default – unavoidable in a Grexit scenario – would crystallize these losses. The German people would discover instantly that a large sum of money committed without their knowledge and without a vote in the Bundestag had vanished.

Ouch.

And in a previous article, I discussed some of the other things that are at stake…

If there is no deal, we could see a Greek debt default, Greece could be forced to leave the eurozone and go back to the drachma, the euro could collapse to all time lows, all the banks all over Europe that are exposed to Greek government debt could be faced with absolutely massive losses, and the 26 trillion dollars in derivatives that are directly tied to the value of the euro could start to unravel.  In essence, if things go badly this could be enough to push us into a global financial crisis.

At the end of the day, there are essentially only two choices for Europe…

#1) Find a way to make a deal, which would maybe keep the current financial house of cards together for another six months.

#2) A horrifying European financial crisis starting almost immediately.

In the long-term, nothing is going to stop the economic horror which is coming to Europe, and once it starts it is going to drag down the entire planet.

Greece Rejects Bailout Deal – Deadline To Avoid Financial Chaos In Europe Is March 1st

No - Public DomainEurope is on the verge of a horrifying financial meltdown, and there are only a few short weeks left to avert total disaster.  On Monday, talks that were supposed to bring about yet another temporary “resolution” to the Greek debt crisis completely fell apart.  The new Greek government has entirely rejected the idea of a six month extension of the current bailout.  The Greeks want a new deal which would enable them to implement the promises that have been made to the voters.  But that is not going to fly with the Germans, among others.  They expect the Greeks to fulfill the obligations that were agreed to previously.  The two sides are not even in the same ballpark at this point, and things are starting to get very personal.  It is no secret that the new Greek government does not like the Germans, and the Germans are not particularly fond of the Greeks at this point.  But unless they can find a way to work out a deal, things could get quite messy very rapidly.  The Greek government has about three weeks of cash left, and any changes to the current bailout arrangement would have to be approved by parliaments all over Europe by March 1st.  And the stakes are incredibly high.  If there is no deal, we could see a Greek debt default, Greece could be forced to leave the eurozone and go back to the drachma, the euro could collapse to all time lows, all the banks all over Europe that are exposed to Greek government debt could be faced with absolutely massive losses, and the 26 trillion dollars in derivatives that are directly tied to the value of the euro could start to unravel.  In essence, if things go badly this could be enough to push us into a global financial crisis.

On Monday, eurozone officials tried to get the Greeks to extend the current bailout package for six months with the current austerity provisions in place.  Greek government officials responded by saying that “those who bring this back are wasting their time” and that those negotiating on behalf of the eurozone are being “unreasonable”

A Greek government official said that a draft text presented to eurozone finance ministers meeting in Brussels on Monday spoke of Greece extending its current bailout package and as such was “unreasonable” and would not be accepted.

Without specifying who put forward the text to the meeting chaired by Dutch Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem, the official said: “Some people’s insistence on the Greek government implementing the bailout is unreasonable and cannot be accepted.”

Most observers have speculated that the new Greek government would give in to the demands of the rest of the eurozone when push came to shove.

But these new Greek politicians are a different breed.  They are not establishment lackeys.  Rather, they are very principled radicals, and they are not about to be pushed around.  I certainly do not agree with their politics, but I admire the fact that they are willing to stand up for what they believe.  That is a very rare thing these days.

On Monday, Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis shared the following in the New York Times

I am often asked: What if the only way you can secure funding is to cross your red lines and accept measures that you consider to be part of the problem, rather than of its solution? Faithful to the principle that I have no right to bluff, my answer is: The lines that we have presented as red will not be crossed.

Does that sound like a man that is going to back down to you?

Meanwhile, the other side continues to dig in as well.

Just consider the words of the German finance minister

Wolfgang Schaeuble, the German finance minister, accused the Greek government of “behaving irresponsibly” by threatening to tear up agreements made with the eurozone in return for access to the loans which are all that stand between Greece and financial collapse.

“It seems like we have no results so far. I’m quite skeptical. The Greek government has not moved, apparently,” he said.

“As long as the Greek government doesn’t want a program, I don’t have to think about options.”

Global financial markets are still acting as if they fully expect a deal to get done eventually.

I am not so sure.

And without a doubt, time is running short.  As I mentioned above, something has got to be finalized by March 1st.  The following comes from the Wall Street Journal

Any changes to the content or expiration date of Greece’s existing €240 billion ($273 billion) bailout have to be decided by Friday, to give national parliaments in Germany, Finland and the Netherlands enough time to approve them before the end of the month. Without such a deal, Greece will be on its own on March 1, cut loose from the rescue loans from the eurozone and the International Monetary Fund that have sustained it for almost five years.

So what happens if there is no deal and Greece is forced to leave the eurozone?

Below, I have shared an excerpt from an article that details what Capital Economics believes would happen in the event of a “Grexit”…

  • The drachma would be back. The euro would be effectively abandoned, and Greece would return to the drachma, its previous currency (it might take a new name). The drachma would likely tumble in value against the euro as soon as it was issued, and how much the government could print quickly would be a big issue.
  • It would have to be fast, with capital controls. There would be people trying to pull their money out of Greece’s banks en masse. The Greek government would have to make that illegal pretty quickly. The European Central Bank drew up Grexit plans in 2012, and might be dusting them off now.
  • European life support for Greek banks would be withdrawn. Greek banks can currently access emergency liquidity assistance from the ECB, which would be removed if Greece left the euro.
  • Likely unrest and disorder. Barclays expects that this sudden economic collapse would “aggravate social unrest”, and notes that historically similar moves have caused a 45-85% devaluation of the currency. Capital Economics suggests that the drop could be more mild, closer to 20%, and Oxford Economics says 30%.
  • Greece would resume economic policymaking. Greece’s central bank would probably start doing its own QE programme, and the government would likely return to running deficits, no longer restrained by bailout rules (though investors would probably want large returns, given the risk of another default).
  • Inflation would spike immediately, but both Capital Economics and Oxford Economics say that should be temporary. It might look a bit like Russia this year — with the new currency in freefall until it finds its level against the euro, prices inside Greece would rise at dramatic speed. The inflation might be temporary, however, because with unemployment above 20%, Greece has plenty of spare labour slack to produce more.

That certainly does not sound good.

And once Greece leaves, everyone would be wondering who is next, because there are quite a few other deeply financially troubled nations in the eurozone.

David Stockman believes that Spain is a prime candidate…

In spite of the “recovery” in Spain, close to 24% are still unemployed. That statistic explains Pessimism in the Streets.

The crisis is here to stay according to significant majority of Spaniards. The general perception is that the current situation in which the country is negative and far from getting better, can only stay stagnant or even worse.

A Metroscopia poll published in El País makes it clear that the Spanish are unhappy with the current state of the country. Five out of six (83%) see the economic situation as “bad”, while more than half of the remaining perceive “regular”.

Right now, Europe is already teetering on the brink of an economic depression.

If this Greek debt crisis is not resolved, it could set in motion a chain of events which could start collapsing financial institutions all over Europe.

Yes, we have been here before and a deal has always emerged in the end.

But this time is different.  This time very idealistic radicals are running things in Greece, and the “old guard” in Europe has no intention of giving in to them.

So let’s watch and see how this game of “chicken” plays out.

I have a feeling that it is not going to end well.

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