12 Very Ominous Warnings About What A U.S. Debt Default Would Mean For The Global Economy

Ominous Clouds - Photo posted on Instagram by annekejongA U.S. debt default that lasts for more than a couple of days could potentially cause a financial crash unlike anything that the world has ever seen before.  If the U.S. government purposely wanted to damage the global financial system, the best way that they could do that would be to default on U.S. debt obligations.  A U.S. debt default would cause stocks to crash, would cause bonds to crash, would cause interest rates to soar wildly out of control, would cause a massive credit crunch, and would cause a derivatives panic that would be absolutely unprecedented.  And that would just be for starters.  But don’t just take my word for it.  These are the things that top financial experts all over the planet are saying will happen if there is an extended U.S. debt default.

Because they are so close together, the “government shutdown” and the “debt ceiling deadline” are being confused by many Americans.

As I wrote about the other day, the “partial government shutdown” that we are experiencing right now is pretty much a non-event.  Yeah, some national parks are shut down and some federal workers will have their checks delayed, but it is not the end of the world.  In fact, only about 17 percent of the federal government is actually shut down at the moment.  This “shutdown” could continue for many more weeks and it would not affect the global economy too much.

On the other hand, if the debt ceiling deadline (approximately October 17th) passes without an agreement that would be extremely dangerous.

And if the U.S. government is eventually forced to start delaying interest payments on U.S. debt (which could potentially happen as soon as November), that would be absolutely catastrophic.

Once again, just don’t take my word for it.  The following are 12 very ominous warnings about what a U.S. debt default would mean for the global economy…

#1 Gerald Epstein, a professor of economics at the University of Massachusetts Amherst: “If the US does default, that will make the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy look like a cakewalk”

#2 Tim Bitsberger, a former Treasury official under President George W. Bush: “If we miss an interest payment, that would blow Lehman out of the water”

#3 Peter Tchir, founder of New York-based TF Market Advisors: “Once the system starts to break down related to settlement and payments, then liquidity disappears, as we saw after Lehman”

#4 Bill Isaac, chairman of Cincinnati-based Fifth Third Bancorp: “We can’t even imagine all the things that might happen, just like Henry Paulson couldn’t imagine all the bad things that might happen if he let Lehman go down”

#5 Jim Grant, founder of Grant’s Interest Rate Observer: “Financial markets are all confidence-based. If that confidence is shaken, you have disaster.”

#6 Richard Bove, VP of research at Rafferty Capital Markets: “If they seriously default on the debt, what we’re really talking about is a depression”

#7 Chinese vice finance minister Zhu Guangyao: “The U.S. is clearly aware of China’s concerns about the financial stalemate [in Washington] and China’s request for the US to ensure the safety of Chinese investments.”

#8 The U.S. Treasury Department: “A default would be unprecedented and has the potential to be catastrophic: credit markets could freeze, the value of the dollar could plummet, U.S. interest rates could skyrocket, the negative spillovers could reverberate around the world, and there might be a financial crisis and recession that could echo the events of 2008 or worse”

#9 Goldman Sachs: “We estimate that the fiscal pull-back would amount to 9pc of GDP. If this were allowed to occur, it could lead to a rapid downturn in economic activity if not reversed quickly”

#10 Simon Johnson, former chief economist for the IMF: “It would be insane to default, but it’s no longer a zero-percent probability”

#11 Warren Buffett about the potential of a debt default: “It should be like nuclear bombs, basically too horrible to use”

#12 Bloomberg: “Anyone who remembers the collapse of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. little more than five years ago knows what a global financial disaster is. A U.S. government default, just weeks away if Congress fails to raise the debt ceiling as it now threatens to do, will be an economic calamity like none the world has ever seen.”

A U.S. debt default could be the trigger for the “nightmare scenario” that so many people have been writing about in recent years.  In fact, it could greatly accelerate the timetable for the inevitable economic collapse that is coming.  A recent Yahoo article described some of the things that we would likely see in the event of an extended U.S. debt default…

A default would upend money markets, destroy bond funds, slam the brakes on lending, cause interest rates to spiral, make our banks insolvent, and deal a blow to our foreign trading partners and creditors around the globe; all of which would throw the U.S. and the world into economic disarray.

And of course stocks would crash big time.  Deutsche Bank’s David Bianco believes that if the U.S. government starts missing interest payments on U.S. Treasury bonds, we could see the S&P 500 go down to 850 by the end of the year.

There would be almost immediate panic among ordinary Americans as well.  In fact, it is being reported that some banks are already stuffing their ATM machines will extra cash just in case…

With just 10 days left to raise the debt ceiling and congressional Republicans threatening to force the government to default on its obligations, banks are taking some dramatic steps to prepare for the economic chaos that would result should the brinkmanship continue.

The Financial Times reports that one major U.S. bank has started stuffing its automatic teller machines with extra cash in preparation for a possible bank run from panicked depositors. The New York Times reports that another bank is weighing a plan to advance funds to customers who rely on Social Security and other government payments that could stop in the event of a default.

Let’s hope that cooler heads will prevail and that a U.S. debt default will be avoided.

Unfortunately, it appears that the Democrats are absolutely determined not to be moved from their current position a single inch.  They have decided to refuse to negotiate and demand that the Republicans give them every single thing that they want.

And who can really blame them for adopting that strategy?  After all, it has certainly worked in the past.  Whenever Democrats have stood united and have refused to give a single inch, the Republicans have always freaked out and caved in eventually.

Will this time be any different?

The funny thing is that once upon a time, Barack Obama was adamantly against any increase in the debt limit.  The following comes courtesy of Zero Hedge

Obama Debt Ceiling

But now Obama says that it is so unreasonable to be opposed to a debt limit increase that any negotiations are out of the question.

So which Obama is right?

If the Democrats will not negotiate, a debt default could still be avoided if the Republicans give in.

And that is what they always do, right?

Perhaps not this time.  Just check out what John Boehner had to say on Sunday

“I, working with my members, decided to do this in a unified way,” the speaker said — with demands to defund, delay or otherwise alter the Affordable Care Act.

Boehner had expected that the Obamacare fight would come during the next vote to raise the debt ceiling, “but, you know, working with my members, they decided, let’s do it now,” he said. “And the fact is, this fight was going to come, one way or another. We’re in the fight. We don’t want to shut the government down. We’ve passed bills to pay the troops. We passed bills to make sure the federal employees know that they’re going to be paid throughout this.”

“You’ve never seen a more dedicated group of people who are thoroughly concerned about the future of our country,” he said of House Republicans. “It is time for us to stand and fight.”

But will the Republicans really stand and fight?

In the past, betting on the intestinal fortitude of the Republican Party has been a loser every single time.

So we’ll see.  Boehner insists that this time is different.  Boehner insists that he is not going to fold like a 20 dollar suit this time.  In fact, when he was asked if the U.S. government was headed toward a debt default if Obama continued to refuse to negotiate, Boehner made the following statement

“That’s the path we’re on.”

The mainstream media has certainly been placing most of the blame at the feet of the Republicans, but at least the U.S. House of Representatives has been trying to get an agreement reached.  The House has voted 26 times since the Senate last voted.  Harry Reid has essentially shut the Senate down until the Republicans fold and give the Democrats exactly what they want.

The funny thing is that this could probably be solved very easily.  If the Democrats agreed to a one year delay to the individual mandate, the Republicans would probably jump at it.  And because of epic technical failures, hardly anyone has been able to get signed up for Obamacare anyway.  So a one year delay would give the Obama administration time to get their act together.

Unfortunately, the Democrats seem absolutely obsessed with the idea that they will not give the Republicans one single inch.  They seem to believe that this will be to their political benefit.

But this is a very dangerous game that they are playing.  The U.S. government must roll over 441 billion dollars of short-term debt between October 18th and November 15th.

If a debt ceiling increase is not in place by that time, it will send interest rates soaring.  Borrowing costs for state and local governments, corporations, and ordinary Americans will go through the roof and economic activity will be hit really hard.

And as detailed above, we could potentially be looking at a financial crash that would make 2008 look like a Sunday picnic.

So let us hope for a political solution soon.  That will at least kick the can down the road for a little bit longer.

If a debt default were to happen before the end of this year, that would bring a tremendous amount of future economic pain into the here and now, and the consequences would likely be far greater than any of us could possibly imagine.

8 Reasons Why The Greek Debt Deal May Not Stop A Chaotic Greek Debt Default

The global financial system is not a game of checkers.  It is a game of chess.  All over the world today, news headlines are proclaiming that this new Greek debt deal has completely eliminated the possibility of a chaotic Greek debt default.  Unfortunately, that is simply not the case.  Rather, the truth is that this new deal actually “sets the table” for a Greek debt default.  When I was studying and working in the legal arena, I learned that sometimes you make an agreement so that you can get the other side to break it.  That may sound very strange to the average person on the street, but this is how the game is played at the highest levels.  It is all about strategy.  And in this case, the new debt deal imposes such strict conditions on Greece that it is almost inevitable that Greece will fail to meet some of them.  When Greece does fail, Germany and the other northern European nations may try to claim that they “did everything that they could” but that Greece just did not “live up to its obligations”.  So does this mean that we will definitely see a chaotic Greek debt default?  No.  What this does mean is that the chess pieces are being moved into position for one.

The following are 8 reasons why the Greek debt deal may not stop a chaotic Greek debt default….

#1 Greece Is Being Set Up To Fail

The terms of this new debt deal impose some incredibly harsh austerity measures on Greece and from now on the Greek government will be subject to “permanent monitoring” by EU officials.

In other words, they will be under a microscope.

Any violation of the terms of the debt deal could be used as a pretext to bring down the hammer and cut off bailout funds.  Potentially, this could even happen just a few weeks from now.

It has become obvious that there are many politicians in Europe that would very much like to kick Greece out of the euro.  In a recent column, the International Business Editor of The Telegraph summed up the situation this way….

It is clear that Berlin, Helsinki, and the Hague have taken the decision to eject Greece from the euro whatever the country now does. Even if Greece complies to the letter with the impossible terms of the EU-IMF Troika, it will not make any difference. A fresh pretext will be found.

#2 The Next Greek Election Could Bring An End To The Bailout Deal Overnight

The next national Greek elections are scheduled for April.  Political parties opposed to the bailout have been surging in recent polls.  It is becoming increasingly likely that the next Greek government will abandon this new deal entirely.

The following is what hedge fund manager Dennis Gartman told CNBC about what is likely to happen after the next elections….

“A new government is going to come to power following elections that shall take place sometime this spring, and if anyone anywhere believes that the next Greek government shall do anything other than abrogate all the agreements made with the ‘troika,’ then we have a bridge we’d like to sell them at a very high price”

With each passing day anger and frustration inside Greece continue to rise, and those that are currently holding power in Greece are becoming very unpopular.

One current member of Greek Parliament recently talked about what he thinks will happen in the aftermath of the next election….

“If we achieve a Left-dominated government, we will politely tell the Troika to leave the country, and we may need to discuss an orderly return to the Drachma”

#3 This Bailout Deal Is Going To Make Economic Conditions In Greece Even Worse

In a previous article, I listed some of the new austerity measures that are being imposed on Greece by this new agreement….

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

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

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

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

The austerity measures that have already been implemented over the past few years have already pushed Greece into an economic depression.

These new austerity measures will deepen that depression.

At the moment, the Greek national debt is sitting at about 160 percent of GDP.

We are being told that these new austerity measures will reduce that ratio to 120 percent by 2020, but already there are many in the financial world that are calling such a goal “comical“.

Even with this new deal, the Greek national debt is still completely and total unsustainable.  A “confidential report” produced by analysts from the European Central Bank, the European Commission, and the International Monetary Fund says the following about what this new debt deal is likely to accomplish….

There are notable risks. Given the high prospective level and share of senior debt, the prospects for Greece to be able to return to the market in the years following the end of the new program are uncertain and require more analysis. Prolonged financial support on appropriate terms by the official sector may be necessary. Moreover, there is a fundamental tension between the program objectives of reducing debt and improving competitiveness, in that the internal devaluation needed to restore Greece competitiveness will inevitably lead to a higher debt to GDP ratio in the near term. In this context, a scenario of particular concern involves internal devaluation through deeper recession (due to continued delays with structural reforms and with fiscal policy and privatization implementation). This would result in a much higher debt trajectory, leaving debt as high as 160 percent of GDP in 2020. Given the risks, the Greek program may thus remain accident-prone, with questions about sustainability hanging over it.

The GDP of Greece fell by 6.8 percent during 2011.

2012 was already expected to be even worse, and all of these new austerity measures certainly are not going to help things.

And every time the Greek economy contracts that makes a chaotic debt default even more likely.

#4 The Greek Parliament Must Still Vote On This Bailout Deal

It is anticipated that the Greek Parliament will vote on this new agreement on Wednesday.

It is expected to pass.

But when it comes to Greece these days, there are no guarantees.

#5 The Greek Constitution Must Still Be Modified

Under the terms of this new agreement, Greece is being required to change its constitution.

The following is how an article in The Economist describes this requirement….

Over the next two months Greece has promised to adopt legislation “ensuring that priority is granted to debt-servicing payments”, with a view to enshrining this in the constitution “as soon as possible”. These arrangements may not amount to the budget  “commissar” once threatened by some creditors, but the effect may be pretty much the same.

So will this actually get done?

We will see.

Forcing a sovereign country to modify its constitution is a very serious thing.  If I was a Greek citizen, I would be highly insulted by this.

#6 Several European Parliaments Still Need To Approve This Deal

The German Parliament still must approve this new agreement.  This is also the case for the Netherlands and Finland as well.

Many politicians in all three nations have been highly critical of the Greek bailouts.

It is expected that all of these parliaments will approve this deal, but you just never know.

#7 Private Investors Still Have To Agree To This New Deal

Private investors are being asked to take a massive “haircut” on Greek debt.  The following is how the size of the “haircut” was described by a USA Today article….

Banks, pension funds and other private investors are being asked to forgive some €107 billion ($142 billion) of the total €206 billion ($273 billion) in devalued Greek government bonds they hold.

There is absolutely no guarantee that a solid majority of private investors will agree to this.

In the end, probably the only thing that is guaranteed is that litigation regarding this “haircut” is likely to stretch on for many years to come.

#8 The Global Financial Community Still Expects Greece To Default

Almost all of the analysts that were projecting a chaotic Greek debt default are still projecting one today.  Yes, many of them believe that “the can has been kicked down the road” for a few months, but most of them are still convinced that a default by Greece is inevitable.

The following comes from a Bloomberg article that was released after the Greek debt deal was announced….

“The danger of Greece saving itself into economic depression and having to default and exit the common currency zone remains substantial,” said Christian Schulz, an economist at Berenberg Bank in London. Jennifer McKeown of Capital Economics Ltd. repeated her forecast that Greece will quit the euro by the end of the year.

The odds that this agreement will survive for very long are not great.

It will be nearly impossible for Greece to meet all of the conditions being imposed upon it by this new deal.  All of the politicians in northern Europe that are just itching to cut off aid to Greece will soon have the excuse that they need for doing so.

And the Greek people could decide to bring all of this to an end very quickly.  If they elect a new government in April that does not support this bailout agreement, the game will be over.

So don’t be fooled by all the headlines.

A chaotic Greek debt default has not been averted.

The truth is that a chaotic Greek debt default is now closer than ever.

Be Honest – The European Debt Deal Was Really A Greek Debt Default

Once the euphoria of the initial announcement faded and as people have begun to closely examine the details of the European debt deal, they have started to realize that this “debt deal” is really just a “managed” Greek debt default.  Let’s be honest – this deal is not going to solve anything.  All it does is buy Greece a few months.  Meanwhile, it is going to make the financial collapse of other nations in Europe even more likely.  Anyone that believes that the financial situation in Europe is better now than it was last week simply does not understand what is going on.  Bond yields are going to go through the roof and investors are going to start to panic.  The European Central Bank is going to have an extremely difficult time trying to keep a lid on this thing.  Instead of being a solution, the European debt deal has brought us several steps closer to a complete financial meltdown in Europe.

The big message that Europe is sending to investors is that when individual nations get into debt trouble they will be allowed to default and investors will be forced to take huge haircuts.

As this reality starts to dawn on investors, they are going to start demanding much higher returns on European bonds.

In fact, we are already starting to see this happen.

The yield on two year Spanish bonds increased by more than 6 percent today.

The yield on two year Italian bonds increased by more than 7 percent today.

So what are nations such as Italy, Spain, Portugal and Ireland going to do when it costs them much more to borrow money?

The finances of those nations could go from bad to worse very, very quickly.

When that happens, who will be the next to come asking for a haircut?

After all, if Greece was able to get a 50% haircut out of private investors, then why shouldn’t Italy or Spain or Portugal ask for one as well?

According to Reuters, German Chancellor Angela Merkel is already trying to warn other members of the EU not to ask for a haircut….

Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Friday it was important to prevent others from seeking debt reductions after European Union leaders struck a deal with private banks to accept a nominal 50 percent cut on their Greek government debt holdings.

“In Europe it must be prevented that others come seeking a haircut,” she said.

But investors are not stupid.  Greece was allowed to default.  If Italy or Spain or Portugal gets into serious trouble it is likely that they will be allowed to default too.

Investors like to feel safe.  They want to feel as though their investments are secure.  This Greek debt deal is a huge red flag which signals to global financial markets that there is no longer safety in European bonds.

So what is coming next?

Hold on to your seatbelts, because things are about to get interesting.

Around the globe, a lot of analysts are realizing that this European debt deal was not good news at all.  The following is a sampling of comments from prominent voices in the financial community….

*Economist Sony Kapoor: “The fact that a deal has been agreed, any deal, impresses people. Until they start de-constructing it and parts start unravelling.”

*Economist Ken Rogoff: “It feels at its root to me like more of the same, where they’ve figured how to buy a couple of months”

*Neil MacKinnon of VTB Capital: “The best we can say is that the EU have engineered a temporary reprieve”

*Graham Summers of Phoenix Capital Research:

First off, let’s call this for what it is: a default on the part of Greece. Moreover it’s a default that isn’t big enough as a 50% haircut on private debt holders only lowers Greece’s total debt level by 22% or so.

Secondly, even after the haircut, Greece still has Debt to GDP levels north of 130%. And it’s expected to bring these levels to 120% by 2020.

And the IMF is giving Greece another $137 billion in loans.

So… Greece defaults… but gets $137 billion in new money (roughly what the default will wipe out) and is expected to still be insolvent in 2020.

*Max Keiser: “There will be another bailout required within six months – I guarantee it.”

The people that are really getting messed over by this deal are the private investors in Greek debt.  Not only are they being forced to take a brutal 50% haircut, they are also being told that their credit default swaps are not going to pay out since this is a “voluntary” haircut.

This is completely and totally ridiculous as an article posted on Finance Addict pointed out…

We now know that private holders of Greek bonds will be “invited” (seriously–this was the word used in the EU summit statement) to take a write-down of 50%–halving the face value of the estimated $224 billion in bonds that they hold. This will help bring the Greek debt-to-GDP ratio down from 186% in 2013 to 120% by 2020. The big question–apart from how many investors they will get to go along with this, given that they couldn’t reach their target of 90% investor participation when the write-down was only going to be 21%–is whether this will trigger a CDS pay-out.

That this is even up for discussion is mind-boggling. These credit default swaps are meant to be an insurance policy in case Greece doesn’t pay the agreed upon interest and return the full principal within the agreed timeframe. If they don’t pay out when bondholders are taking a 50% hit then what’s the point?

European politicians may believe that they have “solved” something, but the truth is that what they have really done is they have pulled the rug out from under the European financial system.

Faith in European debt is going to rapidly disappear and the euro is likely to fall like a rock in the months ahead.

The financial crisis in Europe is just getting started.  2012 looks like it is going to be an extremely painful year.

Let us hope for the best, but let us also prepare for the worst.

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