Has The Financial Collapse Of Europe Now Become Inevitable?

What in the world is happening over in Europe?  Well, it is actually quite simple.  We are witnessing the slow motion collapse of the euro and of the European financial system.  At this point, many analysts are convinced that a full-blown financial implosion in Europe has become inevitable.  Ireland, Spain, Portugal, Italy, France and Belgium are all drowning in an ocean of unsustainable debt.  Meanwhile, Germany and the few other “healthy” members of the EU continue to try to keep all of the balls in the air by bailing everyone out.  But can Germany keep bailing the rest of the EU out indefinitely?  Are the German people going to continue to be willing to hand out gigantic sacks of cash to fix the problems of other EU nations?  The Irish were just bailed out, but their problems are far from over.  There are rumors that Greece will soon need another bailout.  Spain, Portugal, Italy and France have all entered crisis territory.  At the same time, there are a whole host of nations in eastern Europe that are also on the verge of financial collapse.  So is there any hope that a major sovereign debt crisis can be averted at this point?

One would like to think that there is always hope, but each month things just seem to keep getting worse.  Confidence in European government debt continues to plummet.  The yield on 10-year Irish bonds is up to 8.97%.  The yield on 10-year Greek bonds is up to an astounding 12.01%.  The cost of insuring French debt hit a new record high on December 20th.

Bond ratings all over Europe are being slashed or are being threatened with being slashed.  For example, Moody’s Investors Service recently cut Ireland’s bond rating by five levels.  Now there is talk that Spain, Belgium and even France could soon all have their debt significantly downgraded as well.

But if the borrowing costs for these troubled nations keep going up, that is just going to add to their financial problems and swell their budget deficits.  In turn, larger budget deficits will cause investors to lose even more confidence.

So how far are we away from a major crisis point?

Professor Willem Buiter, the chief economist at Citibank, is warning that quite a few EU nations could financially collapse in the next few months if they are not quickly bailed out….

“The market is not going to wait until March for the EU authorities to get their act together. We could have several sovereign states and banks going under. They are being far too casual.”

Many analysts are even calling for some of these troubled nations to stop using the euro for a while so that they can recover.  In fact, Andrew Bosomworth, the head of portfolio management for Pimco in Europe says that Greece, Ireland and Portugal must all quit the euro at least for a little while if they expect to survive….

“Greece, Ireland and Portugal cannot get back on their feet without either their own currency or large transfer payments.”

Sadly, most Americans don’t realize just how bad the situation in Europe is becoming.  This is truly a historic crisis that is unfolding.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel declared earlier this year that this is the biggest financial crisis that the EU has ever faced….

“The current crisis facing the euro is the biggest test Europe has faced for decades, even since the Treaty of Rome was signed in 1957.”

So what is the answer?

Well, many are speculating that the EU could actually break up over this whole thing, but another possibility is that we could eventually see much greater integration.

In fact, for the first time the idea that “euro bonds” could be issued is gaining some traction.  This would spread the risk of European government debt throughout the European Union.  At this point, Andrew Bosomworth says that things have gotten so bad that it now seems inevitable that we will soon see the creation of euro bonds….

“Whether now or later, there is no way around a euro bond.”

So just how bad are things going to get in Europe? Well, earlier this year Anthony Fry, the senior managing director at Evercore Partners had the following to say about the emerging bond crisis in Europe….

“I don’t want to scare anyone but I am considering investing in barbed wire and guns, things are not looking good and rates are heading higher.”

So why should Americans care about all this?

Well, what is happening to these troubled European states is eventually going to happen to us.

If rates on U.S. government debt eventually hit 8 or 12 percent it will literally be financial armageddon in this country.  The U.S. government has piled up the biggest mountain of debt in the history of the world, and if we continue piling up debt at the pace that we are, then it will only be a matter of time before the IMF is demanding that we implement our own “austerity measures”.

As I have written about previously, there are already numerous indications that confidence in U.S. Treasuries is dying.  If that happens, we could literally see interest costs on the national debt double or even triple.

But it is not just the U.S. government that is in trouble.  A bloodbath in the municipal bond market has already started.  Hundreds of state and local governments across the United States are on the verge of bankruptcy.

So don’t laugh at what is going on in Ireland or Greece.  The next victims could be financially troubled states such as California and Illinois.

In the history of global finance, we have never faced a sovereign debt crisis like we are seeing now.  All over the globe governments are being suffocated by absolutely crushing debt loads.  Once a couple of dominoes fall, it is going to be really hard to keep the rest of the dominoes from falling.

This is the biggest crisis that the euro has ever faced.  At some point Germany will either be unwilling or unable to continuing rescuing the rest of the EU countries from the unsustainable mountains of debt that they have accumulated.  When that moment arrives, it is going to throw world financial markets into turmoil.

But this is what happens when we allow long-term debt bubbles to be created.  Eventually they always burst.

So keep your eye on the euro, because if a financial collapse does happen in Europe it is going to have a dramatic impact on the United States as well.

Could The Financial Crisis Erupting In Ireland, Portugal, Greece And Spain Lead To The End Of The Euro And The Break Up Of The European Union?

The Irish banking system is melting down right in front of our eyes.  Ireland, Portugal, Greece and Spain are all drowning in debt.  It is becoming extremely expensive for all of those nations to issue new debt.  Officials all over Europe are begging Ireland to accept a bailout.  Portugal has already indicated that they will probably be next in line.  Most economists are now acknowledging that without a new round of bailouts the dominoes could start to fall and we could see a wave of debt defaults by European governments.  All of this is pushing the monetary union in Europe to its limits.  In fact, some of Europe’s top politicians are now publicly warning that this crisis may not only mean the end of the euro, but also the end of the European Union itself.

Yes, things really are that serious in Europe right now.  In order for the euro and the European Union to hold together, two things have got to happen.  Number one, Germany and the other European nations that are in good financial condition have got to agree to keep bailing out nations such as Ireland, Portugal and Greece that are complete economic basket cases.  Number two, the European nations receiving these bailouts have got to convince their citizens to comply with the very harsh austerity measures being imposed upon them by the EU and the IMF.

Those two things should not be taken for granted.  In Germany, many taxpayers are already sick and tired of pouring hundreds of billions of euros into a black hole.  The truth is that the Germans are not going to accept carrying weak sisters like Greece and Portugal on their backs indefinitely.

In addition, we have already seen the kinds of riots that have erupted in Greece over the austerity measures being implemented there.  If there is an overwhelming backlash against austerity in some parts of Europe will some nations actually attempt to leave the EU?

Right now the focus is on Ireland.  The Irish banking system is a basket case at the moment and the Irish government is drowning in red ink.  European Union officials are urging Ireland to request a bailout, but so far Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen is not taking the bait.  The Irish government does not seem too keen on having even more austerity measures imposed upon it by the EU and the IMF.

According to Nadeem Walayat, the harsh austerity measures that Ireland has endured during this past year have only made Ireland’s financial problems even worse….

The people of Ireland having endured over a year of austerity on the promise that it was all necessary to suffer pain today by cutting public spending so as to reduce the annual budget deficit to sustainable level for economic gains tomorrow. Instead the exact opposite is taking place as the Irish economy contracts due to economic austerity whilst its bankrupt banks are sending the countries debt and liabilities soaring, thus resulting in a far worse budgetary position than where Ireland was before the austerity measures were implemented as the bond markets are waking up to evitable debt default which is sending interest rates demanded to hold Irish debt soaring to new credit crisis highs.

But the big Irish banks are bleeding cash fast.  For example, the Bank of Ireland recently reported “a 10 billion euro outflow of deposits from early August until the end of September.”  Irish banks and the Irish government need help whether they are willing to admit it or not.

But Ireland is not the only one in trouble.  Portugal became the latest European nation to push the panic button when Portuguese Finance Minister Fernando Teixeira dos Santos announced that his country was in such bad financial shape that it might have to seek a bailout package.

Things are so bleak in Portugal right now that Foreign Affairs Minister Luis Amado says that his nation “faces a scenario of exit from the euro zone” if a solution is not found for this financial mess.

On top of all this, word is coming out that Greece is in even worse financial condition than initially believed.  The statistics agency for the EU, Eurostat, revealed on Tuesday that Greece’s deficit for 2009 was actually 15.4% of GDP rather than 13.6% of GDP as originally thought.

The Greek national debt is now well over 120 percent of GDP.  It seems inevitable at this point that Greece will need more bailouts if they are to remain part of the EU.

Spain is also starting to feel the heat.  Spain’s short-term debt financing costs jumped sharply on Tuesday, and officials in Spain are begging the Irish government to accept the bailout they are being offered so that the “contagion” does not spread.

But could a few mid-size countries in Europe really cause the next great global financial crisis?

Yes.

In the UK, veteran Conservative MP Peter Tapsell is warning that a total collapse in Ireland “could pose as great a threat to the world economy as did Lehman Brothers, AIG and Goldman Sachs in September 2008”.

Already we are seeing world financial markets getting rattled by all this news.

Fears regarding what is happening in Ireland, Greece, Spain and Portugal helped push the Dow Jones industrial average down nearly 200 points on Tuesday.

But the real story is that this financial crisis in Europe could potentially cause the break up of the euro and of the European Union.

The truth is that the euro and the European Union are inseparably linked at this point.  In fact, EU President Herman Van Rompuy is warning that if some of the weaker countries in Europe are forced to abandon the euro it will likely cause the total destruction of the European Union….

“We’re in a survival crisis. We all have to work together in order to survive with the euro zone, because if we don’t survive with the euro zone we will not survive with the European Union.”

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is also warning that a failure of the euro could bring down the entire European Union….

“If the euro fails, then Europe fails.”

But officials in Europe are not going to let the dream of a united Europe slip away easily.  Right now they are working really hard to keep Europe together, and that means some “tough love” has to be imposed on the “weak sisters”.  As these weaker European economies collapse, they are being forced to accept harsh EU mandates in exchange for bailouts.  As Ambrose Evans Pritchard recently pointed out, “forced austerity” is quite similar to serfdom….

Greece is now under an EU protectorate, or the “Memorandum” as they call it. This has prompted pin-prick terrorist attacks against anybody associated with EU rule. Ireland and Portugal are further behind on this road to serfdom, but they are already facing policy dictates from Brussels, but will soon be under formal protectorates as well in any case. Spain has more or less been forced to cut public wages by 5pc to comply with EU demands made in May. All are having to knuckle down to Europe’s agenda of austerity, without the offsetting relief of devaluation and looser monetary policy.

In the end, Europe is going to move in one of two directions.  Either this financial crisis will finally be the thing that breaks up the euro and the European Union, or it will result in a Europe that is ruled even more strongly by EU bureaucrats.

As this crisis unfolds over the next couple of years, the EU is going to try to grab more power and more control.  They are going to ask national governments to give up substantial amounts of power and sovereignty in exchange for bailouts.  So far it is working.

But at some point will one nation say that enough is enough?

Perhaps that one nation could be Ireland.  The citizens of Ireland actually voted “no” on the EU Constitution, but then the EU forced them to vote a second time so that they could “get it right”.

Wouldn’t it be ironic if it is Ireland that ends up lighting the fuse that breaks up the euro and the European Union?  The Irish are a fiercely independent people, and they have a history of resisting tyranny.

In any event, this is going to be an extremely interesting winter across the EU.  If things go badly, the entire global financial system could be plunged into mayhem.  Let us hope that does not happen.

The Chair Of The European Commission Calls For A European Economic Government

The recent economic collapse in Greece has caused a significant weakening of the Euro and has created a measure of financial panic all over Europe.  So what solutions are being put forward by the governments of Europe?  More centralization, more globalization and more power for the EU.  For example, the German and French finance ministers have formulated a draft plan that would significantly strengthen “financial policy cooperation” within the EU.  In essence, the plan would create the framework for a “European economic government” that would have substantial power over the economic decisions of member nations.  But if Brussles continues to swallow more and more economic power, where does that do to the governments of individual member nations?

The chair of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, who received the new proposal from German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble and French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde is quoted as saying that some form of “European economic government” is needed to ensure that a crisis such as the one that has happened in Greece does not happen in the future….

“We need a European economic government in the sense of strengthened coordination of economic policy within the euro zone.”

It certainly seems as though almost every issue that comes up in Europe these days is an excuse for the EU to grab even more authority.  Is Brussels destined to become a blackhole that ultimately sucks in all power and authority in Europe whether anyone likes it or not?

Not that this kind of thing isn’t happening on a global level as well.

These days the IMF is constantly pushing for more power and authority over world financial affairs.

In fact, IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn said on Friday that the International Monetary Fund wants new authority to supervise the global financial system.  In addition, Strauss-Kahn has been openly advocating the creation of a global reserve currency that would compete with (and ultimately replace) the U.S. dollar in global trade.

So is all of this centralization and globalization a good thing?  Is it right that the economic decisions for the planet are increasingly being made by a handful of very powerful men that we never even elected?

If we continue to hand authority to unelected bodies outside of our home countries, what will that do to our own political power?  If we do not even have the power to vote out those who are controlling our economic destinies, then how could we ever possibly hope to change things?

Those are some very important questions.  But the truth is that the powers that be are going to continue to push globalization and centralization on all of us.  It is up to you and I to tell them what we think about it.