20 Signs That The Next Great Economic Depression Has Already Started In Europe

20 Signs That The Next Great Economic Depression Has Already Started In EuropeThe next Great Depression is already happening – it just hasn’t reached the United States yet.  Things in Europe just continue to get worse and worse, and yet most people in the United States still don’t get it.  All the time I have people ask me when the “economic collapse” is going to happen.  Well, for ages I have been warning that the next major wave of the ongoing economic collapse would begin in Europe, and that is exactly what is happening.  In fact, both Greece and Spain already have levels of unemployment that are greater than anything the U.S. experienced during the Great Depression of the 1930s.  Pay close attention to what is happening over there, because it is coming here too.  You see, the truth is that Europe is a lot like the United States.  We are both drowning in unprecedented levels of debt, and we both have overleveraged banking systems that resemble a house of cards.  The reason why the U.S. does not look like Europe yet is because we have thrown all caution to the wind.  The Federal Reserve is printing money as if there is no tomorrow and the U.S. government is savagely destroying the future that our children and our grandchildren were supposed to have by stealing more than 100 million dollars from them every single hour of every single day.  We have gone “all in” on kicking the can down the road even though it means destroying the future of America.  But the alternative scares the living daylights out of our politicians.  When nations such as Greece, Spain, Portugal and Italy tried to slow down the rate at which their debts were rising, the results were absolutely devastating.  A full-blown economic depression is raging across southern Europe and it is rapidly spreading into northern Europe.  Eventually it will spread to the rest of the globe as well.

The following are 20 signs that the next Great Depression has already started in Europe…

#1 The unemployment rate in France has surged to 10.6 percent, and the number of jobless claims in that country recently set a new all-time record.

#2 Unemployment in the eurozone as a whole is sitting at an all-time record of 12 percent.

#3 Two years ago, Portugal’s unemployment rate was about 12 percent.  Today, it is about 17 percent.

#4 The unemployment rate in Spain has set a new all-time record of 27 percent.  Even during the Great Depression of the 1930s the United States never had unemployment that high.

#5 The unemployment rate among those under the age of 25 in Spain is an astounding 57.2 percent.

#6 The unemployment rate in Greece has set a new all-time record of 27.2 percent.  Even during the Great Depression of the 1930s the United States never had unemployment that high.

#7 The unemployment rate among those under the age of 25 in Greece is a whopping 59.3 percent.

#8 French car sales in March were 16 percent lower than they were one year earlier.

#9 German car sales in March were 17 percent lower than they were one year earlier.

#10 In the Netherlands, consumer debt is now up to about 250 percent of available income.

#11 Industrial production in Italy has fallen by an astounding 25 percent over the past five years.

#12 The number of Spanish firms filing for bankruptcy is 45 percent higher than it was a year ago.

#13 Since 2007, the value of non-performing loans in Europe has increased by 150 percent.

#14 Bank withdrawals in Cyprus during the month of March were double what they were in February even though the banks were closed for half the month.

#15 Due to an absolutely crippling housing crash, there are approximately 3 million vacant homes in Spain today.

#16 Things have gotten so bad in Spain that entire apartment buildings are being overwhelmed by squatters

A 285-unit apartment complex in Parla, less than half an hour’s drive from Madrid, should be an ideal target for investors seeking cheap property in Spain. Unfortunately, two thirds of the building generates zero revenue because it’s overrun by squatters.

“This is happening all over the country,” said Jose Maria Fraile, the town’s mayor, who estimates only 100 apartments in the block built for the council have rental contracts, and not all of those tenants are paying either. “People lost their jobs, they can’t pay mortgages or rent so they lost their homes and this has produced a tide of squatters.”

#17 As I wrote about the other day, child hunger has become so rampant in Greece that teachers are reporting that hungry children are begging their classmates for food.

#18 The debt to GDP ratio in Italy is now up to 136 percent.

#19 25 percent of all banking assets in the UK are in banks that are leveraged at least 40 to 1.

#20 German banking giant Deutsche Bank has more than 55 trillion euros (which is more than 72 trillion dollars) of exposure to derivatives.  But the GDP of Germany for an entire year is only about 2.7 trillion euros.

Yes, U.S. stocks have been doing great so far this year, but the truth is that the stock market has become completely and totally divorced from economic reality.  When it does catch up with the economic fundamentals, it will probably happen very rapidly like we saw back in 2008.

Our politicians can try to kick the can down the road for as long as they can, but at some point the consequences of our foolish decisions will hunt us down and overtake us.  The following is what Peter Schiff had to say about this coming crisis the other day…

“The crisis is imminent,” Schiff said.  “I don’t think Obama is going to finish his second term without the bottom dropping out. And stock market investors are oblivious to the problems.”

“We’re broke, Schiff added.  “We owe trillions. Look at our budget deficit; look at the debt to GDP ratio, the unfunded liabilities. If we were in the Eurozone, they would kick us out.”

Schiff points out that the market gains experienced recently, with the Dow first topping 14,000 on its way to setting record highs, are giving investors a false sense of security.

“It’s not that the stock market is gaining value… it’s that our money is losing value. And so if you have a debased currency… a devalued currency, the price of everything goes up. Stocks are no exception,” he said.

“The Fed knows that the U.S. economy is not recovering,” he noted. “It simply is being kept from collapse by artificially low interest rates and quantitative easing. As that support goes, the economy will implode.”

So please don’t think that we are any different from Europe.

If the United States government started only spending the money that it brings in, we would descend into an economic depression tomorrow.

The only way that we can continue to live out the economic fantasy that we see all around us is by financially abusing our children and our grandchildren.

The U.S. economy has become a miserable junkie that is completely and totally addicted to reckless money printing and gigantic mountains of debt.

If we stop printing money and going into unprecedented amounts of debt we are finished.

If we continue printing money and going into unprecedented amounts of debt we are finished.

Either way, this is all going to end very, very badly.

European Central Bank, Frankfurt - by jpatokal

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.

20 Signs Of Imminent Financial Collapse In Europe

Are we on the verge of a massive financial collapse in Europe?  Rumors of an imminent default by Greece are flying around all over the place and Greek government officials are openly admitting that they are running out of money.  Without more bailout funds it is absolutely certain that Greece will soon default on their debts.  But German officials are threatening to hold up more bailout payments until the Greeks “do what they agreed to do”.  The attitude in Germany is that the Greeks must now pay the price for going into so much debt.  Officials in the Greek government are becoming frustrated because the more austerity measures they implement, the more their economy shrinks.  As the economy shrinks, so do tax payments and the budget deficit gets even larger.  Meanwhile, hordes of very angry Greek citizens are violently protesting in the streets.  If Germany allows Greece to default, that is going to start financial dominoes tumbling around the globe and it is going to be a signal to the financial markets that there is a very real possibility that Portugal, Italy and Spain will be allowed to default as well.  Needless to say, all hell would break loose at that point.

So why is Greece so important?

Well, there are two reasons why Greece is so important.

Number one, major banks all over Europe are heavily invested in Greek debt.  Since many of those banks are also very highly leveraged, if they are forced to take huge losses on Greek debt it could wipe many of them out.

Secondly, if Greece defaults, it tells the markets that Portugal, Italy and Spain would likely not be rescued either.  It would suddenly become much, much more expensive for those countries to borrow money, which would make their already huge debt problems far worse.

If Italy or Spain were to go down, it would wipe out major banks all over the globe.

Recently, Paul Krugman of the New York Times summarized the scale of the problem the world financial system is now facing….

Financial turmoil in Europe is no longer a problem of small, peripheral economies like Greece. What’s under way right now is a full-scale market run on the much larger economies of Spain and Italy. At this point countries in crisis account for about a third of the euro area’s G.D.P., so the common European currency itself is under existential threat.

Most Americans don’t spend a lot of time thinking about the financial condition of Europe.

But they should.

Right now, the U.S. economy is really struggling to stay out of another recession.  If Europe has a financial meltdown, there is no way that the United States is going to be able to avoid another huge economic downturn.

If you think that things are bad now, just wait.  After the next major financial crisis what we are going through right now is going to look like a Sunday picnic.

The following are 20 signs of imminent financial collapse in Europe….

#1 The yield on 2 year Greek bonds is now over 60 percent.  The yield on 1 year Greek bonds is now over 110 percent.  Basically, world financial markets now fully expect that Greece will default.

#2 European bank stocks are getting absolutely killed once again today.  We have seen this happen time after time in the last few weeks.  What we are now witnessing is a clear trend.  Just like back in 2008, major banking stocks are leading the way down the financial toilet.

#3 The German government is now making preparations to bail out major German banks when Greece defaults.  Reportedly, the German government is telling banks and financial institutions to be prepared for a 50 percent “haircut” on Greek debt obligations.

#4 With thousands upon thousands of angry citizens protesting in the streets, the Greek government seems hesitant to fully implement the austerity measures that are being required of them.  But if Greece does not do what they are being told to do, Germany may withhold further aid.  German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble says that Greece is now “on a knife’s edge“.

#5 Germany is increasingly taking a hard line with Greece, and the Greeks are feeling very pushed around by the Germans at this point.  Ambrose Evans-Pritchard made this point very eloquently in a recent article for the Telegraph….

Germany’s EU commissioner Günther Oettinger said Europe should send blue helmets to take control of Greek tax collection and liquidate state assets. They had better be well armed. The headlines in the Greek press have been “Unconditional Capitulation”, and “Terrorization of Greeks”, and even “Fourth Reich”.

#6 Everyone knows that Greece simply cannot last much longer without continued bailouts.  John Mauldin explained why this is so in a recent article….

It is elementary school arithmetic. The Greek debt-to-GDP is currently at 140%. It will be close to 180% by year’s end (assuming someone gives them the money). The deficit is north of 15%. They simply cannot afford to make the interest payments. True market (not Eurozone-subsidized) interest rates on Greek short-term debt are close to 100%, as I read the press. Their long-term debt simply cannot be refinanced without Eurozone bailouts.

#7 The austerity measures that have already been implemented are causing the Greek economy to shrink rapidly.  Greek Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos has announced that the Greek government is now projecting that the economy will shrink by 5.3% in 2011.

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

#9 Major banks in the U.S., in Japan and in Europe have a tremendous amount of exposure to Greek debt.  If they are forced to take major losses on Greek debt, quite a few major banks that are very highly leveraged could suddenly be in danger of being wiped out.

#10 If Greece goes down, Portugal could very well be next.  Ambrose Evans-Pritchard of the Telegraph explains it this way….

Yet to push Greece over the edge risks instant contagion to Portugal, which has higher levels of total debt, and an equally bad current account deficit near 9pc of GDP, and is just as unable to comply with Germany’s austerity dictates in the long run. From there the chain-reaction into EMU’s soft-core would be fast and furious.

#11 The yield on 2 year Portuguese bonds is now over 15 percent.  A year ago the yield on those bonds was about 4 percent.

#12 Portugal, Ireland and Italy now also have debt to GDP ratios that are well above 100%.

#13 Greece, Portugal, Ireland, Italy and Spain owe the rest of the world about 3 trillion euros combined.

#14 Major banks in the “healthy” areas of Europe could soon see their credit ratings downgraded.  For example, there are persistent rumors that Moody’s is about to downgrade the credit ratings of several major French banks.

#15 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.

#16 The ECB is not going to be able to buy up debt from troubled eurozone members indefinitely.  The European Central Bank is already holding somewhere in the neighborhood of 444 billion euros of debt from the governments of Greece, Italy, Portugal, Ireland and Spain.  On Friday, Jurgen Stark of Germany resigned from the European Central Bank in protest over these reckless bond purchases.

#17 According to London-based think tank Open Europe, the European Central Bank is now massively overleveraged….

“Should the ECB see its assets fall by just 4.23pc in value . . . its entire capital base would be wiped out.”

#18 The recent decision issued by the German Constitutional Court seems to have ruled out the establishment of any “permanent” bailout mechanism for the eurozone.  Just consider the following language from the decision….

“No permanent treaty mechanisms shall be established that leads to liability for the decisions of other states, especially if they entail incalculable consequences”

#19 Economist Nouriel Roubini is warning that without “massive stimulus” by the governments of the western world we are going to see a major financial collapse and we will find ourselves plunging into a depression….

“In the short term, we need to do massive stimulus; otherwise, there’s going to be another Great Depression”

#20 German Economy Minister Philipp Roesler is warning that “an orderly default” for Greece is not “off the table“….

”To stabilize the euro, we must not take anything off the table in the short run. That includes, as a worst-case scenario, an orderly default for Greece if the necessary instruments for it are available.”

Right now, Greece is caught in a death spiral.  The more austerity measures they implement, the more their economy slows down.  The more their economy slows down, the more their tax revenues go down.  The more their tax revenues go down, the worse their debt problems become.

Greece could end up leaving the euro, but that would make their economic problems far, far worse and it would be very damaging to the rest of the eurozone as well.

Quite a few politicians in Europe are touting a “United States of Europe” as the ultimate solution to these problems, but right now the citizens of the eurozone are overwhelming against deeper economic integration.

Plus, giving the EU even more power would mean an even greater loss of national sovereignty for the people of Europe.

That would not be a good thing.

So what we are stuck with right now is the status quo.  But the current state of affairs cannot last much longer.  Germany is getting sick and tired of giving out bailouts and nations such as Greece are getting sick and tired of the austerity measures that are being forced upon them.

At some point, something is going to snap.  When that happens, world financial markets are going to respond with a mixture of panic and fear.  Credit markets will freeze up because nobody will be able to tell who is stable and who is about to collapse.  Dominoes will start to fall and quite a few major financial institutions will be wiped out.  Governments around the world will have to figure out who they want to bail out and who they don’t want to bail out.

It will be a giant mess.

For decades, the governments of the western world have been warned that they were getting into way too much debt.

For decades, the major banks and the big financial institutions were warned that they were becoming way too leveraged and were taking far too many risks.

Well, nobody listened.

So now we get to watch a global financial nightmare play out in slow motion.

Grab some popcorn and get ready.  It is going to be quite a show.

Is The End Of The Euro In Sight?

The future of the euro is hanging by a thread at the moment.  The massive debt problems of nations such as Greece, Italy and Portugal are dragging down the rest of the Europe, and the political will in northern Europe to continue to bail out these debt-ridden countries is rapidly failing.  Could the end of the euro actually be in sight?  The euro was really a very interesting experiment.  Never before had we seen a situation where monetary union was tried without political and fiscal union along with it on such a large scale.  The euro worked fairly well for a while as long as everyone was paying their debts.  But now Greece has collapsed financially, and several other countries in the eurozone (including Italy) are on the way.  Right now the only thing holding back a complete financial disaster in Europe are the massive bailouts that the wealthier nations such as Germany have been financing.  But now a wave of anti-bailout sentiment is sweeping Germany and the future of any European bailouts is in doubt.  So what does that mean for the euro?  It appears that there are two choices.  Either we will see much deeper fiscal and political integration in Europe (which does not seem likely at this point), or we will see the end of the euro.

That status quo cannot last much longer.  The citizens of wealthy nations such as Germany are becoming very resentful that gigantic piles of their money are being poured into financial black holes such as Greece.  In fact, it is rapidly getting to the point where we could actually see rioting in the streets of German cities over all of this.

All of this instability is creating a tremendous amount of fear in world financial markets.  Nobody is sure if Greece is going to default or not.

Without more bailout money, Greece will most certainly default.  If anyone does not think that one domino cannot set off a massive chain reaction, just remember what happened back in 2008.

Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers set off a chain reaction that was felt in every corner of the globe.  All of a sudden credit markets froze up because nobody was sure who had significant exposure to bad mortgages.

Today, the entire world financial system runs on debt, so when there is a credit crunch it can have absolutely devastating economic consequences.  The financial crisis of 2008 helped plunge the world into the greatest recession that the globe had seen since the 1930s.

In the old days, nations such as Greece that got into too much debt would just fire up the printing presses and cover over their problems with devalued currency.

Well, those nations that are using the euro simply cannot do that.  The government of Greece cannot simply zap a whole bunch of euros into existence in order to solve their problems.

Right now, major European banks are holding massive amounts of debt from various European governments on their balance sheets.  Most of these European banks are also very highly leveraged.  Even a moderate drop in the value of those debt holdings could wipe out a number of these banks.

The head of the IMF, Christine Lagarde, recently told Der Spiegel the following….

“There has been a clear crisis of confidence that has seriously aggravated the situation. Measures need to be taken to ensure that this vicious circle is broken”

Unfortunately, what Lagarde said was right.  You see, the financial system in Europe is a “confidence game” and a “crisis of confidence” is all that it would take to bring it down because it does not have a solid foundation.

Just like the U.S. financial system, the financial system in Europe is a mountain of debt, leverage and risk.  If the winds start blowing the wrong direction, the entire thing could very easily come tumbling down.

Over the past couple of weeks, the outlook in Europe has become decidedly negative.  For example, one senior IMF economist is now actually projecting that Greece will experience a “hard default” at some point in the coming months….

I expect a hard default definitely before March, maybe this year

If Greece defaults, that would mean that the bailouts have failed.  That would also mean that several other nations in Europe would be in danger of defaulting soon as well.

The consequences of a wave of defaults in Europe would be absolutely staggering.  As mentioned above, major banks in Europe are deeply exposed to sovereign debt.

Regarding this issue, Deutsche Bank Chief Executive Josef Ackermann recently made the following stunning admission….

“It’s stating the obvious that many European banks would not survive having to revalue sovereign debt held on the banking book at market levels.”

Yes, you read that correctly.

There are quite a few major European banks that are in imminent danger of collapse.

Even though there hasn’t been any sovereign defaults yet, we are already starting to see massive financial devastation in Europe.  Just check out some of the financial carnage from Monday….

*The stock market in Germany was down more than 5%.

*The stock markets in France and Italy were down more than 4%.

*Royal Bank of Scotland was down more than 12%.

*Deutsche Bank was down more than 6%.

*Societe Generale was down more than 8%.

*Italy’s UniCredit was down more than 7%.

*Barclays was down more than 6%

*Credit Suisse was down more than 4%.

*The yield on 2 year Greek bonds was up to 50.38%.

*The yield on 1 year Greek bonds was up to 82.14%.  A year ago it was under 10%.

Just like in 2008, banking stocks are leading the decline.  We have another major financial crisis on our hands and there is no solution in sight.

As the financial world becomes increasingly unstable, investors are flocking to gold.  In case you have not noticed, gold is up over $1900 an ounce again.

So what comes next?

Well, on Wednesday Germany’s constitutional court is scheduled to announce its verdict on the legality of the latest bailout package for Greece.  The court is expected to rule that the bailout package is legal, but if they don’t that would be really bad news for the euro.

However, whatever the court rules, the reality is that the turbulent political atmosphere inside Germany is probably a much bigger issue as far as the future of the euro is concerned.

Right now, Germans are overwhelmingly opposed to more bailouts.  German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s political party just suffered a resounding defeat in local elections in Germany, and many within her own coalition are withdrawing support for any more bailouts.

This is going to make it very difficult to save the euro.  At this point, Germans have very little faith in the currency.

Just check out what Bob Chapman of the International Forecaster recently wrote about the current atmosphere in Germany….

76% of Germans say they have little or no faith in the euro, up from 71% two months ago. This is what we have been stating for ten years. Long-term 69% to 71% have never wanted the euro. The poll is not at all surprising. The Germany people are saying we have put up with the euro and euro zone for long enough – we want out now.

Germans are also very much against even deeper European economic integration.  For example, recent polling found that German voters are against the introduction of “Eurobonds” by about a 5 to 1 margin.

But Germans are not the only ones that are tired of the euro.  The countries of southern Europe have come to view the euro as a “straightjacket” that keeps them from having the financial flexibility that they need to deal with their debts.

Many people living in southern Europe consider the euro to be a financial instrument that allows nations such as Germany to have way too much power over them.  Just check out what Professor Giacomo Vaciago of Milan’s Catholic University recently had to say….

“It’s clear that the euro has virtually failed over the last ten years, even if you are not supposed to say that. We pretended to be Germans, but it was an illusion”

But if the bailouts fall apart and the euro collapses, we are going to see nations such as Greece fall into total financial collapse.

Just how desperate have things become in Greece?  Just consider the following excerpt from a recent article by Puru Saxena….

In Greece, government debt now represents almost 160% of GDP and the average yield on Greek debt is around 15%. Thus, if Greece’s debt is rolled over without restructuring, its interest costs alone will amount to approximately 24% of GDP. In other words, if debt pardoning does not occur, nearly a quarter of Greece’s economic output will be gobbled up by interest repayments!

Without help, there is no way that Greece is going to be able to avoid a default.

Sadly, Greece is far from the only major financial problem in Europe.  Portugal, Ireland and Italy also have debt to GDP ratios that are well above 100%.

As mentioned earlier, this is a massive problem for the financial system of Europe, because nearly all of the major European banks are leveraged to the hilt and they are massively exposed to government debt.

If you don’t think that this is a problem, just remember what happened back in 2008.

Back then, Lehman Brothers was leveraged 31 to 1.  When things turned bad, Lehman was wiped out very rapidly.

Today, major German banks are leveraged 32 to 1, and those banks are currently holding a massive amount of European sovereign debt.

Overall, the entire global banking system has a total of 2 trillion dollars of exposure to Greek, Irish, Portuguese, Spanish and Italian debt.

If European countries start defaulting, the dominoes are going to start falling and things will get really messy really quickly.

There are two things that could keep defaults from happening.

Number one, Germany and the other wealthy nations in the eurozone could just suck it up and decide to pour endless bailouts into nations such as Greece and Italy.

Number two, the nations of the eurozone could opt for much deeper economic and political integration.  That would mean a massive loss of sovereignty, but it would save the euro, at least for a little while.

Right now, the political will for either of those two choices is simply not there.  That does not mean that the political elite of Europe will not try to ram through some sort of a plan, but the reality is that Germans are already so upset about what has been going on that they are about ready to riot in the streets.

Yes, the end of the euro is a real possibility.

If the euro does collapse, it would likely cause a financial panic that would make 2008 look like a Sunday picnic.

So what do all of you think about the future of the euro?  Please feel free to leave a comment with your thoughts below….

 

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