The Bank Runs In Greece Will Soon Be Followed By Bank Runs In Other European Nations

The bank runs that we are watching right now in Greece are shocking, but they are only just the beginning.  Since May 6th, nearly one billion dollars has been withdrawn from Greek banks.  For a small nation like Greece, that is an absolutely catastrophic number.  At this point, the entire Greek banking system is in danger of collapsing.  If you had money in a Greek bank, why wouldn’t you pull it out?  If Greece leaves the euro, all euros in Greek banks will likely be converted to drachmas, and the value of those drachmas will almost certainly decline dramatically.  In fact, it has been estimated that Greek citizens could see the value of their bank accounts decline by up to 50 percent if Greece leaves the euro.  So if you had money in a Greek bank, it would only make sense to withdraw it and move it to another country as quickly as possible.  And as the eurozone begins to unravel, this is a scenario that we are going to see play out in country after country.  As member nations leave the eurozone, you would be a fool to have your euros in Italian banks or Spanish banks when you could have them in German banks instead.  So the bank runs that are happening in Greece right now are only a preview of things to come.  Before this crisis is over we are going to see bank runs happening all over Europe.

If Greece leaves the euro, the consequences are likely to be quite messy.  Those that are promoting the idea that a “Grexit” can be done in an orderly fashion are not being particularly honest.  The following is from a recent article in the Independent….

“Whoever tells you a Greek exit would be no big deal is an idiot, lying or disingenuous,” said Sony Kapoor of the European think-tank Re-Define. Economists fear that a disorderly exit would prompt a huge run by investors on Spanish and Italian debt, forcing those countries to seek support from an EU bailout fund, which, with a capacity of just €500bn, is widely regarded as too small to cope with those pressures.

A Greek exit from the euro would not only result in a run on Spanish and Italian bonds, but it would also likely result in a run on Spanish and Italian banks.

If Greece is allowed to leave the euro, that will be a signal that other countries will eventually be allowed to leave as well.  Nobody in their right mind would want their euros stuck in Spanish or Italian banks if those countries end up converting back to national currencies.

Fear is a powerful motivator.  If Greece converts their euros back to drachmas, that will be a clear signal that all euros are not created equally.  The race to move money into German banks will accelerate dramatically.

And a Greek exit from the euro is looking more likely with each passing day.  Even the IMF is now admitting that it is a very real possibility….

Christine Lagarde, head of the IMF, warned she was “technically prepared for anything” and said the utmost effort must be made to ensure any Greek exit was orderly. The effect was likely to be “quite messy” with risks to growth, trade and financial markets. “It is something that would be extremely expensive and would pose great risks but it is part of options that we must technically consider,” she said.

Meanwhile, banks in other troubled European nations are already on shaky ground.  The Spanish banking system is an absolute disaster zone at this point and on Monday night Moody’s downgraded the credit ratings of 26 Italian banks.

The situation in Italy is especially worth keeping a close eye on.  As Ambrose Evans-Pritchard recently noted, things are not looking good for Italy at all….

Italy’s former premier Romano Prodi said the EU risks instant contagion to Spain, Italy, and France if Greece leaves. “The whole house of cards will come down”, he said

Angelo Drusiani from Banca Albertini said the only way to avert catstrophe is to convert the European Central Bank into a lender of last resort. Otherwise Italy faces “massive devaluation, three to five years of hyperinflation, and unbearable unemployment.”

So what can be done about any of this?

Well, there is actually a lot that could be done if politicians in Europe were willing to think outside of the established global financial paradigm.

The truth is that Greece could solve their current financial problems in four easy steps.  They would have to be willing to stick it to the rest of Europe and to risk being blackballed by the international community, but it could be done.

The following is my prescription for Greece….

1) Default on all debts.

2) Leave the euro.

3) Issue drachmas that are debt-free and that do not come from a central bank.  Instead, have the Greek government create them and spend them directly into circulation.

4) Enjoy a return to prosperity.

In such a scenario, the Greek national debt would no longer be a problem, the Greek government would never have to borrow any more money and austerity would no longer be needed.

Yes, inflation would be an issue with the new currency, but a bit of inflation would be a walk in the park compared to the horrible economic depression that Greece is experiencing right now.

And once the Greek economy was growing again, it would certainly be possible for them to make the transition to “hard money” if they wanted to.

It is imperative that we all understand that just because the global financial system works a certain way today does not mean that it must always work that way.

If you have a few minutes, I want you to watch an incredible speech by a 12-year-old Canadian girl named Victoria Grant.  In this 6 minute speech, she details how the bankers are defrauding the people of Canada and how the Canadian government does not actually need to borrow a single penny from the bankers….

If a 12-year-old girl can figure this out, then why can’t the rest of us?

Sadly, the financial world still seems enamored with the corrupt central banking system that has gotten us into this mess.  In fact, one recent poll found that Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke has a 75 percent approval rating from global investors.

Right now, America is going down the same path as Greece, Spain and Italy have gone.  Eventually we will hit a wall and our financial system will fall apart.

We need the American people to understand that the Federal Reserve system is a perpetual debt machine.  The U.S. national debt is now more than 5000 times larger than it was when the Fed was first created.  It is at the very core of our national financial problems.

When will people wake up and realize that central banking is the problem and not the solution?

When will people wake up and realize that national governments do not have to go into debt to anyone if they do not want to?

In our world today, there is far more debt than there is money.

It is a system that will inevitably crash.

But there are other alternatives.

Unfortunately, politicians all over the globe continue to want to be married to our current debt-based financial system.

As a result, we will suffer the consequences of that system.

Why A Greek Exit From The Euro Would Mean The End Of The Eurozone

What was considered unthinkable a few months ago has now become probable.  All over the globe there are headlines proclaiming that a Greek exit from the euro is now a real possibility.  In fact, some of those headlines make it sound like it is practically inevitable.  For example, Der Spiegel ran a front page story the other day with the following startling headline: “Acropolis, Adieu! Why Greece must leave the euro”.  Many are saying that the euro will be stronger without Greece.  They are saying things such as “a chain is only as strong as its weakest link” and they are claiming that financial markets are now far more prepared for a “Grexit” than they would have been two years ago.  But the truth is that it really is naive to think that a Greek exit from the euro can be “managed” and that business will go on as usual afterwards.  If Greece leaves the euro it will set a very dangerous precedent.  The moment Greece exits the euro, investors all over the globe will be asking the following question: “Who is next?”  Portugal, Italy and Spain would all see bond yields soar and they would all likely experience runs on their banks.  It would only be a matter of time before more eurozone members would leave.  In the end, the whole monetary union experiment would crumble.

As I have written about previously, New York Times economist Paul Krugman is wrong about a whole lot of things, but in a blog post the other day he absolutely nailed what is likely to soon unfold in Greece….

1. Greek euro exit, very possibly next month.

2. Huge withdrawals from Spanish and Italian banks, as depositors try to move their money to Germany.

3a. Maybe, just possibly, de facto controls, with banks forbidden to transfer deposits out of country and limits on cash withdrawals.

3b. Alternatively, or maybe in tandem, huge draws on ECB credit to keep the banks from collapsing.

4a. Germany has a choice. Accept huge indirect public claims on Italy and Spain, plus a drastic revision of strategy — basically, to give Spain in particular any hope you need both guarantees on its debt to hold borrowing costs down and a higher eurozone inflation target to make relative price adjustment possible; or:

4b. End of the euro.

By itself, Greece cannot crash the eurozone.  But the precedent that Greece is about to set could set forth a chain of events that may very well bring about the end of the eurozone.

If one country is allowed to leave the euro, that means that other countries will be allowed to leave the euro as well.  This is the kind of uncertainty that drives financial markets crazy.

When the euro was initially created, monetary union was intended to be irreversible.  There are no provisions for what happens if a member nation wants to leave the euro.  It simply was not even conceived of at the time.

So we are really moving into uncharted territory.  A recent Bloomberg article attempted to set forth some of the things that might happen if a Greek exit from the euro becomes a reality….

A Greek departure from the euro could trigger a default-inducing surge in bond yields, capital flight that might spread to other indebted states and a resultant series of bank runs. Although Greece accounts for 2 percent of the euro-area’s economic output, its exit would fragment a system of monetary union designed to be irreversible and might cause investors to raise the threat of withdrawal by other states.

In fact, yields on Spanish debt and Italian debt are already rising rapidly thanks to the bad news out of Greece in recent days.

What makes things worse is that a new government has still not formed in Greece.  It looks like new elections may have to be held in June.

Meanwhile, the Greek government is rapidly running out of money.  The following is from a Bank of America report that was released a few days ago….

“If no government is in place before June when the next installment (of loan money) from the European Union and International Monetary Fund is due, we estimate that Greece will run out of money sometime between the end of June and beginning of July, at which point a return to the drachma would seem inevitable”

In the recent Greek elections, parties that opposed the bailout agreements picked up huge gains.  And opinion polls suggest that they will make even larger gains if another round of elections is held.

The Coalition of the Radical Left, also known as Syriza, surprised everyone by coming in second in the recent elections.  Current polling shows that Syriza is likely to come in first if new elections are held.

The leader of Syriza, Alexis Tsipras, is passionately against the bailout agreements.  He says that Greece can reject austerity because the rest of Europe will never kick Greece out of the eurozone.  Tsipras believes that the rest of Europe must bail out Greece because the consequences of allowing Greece to go bankrupt and fall out of the eurozone would be far too high for the rest of Europe.

A spokesman for Syriza, Yiannis Bournos, recently told the Telegraph the following….

“Mr Schaeuble [Germany’s finance minister] is pretending to be the fearless cowboy on the radio, saying the euro is secure [against a Greek exit]. But there’s no way they will kick us out”

So Greece and Germany are playing a game of chicken.

Who will blink first?

Will either of them blink first?

Syriza is trying to convince the Greek people that they can reject austerity and stay in the euro.  Syriza insists that the rest of Europe will provide the money that they need to pay their bills.

And most Greeks do actually want to stay in the euro.  One recent poll found that 78.1 percent of all Greeks want Greece to remain in the eurozone.

But a majority of Greeks also do not want anymore austerity.

Unfortunately, it is not realistic for them to assume that they can have their cake and eat it too.  If Greece does not continue to move toward a balanced budget, they will lose their aid money.

And if Greece loses that aid money, the consequences will be dramatic.

Outgoing deputy prime minister of Greece Theodoros Pangalos recently had the following to say about what would happen if Greece doesn’t get the bailout money that it needs….

“We will be in wild bankruptcy, out-of-control bankruptcy. The state will not be able to pay salaries and pensions. This is not recognised by the citizens. We have got until June before we run out of money.”

If Greece gets cut off and runs out of money, it will almost certainly be forced to go back to using the drachma.  If that happens there will likely be a “bank holiday”, the borders will be secured to limit capital flight and new currency will be rapidly printed up.  It would be a giant mess.

In fact, there are rumblings that the European financial system is already making preparations for all this.  For example, a recent Reuters article had the following shock headline: “Banks prepare for the return of the drachma

But a new drachma would almost certainly crash in value almost immediately as a recent article in the Telegraph described….

Most economists think that a new, free-floating drachma would immediately crash by up to 50 percent against the euro and other currencies, effectively halving the value of everyone’s savings and spelling catastrophe for those on fixed incomes, like pensioners.

A Greek economy that is already experiencing a depression would get even worse.  The Greek economy has contracted by 8.5 percent over the past 12 months and the unemployment rate in Greece is up to 21.8 percent.  It is hard to imagine what Greece is going to look like if things continue to fall apart.

But the consequences for the rest of Europe (and for the rest of the globe) would be dramatic as well.  A Greek exit from the euro could be the next “Lehman Brothers moment” and could plunge the entire global financial system into another major crisis.

Unfortunately, at this point it is hard to imagine a scenario in which the eventual break up of the euro can be avoided.

Germany would have to become willing to bail out the rest of the eurozone indefinitely, and that simply is not going to happen.

So there is a lot of pessimism in the financial world right now.  Nobody is quite sure what is going to happen next and the number of short positions is steadily rising as a recent CNN article detailed….

After staying quiet at the start of the year, the bears have come roaring back with a vengeance.

Short interest — a bet on stocks turning lower — topped 13 billion shares on the New York Stock Exchange at the end of last month. That’s up 4% from March and marks the highest level of the year.

If the eurozone is going to survive, Greece must stay a part of it.

Instead of removing the weakest link from the chain, the reality is that a Greek exit from the euro would end up shattering the chain.

Confidence is a funny thing.  It can take decades to build but it can be lost in a single moment.

If Greece leaves the euro, investor confidence in the eurozone will be permanently damaged.  And when investors get spooked they don’t behave rationally.

A common currency in Europe is not dead by any means, but this current manifestation is now operating on borrowed time.

As the eurozone crumbles, it is likely that Germany will simply pull the plug at some point and decide to start over.

So what do you think?

Do you think that I am right or do you think that I am wrong?

Please feel free to post a comment with your thoughts below….

The Countdown To The Break Up Of The Euro Has Officially Begun

The results of the elections in France and Greece have made it abundantly clear that there is a tremendous backlash against the austerity approach that Germany has been pushing.  All over Europe, prominent politicians and incumbent political parties are being voted out.  In fact, Nicolas Sarkozy has become the 11th leader of a European nation to be defeated in an election since 2008.  We have seen governments fall in the Netherlands, the UK, Spain, Ireland, Italy, Portugal and Greece.  Whenever they get a chance, the citizens of Europe are using the ballot box to send a message that they do not like what is going on.  It turns out that austerity is extremely unpopular.  But if newly elected politicians all over Europe begin rejecting austerity, this puts Germany in a very difficult position.  Should Germany be expected to indefinitely bail out all of the members of the eurozone that choose to live way beyond their means?  If Germany pulled out of the euro tomorrow, the euro would absolutely collapse, bond yields for the rest of the eurozone would skyrocket to unprecedented heights, and without German bailout money troubled nations such as Greece would be headed directly for default.  The rest of the eurozone is absolutely and completely dependent on Germany at this point.  But as we have seen, much of the rest of the eurozone is sick and tired of taking orders from Germany and is rejecting austerity.  A lot of politicians in Europe apparently believe that they should be able to run up gigantic amounts of debt indefinitely and that the Germans should be expected to always be there to bail them out whenever they need it.  Will the Germans be willing to tolerate such a situation, or will they simply pick up their ball and go home at some point?

Over the past several years, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy have made a formidable team.  They worked together to push the eurozone on to the path of austerity, but now Sarkozy is out.

Francois Hollande, the new French president, has declared that the financial world is his “greatest enemy“.

He may regret making that statement.

One of the primary reasons why Hollande was elected was because he clearly rejected the austerity approach favored by the Germans.  Shortly after winning the election in France, he made the following statement….

“Europe is watching us, austerity can no longer be the only option”

Hollande says that he wants to “renegotiate” the fiscal pact that European leaders agreed to under the leadership of Merkel and Sarkozy.

But Merkel says that is not going to happen.  The following Merkel quotes are from a recent CNBC article….

“We in Germany are of the opinion, and so am I personally, that the fiscal pact is not negotiable. It has been negotiated and has been signed by 25 countries,” Merkel told a news conference.

“We are in the middle of a debate to which France, of course, under its new president will bring its own emphasis. But we are talking about two sides of the same coin — progress is only achievable via solid finances plus growth,” she added.

So instead of being on the same page, Germany and France are now headed in opposite directions.

But if the French do not get their debt under control, they could be facing a huge crisis of their own very quickly.  The following is from a recent article by Ambrose Evans-Pritchard….

“They absolutely must cut public spending and control the debt,” said Marc Touati from Global Equities in Paris. “It will soon be clear that we are in deep recession. If they don’t act fast, interest rates will shoot up and we will have a catastrophe by September,” he said.

Without German help, France is not going to be able to handle its own financial problems – much less bail out the rest of Europe.

Germany is holding all of the cards, but much of the rest of the eurozone does not seem afraid to defy Germany at this point.

In Greece, anti-bailout parties scored huge gains in the recent election.

None of the political parties in Greece were able to reach 20 percent of the vote, and there is a tremendous amount of doubt about what comes next.

New Democracy (the “conservatives”) won about 19 percent of the vote, but they have already announced that they have failed to form a new government.

So now it will be up to the second place finishers, the Syriza party (the radical left coalition), to try to form a new government.

Alexis Tsipras, the leader of the Syriza party, is very anti-austerity.  He made the following statement the other night….

“The people of Europe can no longer be reconciled with the bailouts of barbarism.”

But at this point, it seems very doubtful that Syriza will be able to form a new government either.

PASOK, the socialists that have been pushing through all of the recent austerity measures, only ended up with about 13 percent of the vote.  In the 2009 election, PASOK got 44 percent of the vote.  Obviously their support of the austerity measures cost them dearly.

So what happens if none of the parties are able to form a new government?

It means that new elections will be held.

Meanwhile, Greece must somehow approve more than 11 billion euros in additional budget cuts by the end of June in order to receive the next round of bailout money.

Greece is currently in its 6th year of economic contraction, and there is very little appetite for more austerity in Greece at this point.

Citibank analysts are saying that there is now a 50 to 75 percent chance that Greece is going to be forced to leave the euro….

Overall, the outcome of the Greek election shows that it will be very difficult to form a viable coalition and to implement the measures required in the MoU. Particularly, the identification of the 7% GDP of budget savings for 2013 and 2014 by the end of June looks very unlikely to us. As a consequence, in a first step, the Troika is likely to delay the disbursement of the next tranche of the programme. Note that for 2Q 2012, disbursements of €31.3bn from the bailout programme are scheduled. If Greece does not make progress, in a second step, the Troika is likely to stop the programme. If that happens, the Greek sovereign and its banking sector would run out of funding. As a consequence, we expect that Greece would be forced to leave the euro area. With the outcome of the election, to us the probability of a Greek exit is now larger than our previous estimate of 50%, and rises to between 50-75%. However, even after the elections in Greece, France and Germany, we regard the probability of a broad-based break up of the monetary union as very low. We continue to expect that in reaction to Greece leaving the euro area, more far-reaching measures from governments and the ECB would be put in place.

But if Greece rejects austerity that does not mean that it has to leave the eurozone.

There is no provision that allows for the other nations to kick them out.

Greece could say no to austerity and dare Germany and the rest of the eurozone to keep the bailout money from them.

If Greece defaulted, it would severely damage the euro and bond yields all over the eurozone would likely skyrocket – especially for troubled countries like Spain and Italy.

If Greece wanted to play hardball, they could simply choose to play a game of “chicken” with Germany and see what happens.

Would Germany and the rest of the eurozone be willing to risk a financial disaster just to teach Greece a lesson?

But Greece is not the only one that is in trouble.

As I wrote about recently, the Spanish economy is rapidly heading into an economic depression.

Now it has come out that the Spanish government is going to bail out a major Spanish bank.  The following is from a recent Bloomberg article….

Rodrigo Rato stepped down as head of the Bankia group as a government bailout loomed after Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy retreated from a pledge to avoid using public money to save lenders.

Rato, a former International Monetary Fund managing director, proposed Jose Ignacio Goirigolzarri, ex-president and chief operating officer of Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria SA (BBVA), as Bankia executive chairman, he said in a statement today in Madrid. The government plans to inject funds into the lender by buying contingent-capital securities, said an Economy Ministry official who declined to be named as the plan isn’t public.

But this is just the beginning.

Major banks all over Europe are going to need to be bailed out, and countries such as Portugal, Italy and Spain are going to need huge amounts of financial assistance.

So does Germany want to keep rescuing the rest of the eurozone over and over again during the coming years?  The cost of doing this would likely be astronomical.  The following is from a recent New York Times article….

Bernard Connolly, a persistent critic of Europe, estimates it would cost Germany, as the main surplus-generating country in the euro area, about 7 percent of its annual gross domestic product over several years to transfer sufficient funds to bail out Europe’s debt-burdened countries, including France.

That amount, he has argued, would far surpass the huge reparations bill foisted upon Germany by the victorious powers after World War I, the final payment of which Germany made in 2010.

At some point, Germany may decide that enough is enough.

In fact, there have been persistent rumors that Germany has been very quietly preparing to leave the euro.

A while back, German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union party approved a resolution that would allow a nation to leave the euro without leaving the European Union.

Many believed that this resolution was aimed at countries like Greece or Portugal, but the truth is that the resolution may have been setting the stage for an eventual German exit from the euro.

The following is an excerpt from that resolution….

“Should a member [of the euro zone] be unable or unwilling to permanently obey the rules connected to the common currency he will be able to voluntarily–according to the rules of the Lisbon Treaty for leaving the European Union–leave the euro zone without leaving the European Union. He would receive the same status as those member states that do not have the euro.”

Most analysts will tell you that they think that it is inconceivable that Germany could leave the euro.

But stranger things have happened.

And Germany has made some very curious moves recently.

For example, Germany recently reinstated its Special Financial Market Stabilization Funds.  Those funds could be utilized to bail out German banks in the event of a break up of the euro.  The following is from a recent article by Graham Summers….

In short, Germany has given the SoFFIN:

  1. €400 billion to be used as guarantees for German banks.
  2. €80 billion to be used for the recapitalization of German banks
  3. Legislation that would permit German banks to dump their euro-zone government bonds if needed.

That is correct. Any German bank, if it so chooses, will have the option to dump its EU sovereign bonds into the SoFFIN during a Crisis.

In simple terms, Germany has put a €480 billion firewall around its banks. It can literally pull out of the Euro any time it wants to.

So has Germany been quietly preparing a plan “B” just in case the rest of the eurozone rejected the path of austerity?

Most people have assumed that it will be a nation such as Greece or Portugal that will leave the euro first, but in the end it just might be Germany.

And the “smart money” is definitely betting on something big happening.

Right now some of the largest hedge funds in the world are betting against the eurozone as a recent Daily Finance article described….

Some of the world’s most prominent hedge fund managers are betting against the eurozone — and not just the peripheral countries everyone knows are in trouble. They’re taking positions against the core countries, economies that — until now — everyone has assumed were rock-solid.

Yes, the countdown to the break up of the euro has officially begun.

A great financial crisis is going to erupt in Europe, and it is going to shake the world to the core.

If you were frightened by what happened back in 2008, then you are going to be absolutely horrified by what is coming next.

Is Germany Actually Preparing To Leave The Euro?

For a long time, most analysts have believed that if someone was going to leave the euro, it would be a weak nation such as Greece or Portugal.  But the truth is that financially troubled nations such as Greece and Portugal don’t want to leave the euro.  The leaders of those nations understand that if they leave the euro their economies will totally collapse and nobody will be there to bail them out.  And at this point there really is not a formal mechanism which would enable other members of the eurozone to kick financially troubled nations such as Greece or Portugal out of the euro.  But there is one possibility that is becoming increasingly likely that could actually cause the break up of the euro.  Germany could leave the euro.  Yes, it might actually happen.  Germany is faced with a very difficult problem right now.  It is looking at a future where it will be essentially forced to bail out most of the rest of the nations in the eurozone for many years to come, and those bailouts will be extremely expensive.  Meanwhile, the mood in much of the rest of Europe is becoming decidedly anti-German.  In Greece, Angela Merkel and the German government are being openly portrayed as Nazis.  Financially troubled nations such as Greece want German bailout money, but they are getting sick and tired of the requirements that Germany is imposing upon them in order to get that money.  Increasingly, other nations in Europe are simply ignoring what Germany is asking them to do or are openly defying Germany.  In the end, Germany will need to decide whether it is worth it to continue to pour billions upon billions of euros into countries that don’t appreciate it and that are not doing what Germany has asked them to do.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union party recently approved a resolution that would allow a country to leave the euro without leaving the European Union.

Many thought that the resolution was aimed at countries like Greece or Portugal, but the truth is that this resolution may be setting the stage for a German exit from the euro.

The following is an excerpt from that resolution….

“Should a member [of the euro zone] be unable or unwilling to permanently obey the rules connected to the common currency he will be able to voluntarily–according to the rules of the Lisbon Treaty for leaving the European Union–leave the euro zone without leaving the European Union. He would receive the same status as those member states that do not have the euro.”

So was that paragraph written for Greece?

Or was it written for Germany?

That is a very interesting question.

What is clear is that the status quo cannot last much longer.

Voters in Germany are definitely not in the mood to give any more bailout money to other nations in Europe, but if Germany is going to continue to stay in the eurozone many more bailouts will be required in the coming years.

Meanwhile, Germany is rapidly losing control over the rest of the eurozone….

*Greece has implemented some of the austerity measures that have been required of it, but many others have not been implemented.  In a few weeks there will be a national election, and parties that are opposed to the austerity measures are surging in the polls.  It is likely that the new government will be much less friendly toward Germany.

*The Spanish government is already defying the budgetary requirements that the EU is trying to impose upon it.  Spain is definitely going to miss the debt targets mandated by the EU, and the Spanish government has absolutely no plans of making more reductions to government spending.

*The upcoming election in France could be absolutely crucial.  Nicolas Sarkozy is not doing well in the polls and the new French government could totally wreck the recent fiscal agreement that the members of the eurozone recently agreed to.

The following is how Graham Summers recently summarized the current situation in France….

We should also take Schäuble’s statements in the context of Angela Merkel’s recent backing of Nicolas Sarkozy’s re-election campaign in France against hardened socialist François Hollande, who wants to engage in a rampant socialist mission to lower France’s retirement age, cut tax breaks to the wealthy, and break the recent new EU fiscal requirements Germany convinced 17 members of the EU to agree to.

Obviously Germany has been trying very hard to keep the eurozone together.  But the German government also believes that if it is going to be bailing everyone out that it should also be able to set the rules.

So what happens if the rest of Europe tells Germany to stick their rules where the sun doesn’t shine?

Well, Germany would be forced to make a very difficult decision, and Germany appears to making plans for that eventuality.

For example, Germany recently reinstated its Special Financial Market Stabilization Funds.  This money would be used to bail out German banks in the event of a break up of the euro.  The following is from a recent article by Graham Summers….

In short, Germany has given the SoFFIN:

  1. €400 billion to be used as guarantees for German banks.
  2. €80 billion to be used for the recapitalization of German banks
  3. Legislation that would permit German banks to dump their euro-zone government bonds if needed.

That is correct. Any German bank, if it so chooses, will have the option to dump its EU sovereign bonds into the SoFFIN during a Crisis.

In simple terms, Germany has put a €480 billion firewall around its banks. It can literally pull out of the Euro any time it wants to.

If the rest of Europe continues to defy Germany, then at some point Germany may decide to simply pick up the ball and go home.

Germany is the strongest economy in the eurozone by far, and if Germany were to pull out the euro would absolutely collapse.  Whatever currency Germany decided to issue would be extremely valuable.  Such an event would actually have some tremendous side benefits for Germany.

Right now, the German national debt is denominated in euros.

If Germany left the euro, the value of euros would plummet and would likely keep declining as the rest of the eurozone fell apart financially and Germany would be able to pay back its debt in rapidly appreciating “marks” or whatever other currency it decided to issue.

All other debts in Germany would also be denominated in euros and would also be repaid with a much stronger currency.

Are you starting to get the picture?

Yes, Germany would likely have to bail out German banks if it left the euro, but leaving the euro could also prove to be a tremendous windfall for Germany.

If Germany chooses to say in the euro, it is going to be faced with extremely expensive bailouts of other countries for as far as the eye can see.

How expensive?

The following is from a New York Times article….

Bernard Connolly, a persistent critic of Europe, estimates it would cost Germany, as the main surplus-generating country in the euro area, about 7 percent of its annual gross domestic product over several years to transfer sufficient funds to bail out Europe’s debt-burdened countries, including France.

That amount, he has argued, would far surpass the huge reparations bill foisted upon Germany by the victorious powers after World War I, the final payment of which Germany made in 2010.

If Germany leaves the euro, that does not mean that the dream of a single currency is dead.  Germany could just let the rest of the eurozone collapse and then invite them to join the new German currency eventually after all the carnage is over.

At that point, Germany would have all the leverage and Germany would be able to dictate all the rules.

What is clear is that the status quo in Europe is becoming extremely unacceptable in Germany.  The Germans do not intend to give endless bailouts to other nations that do not appreciate them and that do not intend to follow the rules.

At some point Germany may actually decide to walk, and there are lots of whispers that Germany has been steadily preparing for that day.

For example, there are persistent rumors that Germany has ordered printing plates for the printing of new German marks.  Philippa Malmgren, a former economic adviser to President George W. Bush, says that she believes that this is already happening….

“I think they have already got the printing machines going and are bringing out the old deutschmarks they have left over from when the euro was introduced.”

Increasingly, it really is looking as if Germany is actually preparing to leave the euro.

If Germany did leave the euro, the consequences for the rest of Europe would be catastrophic.

The euro would rapidly drop to all-time lows.

The global financial system would be thrown in chaos.

Countries such as Greece would lose their major source of bailout money and would be forced to default.

The recession in Europe would likely deepen into a devastating economic depression.

So there would be a lot of downside.

But Germany would fare much better than most of the rest of Europe, and in the end Germany would be left holding most of the cards.

Keep a close eye on the upcoming European elections and the evolving political situation in Europe.

If things don’t go well for Germany, at some point Germany may just get fed up and walk away from the euro.

Stranger things have happened.

10.7 Percent: Unemployment In Europe Is Worse Than It Was At The Peak Of The Last Recession

The unemployment rate in the eurozone is now 10.7 percent.  That is the highest the unemployment rate has been since the introduction of the euro.  The unemployment rate in the eurozone never got any higher than 10.2 percent during the last recession.  This is very troubling news.  It was just recently announced that the eurozone has entered another recession, and already the unemployment rate is hitting new record highs.  So how bad are things going to get in the months to come?  The truth is that the problems for Europe are just starting.  The European sovereign debt crisis continues to get worse, and another major global financial crisis is going to be here way too soon.  The EU as a whole has a larger population, a larger banking system and more Fortune 500 companies than the United States does.  When the financial system of Europe crashes, the entire world is going to feel it.

Some of the unemployment numbers coming out of Europe are absolutely staggering.

Unemployment in Spain is 19.9 percent.

Unemployment in Greece is 23.3 percent.

And when you look at youth unemployment the numbers are far worse.

The unemployment rate for workers under the age of 25 is 48.1 percent in Greece and 49.9 percent in Spain.

If you look carefully at the photos of the austerity riots happening in Spain and in Greece you will notice that the vast majority of the protesters are young people.

Instead of getting better, the unemployment numbers in Europe just keep getting worse.  Many analysts were shocked by these new numbers.  The following is from a CNN article….

“This is appalling,” said Carl Weinberg, chief economist at High Frequency Economics, highlighting that the unemployment rate following the collapse of Lehman Brothers peaked at 10.2%.

Appalling indeed.

The frightening thing is that we haven’t even had a major financial crisis in Europe yet.  So far, the powers that be have been able to keep Greece from defaulting and have been able to keep major banks all over Europe from collapsing.

But there are quite a few signs that the “moment of reckoning” for Europe is rapidly approaching….

-The European Central Bank announced on Tuesday that it would no longer take Greek bonds as collateral from European banks. That is a really bad sign.

-Major European banks are revealing unexpectedly huge losses on Greek debt.  The following is from a Reuters article….

The scars of Greece’s debt crisis were laid bare in heavy losses from a string of European banks on Thursday, and bosses warned the region’s precarious finances would continue to threaten economic growth and earnings.

From France to Germany, Britain to Belgium, four of the region’s biggest banks lined up to reveal they lost more than 8 billion euros (6.8 million pounds) last year from their Greek bonds holdings.

“We are in the worst economic crisis since 1929,” Credit Agricole chief executive Jean-Paul Chifflet said.

-The International Swaps and Derivatives Association has ruled that the Greek debt deal will not trigger payouts on credit default swaps.  This is going to make it less likely that private bondholders will voluntarily agree to the debt deal.

This ruling is also seriously shaking confidence in credit default swaps.  After all, they are supposed to be “insurance” in case something happens.  But if they aren’t going to pay out when you need them, what good are they?

-Voters in Germany are sick and tired of pouring money into a black hole.  One recent opinion poll in Germany showed that Germans are overwhelmingly against more bailouts for Greece.

Some German politicians are becoming very open about their feelings for Greece.  For example, Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich said the following in a recent interview with Der Spiegel….

“Greece’s chances to regenerate itself and become competitive are surely greater outside the monetary union than if it remains in the euro area.” He added that he did not support a forced exit. “I’m not talking about throwing Greece out, but rather about creating incentives for an exit that they can’t pass up.”

-In Greece, news publications are openly portraying German Chancellor Angela Merkel as Hitler.  Far left political parties that oppose the bailouts are surging in the polls and anger and frustration are reaching unprecedented levels.

The following is from a recent article in The Guardian….

There is a growing animosity towards Germany on the streets of Athens. Angela Merkel bears most of the hostility with one of Greece’s newspapers last week mocking the chancellor up as a Nazi on its front page.

Niki Fidaki, 40, says Greeks are angry at Germany and the troika’s demands for higher taxes and public services cuts. “People can’t afford to pay the tax. My pay has gone down, but my taxes have gone up. But, I’m a lucky one – half of my friends don’t have jobs. Greeks hate that they are asking us to pay all the time when we don’t have the money. Families have no work, they have kids to look after but no money to pay for anything.”

As I have written about before, Greece is already going through a devastating economic depression.  The people of Greece are not in the mood to be pushed much further.

The eurozone is a powder keg that could explode at any time.

So why is the U.S. economy doing so much better than the European economy right now?

Well, a big reason is because we haven’t seen any austerity in the United States yet.

Barack Obama is funding our false prosperity by borrowing 150 million dollars an hour from our children and our grandchildren.

Of course all of this reckless borrowing is going to make the eventual collapse of our financial system far worse, but right now Americans don’t seem to care.  The only thing the mainstream media seems to care about is that some of our economic numbers are getting slightly better.

The sad thing is that our government is spending a lot of this money on some of the most stupid things that you could possibly imagine.

Did you know that the Obama administration just spent $750,000 on a brand new soccer field for detainees held at Guantanamo Bay?

I wish I had a $750,000 soccer field to play on.

I would love that.

Look, when the federal government quits stealing more than a trillion dollars a year from future generations things are going to look a whole lot different in this country.

So pay attention to what is going on in Europe.

That is where we are headed eventually.

Look Out Below – The Nightmarish Decline Of The Euro Has Begun

The euro is a dying currency.  On Thursday, the EUR/USD fell below 1.28 for the first time since September 2010.  In fact, as I write this the EUR/USD is sitting at 1.2791.  Back in July, the EUR/USD was over 1.45.  But this is just the beginning.  The euro is going to go a lot lower.  At this point, there are several major European nations that are on the verge of default, the European financial system is overflowing with debt and toxic assets, and most major European banks are leveraged about as badly as Lehman Brothers was when it collapsed.  Most Americans simply do not grasp the gravity of what is happening.  Just because the Dow is sitting above 12000 and a few U.S. economic numbers have improved slightly does not mean that everything is going to be okay.  As I wrote about recently, the EU has a bigger economy than we do and they have a bigger banking system than we do.  U.S. banks are massively exposed to European sovereign debt and European banking debt.  When the financial system of Europe collapses and the euro falls apart it is going to rock the entire planet.  So you better look out below – the euro is coming down and it is coming down hard.  After the euro implodes, nothing is every going to be the same again.

So how far are we going to see the euro decline?

Julian Jessop of Capital Economics expects the euro to fall much further….

The relative strength of the recent economic data from the US is supporting the dollar more generally, and we expect this divergence to persist as the euro-zone slides into a deep and prolonged recession. Above all, doubts about the very survival of the euro itself are likely to remain a drag on the currency. We therefore continue to expect the euro to fall to around $1.10 by the end of the year.

Others are even more pessimistic.

As I have written about previously, the head of global bond portfolio management at PIMCO believes that the euro is going to go even lower than that….

“Parity with the dollar next year is not out of the question”

Can you imagine that?

1 dollar = 1 euro?

Don’t think that it can’t happen.

But the decline of the euro is just part of the story.  The truth is that Europe is on the verge of a financial collapse that could end up dwarfing the financial crisis of 2008.

Sadly, most Americans have no idea what has been going on in Europe the past few days….

-The stock of the biggest bank in Italy, UniCredit, is absolutely collapsing.  Shares of UniCredit fell 14 percent on Wednesday and 17 percent on Thursday.

-Shares of another major Italian bank, Intesa Sanpaolo, fell 7.3 percent on Thursday.

-Shares of three major French banks all fell by at least 5 percent on Thursday.

-Even shares of German banks are falling like a rock.  Shares of Commerzbank fell 4.5 percent on Thursday and shares of Deutsche Bank fell 5.6 percent on Thursday.

-The yield on 5 years Italian bonds is back over 6 percent and the yield on 10 year Italian bonds is back over 7 percent.  Analysts all over Europe insist that that the Italian debt situation is not sustainable if rates stay this high.

-Italy’s youth unemployment rate has hit the highest level ever.

This is mind blowing news.

But what is the top headline on USA Today right now?

Employers Impose Bans On Smokers

These are some of the other top headlines on USA Today right now….

“Automakers Rush To Offer Apps In Your Car”

“Bargain Season At Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, Wendy’s”

“Does Your Dog Understand You? Study Says Maybe”

Is that what passes as news in this country?

A financial meltdown of historic proportions is happening in Europe and you cannot even find anything about it on the front page of USA Today.

Amazing.

All of us need to snap out of our television-induced comas and start waking up.

Things are about to get really bad for the global financial system.

At this point so much confidence has been lost in the euro that even the Council on Foreign Relations is admitting that the euro is a failure….

The euro should now be recognized as an experiment that failed. This failure, which has come after just over a dozen years since the euro was introduced, in 1999, was not an accident or the result of bureaucratic mismanagement but rather the inevitable consequence of imposing a single currency on a very heterogeneous group of countries. The adverse economic consequences of the euro include the sovereign debt crises in several European countries, the fragile condition of major European banks, high levels of unemployment across the eurozone, and the large trade deficits that now plague most eurozone countries.

If even the CFR is throwing in the towel, that should tell you something about what is about to happen to the euro.

There is a very real possibility that we could see the euro break up at some point during the next couple of years.

It now seems that a report produced a while back by Credit Suisse’s Fixed Income Research unit was right on target….

“We seem to have entered the last days of the euro as we currently know it. That doesn’t make a break-up very likely, but it does mean some extraordinary things will almost certainly need to happen – probably by mid-January – to prevent the progressive closure of all the euro zone sovereign bond markets, potentially accompanied by escalating runs on even the strongest banks.”

The European debt crisis just continues to get worse and worse.  None of the solutions that European leaders have tried have worked.  We are rapidly approaching the meltdown phase of this crisis.

As I have written about previously, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out what is happening in Europe.  The equation is simple….

Brutal austerity + toxic levels of government debt + rising bond yields + a lack of confidence in the financial system + banks that are massively overleveraged + a massive credit crunch = A financial implosion of historic proportions

Unfortunately, what is happening right now in Europe is eventually going to happen in the United States as well.

As I wrote about yesterday, U.S. debt is a ticking time bomb that is going to devastate the entire global economy at some point.  Nobody knows when the implosion will happen, but everyone knows that it is inevitable.

When Europe falls apart financially, that is going to make our own financial system much less stable.  What is happening in Europe could turn our “limited recovery” into a “major recession” almost overnight.

So keep your eye on the euro.

If the euro keeps going down, that is going to be really bad news for the global economy.

Unfortunately, the truth is that the decline of the euro is just getting started.

Hold on to your hats.

***UPDATE***

The euro continues to drop like a rock.  Right now it is at 1.2721.

Michael

The Collapse Of The Euro, The Death Of The Euro And The End Of The Euro

The euro was a doomed project from the start, and now we are starting to see the endgame play out.  Today, the euro fell to an 11-month low against the U.S. dollar.  As I write this, the EUR/USD is at 1.2983.  Back in July, the EUR/USD was over 1.45.  As panic has swept the financial markets, the euro has lost more than 3 percent over the past three days.  But this is just the beginning.  When the euro drops below 1.20, analysts will talk about the collapse of the euro.  When the euro falls toward parity with the dollar, headlines around the world will scream about the death of the euro.  But when the European financial system finally collapses, we may very well actually see the end of the euro.  Yes, it actually could happen.  The eurozone, as it is currently constructed, simply does not work.  You just can’t take 17 different nations that have 17 different fiscal policies, 17 different tax policies and 17 different economic agendas and cram them all into a single currency and expect the thing to work.  The euro is a doomed currency, and if a big nation like Germany decides to walk away at some point the game is going to be over.

It is not as if the euro is just having a bad week.  Just check out this chart that shows what the euro has done relative to the U.S. dollar over the past 6 months.

The truth is that a collapse of the euro has already begun.

And a whole lot of investors expect it to continue.  Right now, huge amounts of money are being poured into bets that the euro is going to go even lower.

All over the world, financial professionals are speculating about how far the euro will eventually fall.  Scott Mather, the head of global bond portfolio management at PIMCO, says that he believes that the euro is going to go much, much lower….

“Parity with the dollar next year is not out of the question”

Of course the central banks of the world could step in at some point with coordinated action to help support the value of the euro.  This kind of thing has happened before.  But such support would only be temporary.

Central banks can manipulate the markets for a while, but in the end the long-term trends are going to prevail.  Just look at what is happening with European bond yields.

European bond yields are rising once again even though the European Central Bank has already spent over 274 billion dollars buying up European government bonds.

There will be more efforts to try to prevent the death of the euro, but those efforts will be kind of like spitting into the wind.

A recent article posted on Crackerjack Finance talked about some of the fundamental problems that make the euro such a flawed currency….

The problems of the Eurozone’s flawed construct are now completely exposed. A block of 17 sovereign nations have adopted a common currency and outsourced monetary policy to a common central bank. Yet each of the 17 sovereign nations have different comparative advantages, industries, debt levels, interest rates, budget deficits, labor market rules, and tax policies. Reflecting on all the differences, it is amazing that the Eurozone has survived in the current construct for over a decade.

Greece would probably not be going through an economic depression right now if they had not joined the euro.  But now, 100,000 businesses have closed since the beginning of the recent crisis and a third of the country is living in poverty.

As this crisis spreads throughout the rest of Europe, it is going to put an incredible amount of stress on the European financial system.  Many now believe that the euro may not be able to make it through the tough times that are ahead.

The following comes from a report recently produced by Credit Suisse’s Fixed Income Research unit….

“We seem to have entered the last days of the euro as we currently know it. That doesn’t make a break-up very likely, but it does mean some extraordinary things will almost certainly need to happen – probably by mid-January – to prevent the progressive closure of all the euro zone sovereign bond markets, potentially accompanied by escalating runs on even the strongest banks.”

So will we actually see the end of the euro?

Only time will tell.

But one thing is for sure – the situation in Europe is rapidly getting worse.

In Greece, approximately 20 percent of all bank deposits have been withdrawn since the start of 2011.

If you still have money in a Greek bank, you might want to do something about it before the run on the banks gets even worse.

In fact, if you still have money in any European bank, you might want to consider your options.

Today it was revealed that Germany’s second largest bank is going to need a bailout.

The following comes from a Sky News report….

Germany’s second largest bank, Commerzbank, is reportedly in discussions with the German government about a bailout after regulators said it needed to raise more money to cope with a potential default on its loans to governments.

“Intense talks” have been going on for several days, according to sources who spoke to the news agency Reuters.

Let the bailouts begin!

European governments are going to save the banks that they want to save, and the rest they are going to let fail.

So who will live and who will die?

We just don’t know.

But without a doubt, a whole lot of European banks are in trouble.  In fact, Fitch Ratings downgraded the credit ratings of five more major European banks on Wednesday.

The eurozone worked well for a while, but now the flaws in the system are becoming appallingly evident.  To get an idea of just how badly the European financial system is unraveling, just check out this chart.  European bond yields are not supposed to be acting like that.

In the end, someone is going to leave the euro.  There has been a lot of talk about Greece or Italy leaving the euro, but the truth is that it is probably more likely that a strong nation such as Germany will be the first to make a move.

If Germany leaves the euro, will they start printing up new German currency?

No, I believe in that case that Germany would seek to establish an entirely new European currency for an entirely new European financial system.  Germany is very committed to the idea of a “European superstate“, and just because the euro is a failure does not mean that they are ready to give up on the idea.

But time will tell who is right and who is wrong.

For much more on why we are on the verge of a massive financial collapse in Europe, please check out these articles….

*”Mega Fail: 17 Signs That The European Financial System Is Heading For An Implosion Of Historic Proportions

*”22 Reasons Why We Could See An Economic Collapse In Europe In 2012

As I have written about previously, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out what is happening in Europe.  The equation is simple….

Brutal austerity + toxic levels of government debt + rising bond yields + a lack of confidence in the financial system + banks that are massively overleveraged + a massive credit crunch = A financial implosion of historic proportions

Unfortunately, the United States is not going to escape all of this chaos unscathed either.

The financial systems of the United States and Europe are more deeply tied together than ever before.  When the financial crisis in Europe fully erupts, we are going to see lots of banks in the United States fail too.

The U.S. economy never recovered from the financial crisis of 2008, and this next financial crisis could send us into a huge tailspin.

2012 is going to be a very interesting year for the financial world.  I hope that you all are ready for what is about to happen.

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