The Air Has Been Let Out Of The Balloon

Do you hear that sound?  It is the sound of Europe being hit with a cold dose of financial reality.  The air has been let out of the balloon, and investors all over the world are realizing that absolutely nothing has been solved in Europe.  The solutions being proposed by the politicians in Europe are just going to make things worse.  You don’t solve a sovereign debt crisis by shredding confidence in sovereign debt.  But that is exactly what the “voluntary 50% haircut” has done.  You don’t solve a sovereign debt crisis by pumping up your “bailout fund” with borrowed money from China, Russia and Brazil.  More debt is just going to make things even worse down the road.  You don’t solve a sovereign debt crisis by causing a massive credit crunch.  By giving European banks only until June 2012 to dramatically improve their credit ratios, it is going to force many of them to seriously cut back on lending.  A massive credit crunch would significantly slow down economic activity in Europe and that is about the last thing that the Europeans need right now.  If the deal that was reached last week was the “best shot” that Europe has got, then we are all in for a world of hurt.

On Monday, investors all over the globe began to understand the situation that we are now facing.  The Dow was down 276 points, and the euphoria of late last week had almost entirely dissipated.

But much more important is what is happening to European bonds.

Investors are reacting very negatively to the European debt deal by demanding higher returns on bonds.

Perhaps the most important financial number in the world right now is the yield on 10 year Italian bonds.

The yield on 10 year Italian bonds is up over 6 percent, and the 6 percent mark is a key psychological barrier.  If it stays above this mark or goes even higher, that is going to mean big trouble for Italy.

The Italian government just can’t afford for debt to be this expensive.  The higher the yield on 10 year bonds goes, the worse things are going to be for Italy financially.

Of course it was completely and totally predictable that this would happen as a result of the “voluntary 50% haircut” that is being forced on private Greek bondholders, but the politicians over in Europe decided to go this route anyway.

Major Italian banks also got hammered on Monday.  The following is how a CNN article described the carnage….

Shares of UniCredit, the largest bank in Italy, sunk more than 4% on Friday in Milan and were down nearly another 6% Monday. Intesa, the second-largest Italian bank, slipped 7% Monday, while Mediobanca, Italy’s third-largest financial institution, fell about 4%.

The financial world can handle a financial collapse in Greece.  But a financial collapse in Italy would essentially be the equivalent of financial armageddon for Europe.

That is why Italy is so vitally important.

Another EU nation to watch closely is Portugal.

The yield on 2 year Portuguese bonds is now over 18 percent.  A year ago, the yield on those bonds was about 4 percent.

In many ways, Portugal is in even worse shape than Greece.

A recent article by Ambrose Evans-Pritchard discussed the debt problems that Portugal is faced with.  The following statistic was quite eye-opening for me….

Portugal’s public and private debt will reach 360pc of GDP by next year, far higher than in Greece.

Like Greece, Portugal is essentially insolvent at this point.  Their current financial situation is unsustainable and politicians in Portugal are already suggesting that they should be able to get a “sweet deal” similar to what Greece just got.

You see, the truth is that what this Greek debt deal has done is that it has opened up Pandora’s Box.  Most of the financially troubled nations in Europe are eventually going to want a “deal”, and this uncertainty is going to drive investors crazy.

There is very little positive that can be said about this debt deal.  It has bought Europe a few months perhaps, but that is about it.

As the new week dawned, financial professionals all over the globe were harshly criticizing this deal….

*The CEO of TrimTabs Investment Research, Charles Biderman, says that the big problem with this deal is that the fundamental issues have not been addressed….

“The euphoria about the latest euro zone bailout will fade quickly, as investors realize that the underlying solvency issues have not been addressed”

*Bob Janjuah of Nomura Securities International in London was even harsher….

“This latest round of euro zone shock and awe is, in my view, nothing more than a confidence trick and has possibly even set up an even worse financial outcome.”

In fact, Janjuah says that the debt deal is essentially a “Ponzi scheme”….

This latest bailout relies on the market not calling what I see is a huge “bluff”, because if the market does call it, the bailout simply won’t be credible or even deliverable. It is instead akin to a self-referencing ponzi scheme, and I can’t believe eurozone policymakers have even considered going down this route. After all, we all have recent experience of how such ponzi schemes end, and we all remember how eurozone officials often belittled and berated US policymakers for their role in the US housing/CDO/SIV financial bubble.

*The chief economist at High Frequency Economics, Carl Weinberg, is calling the European debt deal a scheme “of Madoffian proportions“….

“Now they (EU Leaders) are keen to tap into resources that are not their own to fund this crazy scheme of guarantees, leveraged off guarantees to sell bonds and bank shares that no one may want to buy, (in order) to restore value in the banking system destroyed by other bonds that no one wants to own right now. This is a construct of Madoffian proportions”

Even George Soros is criticizing the deal.  George Soros is saying that this European debt deal will help stabilize things for a maximum of three months.

Of course with Soros there is always an agenda and you never know what his motives are.  Perhaps he is honestly concerned about the financial health of Europe, or perhaps he is trying to feed the panic to get Europe to crash even faster.  With Soros you never really know what he is up to.

In any event, the crisis in Europe is already claiming financial casualties in the United States.

MF Global, a securities firm headed up by former New Jersey governor Jon Corzine, has filed for bankruptcy protection.

As a recent CNBC article noted, the firm failed because of bad debts on European sovereign debt….

The bankruptcy protection filing from MF Global — a mid-sized trading firm run by former New Jersey Gov. and Goldman Sachs CEO Jon Corzine — only helped amplify the realization that more difficulties remain. MF Global got into trouble mainly because Corzine made tragically wrong bets on European sovereigns that unraveled when it became clear that bondholders of Greek debt will not be made whole as the nation tries to make its way out of its fiscal morass.

As time goes on, there will be more financial casualties.  The truth is that someone is going to pay the price for the financial foolishness of these countries in Europe.

Politicians in Europe did not want to increase the “bailout fund” with any of their own money, so they are going to go crawling to China, Russia and Brazil and beg those countries to lend them huge amounts of money.

This is incredibly foolish, and it is already fairly clear that China is going to play hardball with Europe.  China has Europe exactly where China wants them, and China will likely demand all sorts of crazy things before they will lend Europe any cash for this bailout fund.

As a recent CNN article noted, Europe is going to be in a lot of trouble if they can’t get money out of China, Russia and Brazil….

The hope is that China and other sovereign wealth fund will invest in new special vehicles that will allow the EFSF to add leverage to increase the amount of funding available.

Without the help of China, Brazil, Russia and others, Europe is back where it started. And it still seems clear that the stronger northern European nations aren’t keen on the idea of a full bailout of their southern siblings.

What a mess.

It is a comedy of errors for the politicians over in Europe.  They can’t seem to get anything right.  In fact, everything that they do seems to make a financial collapse in Europe even more likely.

Keep a close eye on the bond yields over in Europe.  Especially keep a close eye on the yield on 10 year Italian bonds.

A massive financial storm is coming to Europe.

It is going to rock the entire globe.

Now is the time to make certain that your financial house is not built on a foundation of sand.  Get your assets into safe places and keep them safe because the road ahead is going to be quite rocky.

Celebrating Independence Yet Enslaved To Debt

Every year when July 4th rolls around, Americans from coast to coast celebrate July 4th with cookouts, outdoor concerts and fireworks.  We love celebrating Independence Day and yet we are deeply enslaved to debt.  We like to think of ourselves as “free” and yet we have rolled up the biggest pile of debt the world has ever seen.  The people that we have borrowed all of this money from expect to be paid.  Sadly, instead of addressing the problem, we have been loading more debt on to the backs of future generations with each passing year.  What we are doing to our kids and our grandkids is so immoral that is almost defies description.  At the heart of this debt-based system stands the Federal Reserve.  It is a perpetual debt machine that was designed to trap the U.S. government in a spiral of debt permanently.  Today, the U.S. national debt is 4700 times larger than it was when the Federal Reserve was created back in 1913.  This year alone, we will add more to the national debt than we did from the presidency of George Washington to the beginning of the presidency of Ronald Reagan.  So yes, enjoy the hotdogs and the fireworks, but also remember that we will never be free as long as this constantly expanding debt problem is hanging over our heads.

If you know anyone that does not take our national debt problem seriously, please share with them the video posted below.  It is entitled “Economic Armageddon and You” and it is definitely worth the 5 minutes that it takes to watch it.  Someone out there did a really great job of explaining our debt problem in a way that almost anyone can understand….

So is there any solution to this problem?

Not under the current system.

The debt-based Federal Reserve system is designed to expand U.S. government debt indefinitely.  But of course all debt bubbles burst eventually and we are rapidly reaching that point.

It is being projected that the U.S. national debt will hit 344% of GDP by the year 2050 if we continue on our current course.  The truth is that it would never get even close to that high because the whole system would completely collapse long before then.

So what should we do?

We need to abandon our current debt-based financial system.  The way that our current system normally works, whenever more money is created more debt is also created.  Such a system is inevitably doomed to fail.

We need to transition to an entirely new system that has nothing to do with the Federal Reserve or Federal Reserve notes.  We need an entirely new system where the money is not based on debt.

But even though more Americans than ever are awake to the flaws in our monetary system, the truth is that neither major political party is remotely ready to even consider an end to the current financial system.

Many Republicans believe that if we can just cut government spending enough we can solve the problem.  Many Democrats believe that if we can just “raise enough revenue” we can solve the problem.

Neither of those solutions will work.

Many conservatives are so frustrated with the whole thing that they just want Congress to refuse to raise the debt ceiling.  I have taken a lot of heat over the past couple of days for suggesting that this is a bad idea.

If we refuse to raise the debt ceiling, our borrowing costs will absolutely explode.  Even if the U.S. government adopted a “balanced budget” by some miracle, the reality is that the federal government would still need to “roll over” very large amounts of debt every single year.  If interest rates on U.S. debt rise substantially it will be beyond catastrophic.

In 2010, the U.S. government paid $413 billion in interest on the national debt.

If interest rates were to start rising as a result of a debt default, interest on the national debt would likely double or even triple.

Look, if we want to come anywhere close to balancing the budget under our current system, it will be a whole lot easier to do if we are spending 400 billion dollars on interest on the national debt rather than 1.2 trillion dollars.

Today, the U.S. government only takes in about 2.2 trillion dollars in taxes.  How in the world are we going to have a chance if we have to pay out a trillion dollars just in interest on the national debt?

The yield on 10-year U.S. Treasuries rose from 2.86% to 3.18% just this past week.  Let us hope that this is not the beginning of a bad trend.

A refusal to raise the debt ceiling would also likely set off another recession (or worse).  The following is what a new article on CNBC says would happen if the U.S. does not raise the debt ceiling by August 2nd….

A U.S. default would not only be historic, it would also almost certainly lead to a new financial crisis. Interest rates would likely spike, equity markets would plunge along with the value of the dollar, and the country could fall back into a recession.

We have to raise the debt ceiling.

So does this mean that I am advocating “kicking the can down the road”?

No.

If you are a conservative, you can still get the same result that you want without destroying the credit rating of the United States.

All the Republicans in Congress have to do is to pledge that they will never pass anything but a balanced budget for 2012 or for any year beyond that.  Without the permission of the House of Representatives, Barack Obama and the Democrats cannot continue their deficit spending.  The sad truth is that the Republicans have been enabling and actively participating in this debt binge all along.

A balanced budget would definitely hurt the economy, but at least it would not wreck our credit rating and cause our borrowing costs to multiply.

But is that what the Republicans are shooting for?

No.

It is being reported that the Republicans and the Democrats have tentatively agreed to between $1 trillion and $2 trillion in budget cuts over the next 10 years.

So that comes to $200 billion in spending cuts a year at most.

Considering the fact that we are running budget deficits of about a trillion and a half dollars a year, that is not nearly enough.

So don’t accuse me of wanting to kick the can down the road.  I want to actually do something substantial about the national debt.  I just don’t think it is a good idea to trash our credit rating in the process.

It is the Republicans and the Democrats in Congress that are kicking the can down the road.

Trillion dollar deficits are not acceptable.  Our nation is on the road to financial ruin.

But it is not just the federal government that is in massive financial trouble.

The reality is that we have “government debt problems” from coast to coast.

Did you hear that the government of Minnesota shut down the other day?

As the financial health of almost every single state government continues to decline, this type of thing is going to become more common.

In the state of Illinois things are so bad that some income tax refunds have not been paid since 2009.  The following is a brief excerpt from an article on the Economic Policy Journal blog….

I repeat, this is no time to own state or municipal bonds. The desperation level at various states and municipalities is getting more and more intense.

With the start of a new budget year just two days away, thousands of Illinois businesses are still waiting for state income tax refunds dating back to 2009.

In a recent article entitled “Is The Economy Improving?“, I went into greater detail about the horrific financial crisis that Illinois is facing….

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Did you know that things have gotten so bad in Illinois at this point that the Illinois state government is letting bills go unpaid for long periods of time on a regular basis?

It’s true.

Right now they have billions in unpaid bills and they are facing a financial future that is so bleak that it is almost indescribable.

In one recent article, author Stephen Lendman described the horrific financial crisis that Illinois is facing right now….

With spending exceeding revenues, and obligations not postponed, unpaid bills are growing “at a frightening rate. For instance, IGPA’s Fiscal Futures Model indicates (they) could reach $40 billion by July 1, 2013, with an associated delay in paying those bills of more than five years.”

Besides its $13 billion deficit and $6 billion in unpaid bills, its pension fund is about $130 billion in the red – a red flag that state workers may lose out altogether, wiping out their promised retirement savings.

But it isn’t just the state government that is having problems.  According to Cook County Treasurer Maria Pappas, the average household in Chicago would owe a whopping $63,525 if all local government debt was divided up equally among all of the households.

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How can we claim that our country is free when we are enslaved to such horrible debt burdens?

The borrower is always a servant of the lender.  As a nation, we are becoming a little bit less independent every single day.

So enjoy celebrating Independence Day while you still can.

If we continue on the path that we are currently on, nobody is going to be celebrating much of anything in the future.

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