The 441 TRILLION Dollar Interest Rate Derivatives Time Bomb

The Derivatives Time BombDo you want to know the primary reason why rapidly rising interest rates could take down the entire global financial system?  Most people might think that it would be because the U.S. government would have to pay much more interest on the national debt.  And yes, if the average rate of interest on U.S. government debt rose to just 6 percent (and it has actually been much higher in the past), the federal government would be paying out about a trillion dollars a year just in interest on the national debt.  But that isn’t it.  Nor does the primary reason have to do with the fact that rapidly rising interest rates would impose massive losses on bond investors.  At this point, it is being projected that if U.S. bond yields rise by an average of 3 percentage points, it will cause investors to lose a trillion dollars.  Yes, that is a 1 with 12 zeroes after it ($1,000,000,000,000).  But that is not the number one danger posed by rapidly rising interest rates either.  Rather, the number one reason why rapidly rising interest rates could cause the entire global financial system to crash is because there are more than 441 TRILLION dollars worth of interest rate derivatives sitting out there.  This number comes directly from the Bank for International Settlements – the central bank of central banks.  In other words, more than $441,000,000,000,000 has been bet on the movement of interest rates.  Normally these bets do not cause a major problem because rates tend to move very slowly and the system stays balanced.  But now rates are starting to skyrocket, and the sophisticated financial models used by derivatives traders do not account for this kind of movement.

So what does all of this mean?

It means that the global financial system is potentially heading for massive amounts of trouble if interest rates continue to soar.

Today, the yield on 10 year U.S. Treasury bonds rocketed up to 2.66% before settling back to 2.55%.  The chart posted below shows how dramatically the yield on 10 year U.S. Treasuries has moved in recent days…

10 Year Treasury Yield

Right now, the yield on 10 year U.S. Treasuries is about 30 percent above its 50 day moving average.  That is the most that it has been above its 50 day moving average in 50 years.

Like I mentioned above, we are moving into uncharted territory and this data doesn’t really fit into the models used by derivatives traders.

The yield on 5 year U.S. Treasuries has been moving even more dramatically…

5 Year Treasury Yield

Last week, the yield on 5 year U.S. Treasuries rose by an astounding 37 percent.  That was the largest increase in 50 years.

Once again, this is uncharted territory.

If rates continue to shoot up, there are going to be some financial institutions out there that are going to start losing absolutely massive amounts of money on interest rate derivative contracts.

So exactly what is an interest rate derivative?

The following is how Investopedia defines interest rate derivatives…

A financial instrument based on an underlying financial security whose value is affected by changes in interest rates. Interest-rate derivatives are hedges used by institutional investors such as banks to combat the changes in market interest rates. Individual investors are more likely to use interest-rate derivatives as a speculative tool – they hope to profit from their guesses about which direction market interest rates will move.

They can be very complicated, but I prefer to think of them in very simple terms.  Just imagine walking into a casino and placing a bet that the yield on 10 year U.S. Treasuries will hit 2.75% in July.  If it does reach that level, you win.  If it doesn’t, you lose.  That is a very simplistic example, but I think that it is a helpful one.  At the heart of it, the 441 TRILLION dollar derivatives market is just a bunch of people making bets about which way interest rates will go.

And normally the betting stays very balanced and our financial system is not threatened.  The people that run this betting use models that are far more sophisticated than anything that Las Vegas uses.  But all models are based on human assumptions, and wild swings in interest rates could break their models and potentially start causing financial losses on a scale that our financial system has never seen before.

We are potentially talking about a financial collapse far worse than anything that we saw back in 2008.

Remember, the U.S. national debt is just now approaching 17 trillion dollars.  So when you are talking about 441 trillion dollars you are talking about an amount of money that is almost unimaginable.

Meanwhile, China appears to be on the verge of another financial crisis as well.  The following is from a recent article by Graham Summers

China is on the verge of a “Lehman” moment as its shadow banking system implodes. China had pumped roughly $1.6 trillion in new credit (that’s 21% of GDP) into its economy in the last two quarters… and China GDP growth is in fact slowing.

This is what a credit bubble bursting looks like: the pumping becomes more and more frantic with less and less returns.

And Chinese stocks just experienced their largest decline since 2009.  The second largest economy on earth is starting to have significant financial problems at the same time that our markets are starting to crumble.

Not good.

And don’t forget about Europe.  European stocks have had a very, very rough month so far

The narrow EuroStoxx 50 index is now at its lowest in over seven months (-5.4% year-to-date and -12.5% from its highs in May) and the broader EuroStoxx 600 is also flailing lower. The European bank stocks pushed down to their lowest in almost 10 months and are now in bear market territory – down 22.5% from their highs. Spain and Italy are now testing their lowest level in 9 months.

So are the central banks of the world going to swoop in and rescue the financial markets from the brink of disaster?

At this point it does not appear likely.

As I have written about previously, the Bank for International Settlements is the central bank for central banks, and it has a tremendous amount of influence over central bank policy all over the planet.

The other day, the general manager of the Bank for International Settlements, Jaime Caruana, gave a speech entitled “Making the most of borrowed time“.  In that speech, he made it clear that the era of extraordinary central bank intervention was coming to an end.  The following is one short excerpt from that speech…

“Ours is a call for acting responsibly now to strengthen growth and avoid even costlier adjustment down the road. And it is a call for recognizing that returning to stability and prosperity is a shared responsibility. Monetary policy has done its part. Recovery now calls for a different policy mix – with more emphasis on strengthening economic flexibility and dynamism and stabilizing public finances.”

Monetary policy has done its part?

That sounds pretty firm.

And if you read the entire speech, you will see that Caruana makes it clear that he believes that it is time for the financial markets to stand on their own.

But will they be able to?

As I wrote about yesterday, the U.S. financial system is a massive Ponzi scheme that is on the verge of imploding.  Unprecedented intervention by the Federal Reserve has helped to prop it up for the last couple of years, and there is a lot of fear in the financial world about what is going to happen once that unprecedented intervention is gone.

So what happens next?

Well, nobody knows for sure, but one thing seems certain.  The last half of 2013 is shaping up to be very, very interesting.

Will Italy Be The Spark That Sets Off Financial Armageddon In Europe?

Will Italy Be The Spark That Sets Off Financial Armageddon In EuropeIs the financial collapse of Italy going to be the final blow that breaks the back of Europe financially?  Most people don’t realize this, but Italy is actually the third largest debtor in the entire world after the United States and Japan.  Italy currently has a debt to GDP ratio of more than 120 percent, and Italy has a bigger national debt than anyone else in Europe does.  That is why it is such a big deal that Italian voters have just overwhelmingly rejected austerity.  The political parties led by anti-austerity candidates Silvio Berlusconi and Beppe Grillo did far better than anticipated.  When you combine their totals, they got more than 50 percent of the vote.  Italian voters have seen what austerity has done to Greece and Spain and they want no part of it.  Unfortunately for Italian voters, it has been the promise of austerity that has kept the Italian financial system stable in recent months.  Now that Italian voters have clearly rejected austerity, investors are fearing that austerity programs all over Europe may start falling apart.  This is creating quite a bit of panic in European financial markets right now.  On Tuesday, Italian stocks had their worst day in 10 months, Italian bond yields rose by the most that we have seen in 19 months, and the stocks of the two largest banks in Italy both fell by more than 8 percent.  Italy is already experiencing its fourth recession since 2001, and unemployment has been steadily rising.  If Italy is now “ungovernable”, as many are saying, then what does that mean for the future of Italy?  Will Italy be the spark that sets off financial armageddon in Europe?

All of Europe was totally shocked by the election results in Italy.  As you can see from the following excerpt from a Bloomberg article, the vote was very divided and the anti-austerity parties did much better than had been projected…

The results showed pre-election favorite Pier Luigi Bersani won the lower house with 29.5 percent, less than a half a percentage point ahead of Silvio Berlusconi, the ex-premier fighting a tax-fraud conviction. Beppe Grillo, a former comedian, got 25.6 percent, while Monti scored 10.6 percent. Bersani and his allies got 31.6 percent of votes in the Senate, compared with 30.7 percent for Berlusconi and 23.79 percent for Grillo, according to final figures from the Interior Ministry.

So what do those election results mean for Italy and for the rest of Europe?

Right now, there is a lot of panic about those results.  There is fear that what just happened in Italy could result in a rejection of austerity all over Europe

“I think the election results (or lack thereof) are a negative for the euro, which will likely keep the currency pressured for some time,” Omer Esiner, chief market analyst for Commonwealth Foreign Exchange, told me. But it’s not just the political uncertainty in Italy, he adds. “The shocking gains made by anti-establishment parties in Italy signal a broad-based frustration with austerity among voters and a decisive rejection of the policies pushed by Germany in nations across the euro zone’s periphery. That theme revives unresolved debt crisis issues and could threaten the continuity of reforms across other countries in the euro zone.”

And the financial markets have clearly interpreted the election results in Europe as a very bad sign.  Zero Hedge summarized some of the bad news out of Europe that we saw on Tuesday…

Swiss 2Y rates turned negative once again for the first time in a month; EURUSD relatively flatlined around 1.3050 (250 pips lower than pre-Italy); Europe’s VIX exploded to almost 26% (from under 19% yesterday); and 3-month EUR-USD basis swaps plunged to their most liquidity-demanding level since 12/28. Spain and Italy (and Portugal) were the most hurt in bonds today as 2Y Italian spreads broke back above 200bps (surging over 50bps casting doubt on OMT support) and 3Y Spain yields broke above 3% once again. The Italian equity market suffered its equal biggest drop in 6 months falling back to 10 week lows (and down 14% from its end-Jan highs). Italian bond yields (and spreads) smashed higher – the biggest jump in 19 months as BTP futures volume exploded in the last two days.

Not that things in Europe were going well before all this.

In fact, the UK was just stripped of its prized AAA credit rating.  That was huge news.

And check out some of the other things that have been going on in the rest of Europe

In Spain, a major real estate company, Reyal Urbis, collapsed last week, leaving already battered banks on the hook for millions of euros in losses. Meanwhile, the government faces a corruption scandal and a steady stream of anti-austerity demonstrations. Thousands of people took to the streets again on Saturday, protesting deep cuts to health and other services, as well as hefty bank bailouts.

Life is no better in a large swath of the broader EU. In Britain, Moody’s cited the continuing economic weakness and the resulting risks to the government’s tight fiscal policy for its rating cut. In Bulgaria, where the government fell last week and the economy is in a shambles, rightists who joined mass demonstrations across the country burned a European Union flag and waved anti-EU banners. Other austerity-minded governments in the EU face similar murky political futures.

At this point, Europe is a complete and total economic mess and things are rapidly getting worse.

And that is really bad news because Europe is already in the midst of a recession.  In fact, according to the BBC, the recession in the eurozone got even deeper during the fourth quarter of 2012…

The eurozone recession deepened in the final three months of 2012, official figures show.

The economy of the 17 nations in the euro shrank by 0.6% in the fourth quarter, which was worse than forecast.

It is the sharpest contraction since the beginning of 2009 and marks the first time the region failed to grow in any quarter during a calendar year.

But this is just the beginning.

The truth is that government debt is not even the greatest danger that Europe is facing.  In reality, a collapse of the European banking system is of much greater concern.

Why is that?

Well, how would you feel if you woke up someday and every penny that you had in the bank was gone?

In the U.S. we don’t have to worry about that so much because all deposits are insured by the FDIC, but in many European countries things work much differently.

For example, just check out what Graham Summers recently had to say about the banking system in Spain…

It’s a little known fact about the Spanish crisis is that when the Spanish Government merges troubled banks, it typically swaps out depositors’ savings for shares in the new bank.

So… when the newly formed bank goes bust, “poof” your savings are GONE. Not gone as in some Spanish version of the FDIC will eventually get you your money, but gone as in gone forever (see the above article for proof).

This is why Bankia’s collapse is so significant: in one move, former depositors at seven banks just lost virtually everything.

And this in a nutshell is Europe’s financial system today: a totally insolvent sewer of garbage debt, run by corrupt career politicians who have no clue how to fix it or their economies… and which results in a big fat ZERO for those who are nuts enough to invest in it.

Be warned. There are many many more Bankias coming to light in the coming months. So if you have not already taken steps to prepare for systemic failure, you NEED to do so NOW. We’re literally at most a few months, and very likely just a few weeks from Europe’s banks imploding, potentially taking down the financial system with them. Think I’m joking? The Fed is pumping hundreds of BILLIONS of dollars into EU banks right now trying to stop this from happening.

Like Graham Summers, I am extremely concerned about the European banking system.  Europe actually has a much larger banking system than the U.S. does, and if the European banking system implodes that is going to send huge shockwaves to the farthest corners of the globe.

But if you want to believe that the “experts” in Europe and in the United States have “everything under control”, then you might as well stop reading now.

After all, they are very highly educated and they know what they are doing, right?

But if you want to listen to some common sense, you might want to check out this very ominous warning from Karl Denninger

I hope you’re ready.

Congress has wasted the time it was given by the Europeans getting things “temporarily” under control.  But they didn’t actually get anything under control, as the Italian elections just showed.

Now, with the budget over there at risk of being abandoned, and fiscal restraint being abandoned (note: exactly what the US has been doing) the markets are recognizing exactly the risk that never in fact went away over the last couple of years.

It was hidden by lies, just as it has been hidden by lies here.

Bernanke’s machinations and other games “gave” the Congress four years to do the right thing.  They didn’t, because that same “gift” also destroyed all market signals of urgency.

As such you have people like Krugman and others claiming that it’s all ok and that we can spend with wild abandon, taking our fiscal medicine never.

They were wrong.  Congress was wrong.  The Republicans were wrong, the Democrats were wrong, and the Administration was wrong.

Congress is out of time; as I noted the deficit spending must stop now, irrespective of the fact that it will cause significant economic damage.

For the past couple of years, authorities in the U.S. and in Europe have been trying to delay the coming crisis by kicking the can down the road.

By doing so, they have been making the eventual collapse even worse.

And now time is running out.

I hope that you are ready.

Armageddon

12 Signs That Spain Is Shifting Gears From Recession To Depression

Where have we seen this before?  Bond yields soar above the 7 percent danger level.  Check.  The stock market crashes to new lows.  Check.  Industrial activity plummets like a rock and the economy contracts.  Check.  The unemployment rate skyrockets to more than 20 percent.  Check.  The bursting of a massive real estate bubble pushes the banking system to the brink of implosion.  Check.  Broke local governments beg the broke national government for bailouts.  Check.  The international community pressures the national government to implement deep austerity measures which will slow down the economy even more and hordes of violent protesters take to the streets.  Check.  All of this happened in Greece, it is happening right now in Spain, and mark my words it will eventually happen in the United States.  Every debt bubble eventually bursts, and right now Spain is experiencing a level of economic pain that very, very few people saw coming.  The recession in Spain is rapidly becoming a full-blown economic depression, and at this point there is no hope and no light at the end of the tunnel.

The bad news for the global economy is that Spain is much larger than Greece.  According to the United Nations, the Greek economy is the 32nd largest economy in the world.  The Spanish economy, on the other hand, is the 4th largest economy in the eurozone and the 12th largest economy on the entire planet.  It is nearly five times the size of the Greek economy.

Financial markets all over the globe are very nervous right now because if the Spanish government ends up asking for a full-blown bailout it could spell the end for the eurozone.  There simply is not enough money to do the same kind of thing for Spain that is being done for Greece.

Of course European officials are going to do their best to keep the eurozone from collapsing, but what they have completely failed to do is to keep these countries from falling into depression.

As I have written about previously, Greece has already been in an economic depression for some time.

I warned that Spain, Italy, Portugal and a bunch of other European nations were going down the exact same path.

Now we are watching a virtual replay of what happened in Greece take place in Spain.

Unfortunately, the global financial system may not be able to handle a complete implosion of the Spanish economy.

The following are 12 signs that Spain is shifting gears from recession to depression….

#1 At one point on Monday, the IBEX stock market index fell to 5,905, which was the lowest level in nearly ten years.  When it hit 5,905 that represented a drop of about 12 percent over just two trading days.  If that happened in the United States, it would be the equivalent of the Dow falling by about 1500 points in 48 hours.

#2 So far this year, the Spanish stock market is down more than 25 percent.  Back in 2008, the IBEX 35 was well over 15,000.  Today it is sitting just above 6,000.

#3 Spain has banned many forms of short selling for 3 months.

#4 The yield on 10 year Spanish bonds is now well above the 7 percent “danger level”.

#5 Thanks to the problems in Spain, the euro continues to fall like a rock.  On Monday it hit a new two year low against the U.S. dollar, and it is near a twelve year low against the Japanese yen.

#6 During the first quarter of 2012, the Spanish economy contracted by 0.3 percent.  During the second quarter of 2012, the Spanish economy contracted by 0.4 percent.

#7 Local governments all over Spain are flat broke and need to be bailed out by the broke national government.  The following is from a recent CNBC article….

Adding to Madrid’s woes, media reports suggested another half a dozen of Spain’s 17 regional authorities, facing an undeclared funding crisis, were ready to follow Valencia in seeking aid from the central government.

#8 The percentage of bad loans on the books of Spanish banks has reached an 18 year high.  European officials have already promised a 100 billion euro bailout for Spain’s troubled banking system, but most analysts agree that 100 billion euros will not be nearly enough.

#9 Spanish industrial output declined for the ninth month in a row in May.

#10 The unemployment rate in Spain is up to an astounding 24.6 percent.  The unemployment rate in Spain is already higher than it was in the United States at the peak of the Great Depression of the 1930s.

#11 The youth unemployment rate in Spain is now over 52 percent.

#12 The Spanish government has just announced a whole bunch of new tax increases and spending cuts which will cause the Spanish economy to slow down even more.  In response to these austerity measures, people are taking to the streets all over Spain.  Last week, 100,000 demonstrators poured into the streets to protest in Madrid alone.

Sadly, the nightmare in Spain is just beginning.

If the yield on 10 year Spanish bonds stays above 7 percent, that is going to be a really bad sign.  According to the Wall Street Journal, the 7 percent level is key as far as investor confidence is concerned….

Monday’s dramatic market moves suggest Spain may be stuck in a spiral that culminates in a bailout from other euro-zone countries.

“The rise in the 10-year yield well beyond 7% carries a very distinct reminder of events in Greece in April 2010, Ireland in October 2010 and Portugal in February 2011,” said analysts at Bank of New York Mellon. “In each case, a decisive move beyond 7% signaled the start of a collapse in investor confidence that, in each case, led to a bailout within weeks,” they added.

So keep an eye on that number in the weeks ahead.

Meanwhile, the Spanish economy continues to get worse with each passing month.

So just how bad are things in Spain right now?

Just check out this excerpt from a recent article by Mark Grant….

Recently two noted Spanish economists were interviewed. One was always an optimist and one was always a pessimist. The optimist droned on and on about how bad things were in Spain, the dire situation with the regional debt, the huge problems overtaking the Spanish banks and the imminent collapse of the Spanish economy. In the end he said that the situation was so bad that the Spanish people were going to have to eat manure. The pessimist was shocked by the comments of his colleague who had never heard him speak in such a manner. When it was the pessimist’s turn to speak he said that he agreed with the optimist with one exception; the manure would soon run out.

That may make you laugh, but for those in Europe going through these horrific economic conditions it is no laughing matter.

On Sunday, Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras actually told former U.S. president Bill Clinton that Greece is already in a “Great Depression“.

Like Spain, the unemployment rate in Greece is well above 20 percent and the youth unemployment rate is above 50 percent.

The only reason the Greek financial system has not totally collapsed is because of outside assistance, but now there are indications that the assistance may soon be cut off.

At this point there are persistent rumors that the IMF does not plan to give any more aid money to Greece unless Greece “shapes up”.

Meanwhile, the suffering in Greece just gets worse and worse.

Sadly, most Americans pay very little attention to what is going on in Greece and Spain.

Most Americans just assume that we will always have “the greatest economy on earth” and that we can take prosperity for granted.

Unfortunately, the truth is that the United States already has more government debt per capita than either Greece or Spain does.

Just like Greece and Spain, we are also rapidly traveling down the road to economic oblivion, and depression-like conditions will arrive in this country soon enough.

So enjoy these last months of economic prosperity while you still can.

A whole lot of pain is on the horizon.

18 Signs That The Banking Crisis In Europe Has Just Gone From Bad To Worse

With each passing day, the banking crisis in Europe escalates.  European banks are having their credit ratings downgraded in waves, bond yields are soaring and billions of euros are being pulled out of banks all across the eurozone.  The situation in Europe is rapidly going from bad to worse.  It is almost like watching air being let out of a balloon.  The key to any financial system is confidence, and right now confidence in banks in Greece, Italy, Spain and Portugal is declining at an alarming rate.  When things hit the fan in Europe, it is going to be much safer to have your money in Swiss banks or German banks than in Greek banks, Spanish banks or Italian banks.  Millions of people in Europe are starting to realize that a “euro” is not necessarily always going to be a “euro” and they are starting to panic.  The Greek banking system is already on the verge of total collapse, and at this rate it is only a matter of time before we see some major Spanish and Italian banks start to fail.  In fact it has already been announced that the fourth largest bank in Spain, Bankia, will be getting bailed out by the Spanish government.  It is only a matter of time before we hear more announcements like this.  Right now, events are moving so quickly in Europe that it is hard to keep up with them all.  But this is what usually happens in the financial world.  When things go well, it tends to happen over an extended period of time.  When things fall apart, it tends to happen very rapidly.

And at the moment, things across the pond are moving at a pace that is absolutely breathtaking.

The following are 18 signs that the banking crisis in Europe has just gone from bad to worse….

#1 Moody’s has announced that it has downgraded the credit ratings of 16 Spanish banks.  Included was Banco Santander, the largest bank in the eurozone.

#2 Shares of the fourth largest bank in Spain, Bankia, dropped 14 percent on Thursday.

#3 Overall, shares of Bankia have declined by 61 percent since last July.

#4 Shares of the largest bank in Italy, Unicredit, dropped by about 6 percent on Thursday.

#5 According to CNBC, a Spanish bond auction on Thursday went very poorly….

The Spanish Treasury had to pay around 5 percent to attract buyers of three- and four-year bonds. The longer-dated paper sold with a yield of 5.106 percent, way above the 3.374 percent the last time it was auctioned.

#6 The yield on 10 year Spanish bonds is back above 6 percent.

#7 In recent days, about eight times more money than usual has been pulled out of Greek banks.

#8 Fitch has slashed the long-term credit rating for Greece from B- to CCC.

#9 The European Central Bank has cut off direct lending to at least 4 Greek banks.

#10 According to a recent German documentary, financial records at the Ministry of Finance in Athens are being stored in garbage bags and shopping carts.

#11 The euro hit a 4 month low against the U.S. dollar on Thursday.

#12 It has been announced that the Spanish economy and the Italian economy are officially in recession.

#13 The Spanish government is becoming increasingly concerned about the bad loans that are mounting at major Spanish banks.  The following is from a recent Bloomberg article….

The government has asked lenders to increase provisions for bad debt by 54 billion euros ($70 billion) to 166 billion euros. That’s enough to cover losses of about 50 percent on loans to property developers and construction firms, according to the Bank of Spain. There wouldn’t be anything left for defaults on more than 1.4 trillion euros of home loans and corporate debt.

Taking those into account, banks would need to increase provisions by as much as five times what the government says, or 270 billion euros, according to estimates by the Centre for European Policy Studies, a Brussels-based research group. Plugging that hole would increase Spain’s public debt by almost 50 percent or force it to seek a bailout, following in the footsteps of Ireland, Greece and Portugal.

#14 Civil unrest is rising to dangerous levels in Italy.  The Italian government has assigned bodyguards to 550 individuals and has increased security at about 14,000 locations in response to recent violence related to the economic crisis.

#15 Governments all over Europe are rapidly making preparations for a Greek exit from the euro.  The following is from a recent article in the Guardian….

The British government is making urgent preparations to cope with the fallout of a possible Greek exit from the single currency, after the governor of the Bank of England, Sir Mervyn King, warned that Europe was “tearing itself apart”.

#16 According to CNBC, the banking crisis in Europe is beginning to affect global trade….

The euro zone debt crisis is affecting trade as companies shy away from dealing with firms and banks in countries deemed at risk of contagion, a senior banker said on Thursday.

#17 Moody’s downgraded the credit ratings of 26 Italian banks on Monday.

#18 Moody’s has announced that it is reviewing the credit ratings of 114 more European financial institutions.

Newspapers all over the globe are speaking breathlessly of a potential Greek exit from the euro, but it is very unlikely to happen before the next Greek election on June 17th.

The rest of Europe is going to continue to financially support Greece until a new government takes power.

If the new government is willing to accept the previous bailout agreements, then financial support for Greece will continue.

If the new government is not willing to accept the previous bailout agreements, then financial support for Greece will stop.

If that happens, the bank runs in Europe will likely become a lot worse.

But for now, Greece almost certainly has at least one more month in the euro.

Beyond that, there is no telling what is going to happen.

Greece is the first domino.  If Greece falls, you can count on others to eventually start tumbling as well.

The second half of 2012 is going to be fascinating to watch.

Hopefully things will not be as bad as many of us now fear they may be.

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….

11 Quotes That Show How Worried The Financial World Is About Europe Right Now

The recent elections in France and in Greece have thrown the global financial system into an uproar.  Fear and worry are everywhere and nobody is quite sure what is going to happen next.  All of the financial deals that Greece has made over the past few years may be null and void.  Nobody is going to know for sure until a new government is formed, and at this point it looks like that is not going to happen and that there will need to be new elections in June.  All of the financial deals that France has made over the past few years may be null and void as well.  New French President Francois Hollande seems determined to take France on a path away from austerity.  But can France really afford to keep spending money that it does not have?  France has already lost its AAA credit rating and French bond yields have started to move up toward dangerous territory.  And Greek politicians are delusional if they think they have any other choice other than austerity.  Without European bailout money (which they won’t get if they don’t honor their current agreements), nobody is going to want to lend Greece a dime.

And all of this talk about “austerity” is kind of silly anyway.  It isn’t as if either France or Greece was going to have a balanced budget any time soon.  Both nations were still running up huge amounts of debt even under the “austerity” budgets.

But the citizens of both nations have sent a clear message that they are not going to tolerate even a slowdown in government spending.  They want to go back to the debt-fueled prosperity of the last several decades, even if it makes their long-term financial problems a lot worse.

Unfortunately, as I mentioned earlier, Greece does not have that option.  Without the bailout money that they are scheduled to get, Greece does not have a prayer of avoiding a disorderly default.  Private investors would have to be insane to lend Greece money if the bailout deal falls apart.  Greece desperately needs the help of the EU, the ECB and the IMF and the only way they are going to get it is if they abide by the terms of the agreements that have already been reached.

The only way that Greece can avoid austerity at this point would be to leave the euro.  Nobody would want to lend money to Greece under that scenario either, but Greece could choose to print huge amounts of their own national currency if they wanted to.

The situation is different in France.  Investors are still willing to lend to France at reasonable interest rates, but if France chooses to run up huge amounts of additional debt at some point they will end up just like Greece.

What is even more important in the short-term is the crumbling of the French/German alliance on European fiscal matters.  Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy were a united front, but now Merkel and Hollande are likely to have conflict after conflict.

Instead of moving in one clear direction, the eurozone is now fractured and tensions are rising.

So what comes next?

Well, investors are not certain what comes next and that has many of them deeply concerned.

The following are 11 quotes that show how worried the financial world is about Europe right now….

#1 Tres Knippa of Kenai Capital Management: “What is going on in Europe is an absolute disaster…the risk-on trade is not the place to be. I want to be out of equities and very, very defensive because the situation in Europe just got worse after those elections.”

#2 Mark McCormick, currency strategist at Brown Brothers Harriman: “We’re going to have higher tensions, more uncertainty and most likely a weaker euro.”

#3 Nick Stamenkovic, investment strategist at RIA Capital Markets in Edinburgh: “Investors are questioning whether Greece will be a part of the single currency at the end of this year.”

#4 Jörg Asmussen, a European Central Bank executive board member: “Greece needs to be aware that there is no alternative to the agreed reform program if it wants to remain a member of the eurozone”

#5 Tristan Cooper, sovereign debt analyst at Fidelity Worldwide Investment: “A Greek eurozone exit is on the cards although the probability and timing of such an event is uncertain.”

#6 Art Cashin: “Here’s the outlook on Greece from Wall Street watering holes. If a coalition government is formed or looks to be formed, global markets may rally. Any coalition is unlikely to make progress on goals, since austerity is political suicide. There will likely be another election around June 10/17. A workable majority/plurality remains unlikely, so back to square one. Therefore, Greece will be unable to attain goals by the deadline (June 30). Lacking aid funds, pensions are suspended and government workers are laid off. Protestors take to the streets and government is forced to revert to drachma to avoid social chaos. Pass the peanuts, please.”

#7 John Noonan, Senior Forex Analyst with Thomson Reuters in Sydney: “Sentiment is very bearish, The euro is under a lot of pressure right now. I get the feeling that it’s going to be a nasty move lower for the euro finally”

#8 Kenneth S. Rogoff, a professor of economics at Harvard: “A Greek exit would underscore that there’s no realistic long-term plan for Europe, and it would lead to a chaotic endgame for the rest of the euro zone.”

#9 Chris Tinker of Libra Investment Services: “It’s a binary decision. If Greece gets itself to the point where the European administration says, ‘We can’t play this game anymore,’ that starts a domino effect”

#10 Nicolas Véron, a senior fellow at Bruegel: “France has very limited fiscal space and actually has to engage in fiscal consolidation”

#11 80-year-old Greek citizen Panagiota Makri: “I’m confused. I feel numb and confused. Only God can save us now”

All of this comes at a time when much of Europe is already descending into a new recession.  Economies all over Europe are contracting and unemployment rates are skyrocketing.  Until things start improving, there is going to continue to be a lot of civil unrest across Europe.

Meanwhile, things are not so great in the United States either.

JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon claims that the U.S. economy is holding a “royal straight flush“, but the only part of that he got right was the “flush” part.

There are 100 million working age Americans that do not have jobs, the middle class continues to shrink, the rising cost of food and the rising cost of gas are severely stretching the budgets of millions of American families and the federal government continues to run up gigantic amounts of debt.

When Europe descends into financial chaos, the United States is not going to escape it.  The financial crisis of 2008 deeply affected the entire globe, and so will the next great financial crisis.

Let us hope that we still have a little bit more time before the next great financial crisis strikes, but things in Europe are rapidly unraveling and at some point the dominoes are going to begin to fall.

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.

If A Global Recession Is Not Looming, Then Why Are Bailouts Flying Around As If The End Of The World Is Coming?

I have learned that watching what people do is much more important than listening to what they say.  Back in 2008, financial authorities in the United States insisted that everything was gone to be okay.  But we all know now that was a lie.  Well, right now financial authorities in the U.S. and Europe are once again trying to assure us that everything is under control and that we are not headed for a global recession.  Unfortunately, their actions are telling a very different story.  All over the world, bailouts are flying around as if the end of the world is coming.  Governments and central banks are stepping in with gigantic mountains of money to prop up bond yields, major banks and even stock markets.  What we have seen over the past few months has been absolutely unprecedented.  So why are such desperate measures being taken if everything is going to be just fine?  Unfortunately, debt problems are never solved with more debt, so these bailouts really aren’t solving anything.  We are still headed for a massive amount of financial pain.  It would just be nice if the authorities would quit lying to us and would actually admit how bad things really are.

Today it was announced that the European Central Bank has agreed to make $638 billion in 3 year loans to 523 different banks.  Never before (not even during the last financial crisis) has the ECB loaned so much cheap money to European banks at one time.

This move by the ECB made headlines all over the globe.  CNBC is calling them “ultra-long and ultra-cheap loans“.

European authorities are hoping that European banks will use this money to make loans to businesses and to buy up the debt of troubled European governments.

But as we have seen in the United States, bailout money does not always get spent the way that the authorities intend for it to be spent.

The truth is that the banks could end up just sitting on the money.  That is what happened with a lot of bailout money in the United States during the last financial crisis.

European authorities hope, however, that European banks will take this super cheap money and lend it to European governments at much higher interest rates.

Unfortunately, global financial markets were not terribly impressed with this move by the ECB.  European bond yields actually rose and the euro just kept on falling.

Every few days another major “solution” to the European debt crisis is put out there, but so far nothing has worked.

For example, the European Central Bank has already spent over 274 billion dollars directly buying up European government bonds, and yet bond yields continue to hover in very dangerous territory.

But without ECB intervention, we probably would have already seen a major financial collapse in Europe.

The financial system of Europe is a total mess right now, and everyone is becoming incredibly dependent on the ECB.  The following comes from a recent Reuters article….

One of the key factors certain to have boosted demand is that banks are now more reliant than ever on central bank funds. The ECB said on Monday, in its semi-annual Financial Stability Review, that this dependency could be difficult to cure.

French banks have almost quadrupled their intake of ECB money since June to 150 billion euros, while banks in Italy and Spain are each taking more than 100 billion euros.

At this point, the ECB has the weight of the entire world on its shoulders.  One false move and we could see a huge wave of bank failures and we could be plunged into a major global recession.

But even with all of this unprecedented assistance, we have already seen some big time European banks fail.

Back in Obtober, Dexia was the first major European bank to be bailed out, and the cost of that bailout is going to exceed 100 billion dollars.

The funny thing is that Dexia actually passed the banking stress test that was conducted earlier this year with flying colors.

So what does that say about all of the other major European banks that did not do so well on the stress test?

In addition, it was recently announced 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.

Even with unprecedented intervention by the ECB, the truth is that the European banking system is rapidly failing.

In Greece, a full-blown run on the banks is happening.  According to a recent Der Spiegel article, funds are being pulled out of Greek banks at a pace that is astounding….

He means that the outflow of funds from Greek bank accounts has been accelerating rapidly. At the start of 2010, savings and time deposits held by private households in Greece totalled €237.7 billion — by the end of 2011, they had fallen by €49 billion. Since then, the decline has been gaining momentum. Savings fell by a further €5.4 billion in September and by an estimated €8.5 billion in October — the biggest monthly outflow of funds since the start of the debt crisis in late 2009.

In all, approximately 20 percent of all deposits in Greek banks have been withdrawn since the start of 2011.

Other European nations are implementing draconian measures in an attempt to protect their banks.  For example, in Italy all cash transactions over 1000 euros have been permanently banned.  People will either have to use checks, debit cards or credit cards for large transactions.  This will “encourage” people to keep more money in the banks, and this will also make it much easier for the Italian government to track transactions and to collect taxes.

But it is not just in the EU where we find unusual steps being taken.

In the UK, the Bank of England is acting like the end of the world is about to happen.  The following comes from a recent article on the This Is Money website….

The deputy governor of the Bank of England today warned the situation surrounding the single currency was ‘worrying’ and that the Bank was making preparations to support British banks, should the eurozone collapse.

A temporary loan facility has been introduced as a precaution, for use in the event of contagion from the eurozone crisis endangering UK institutions, Charlie Bean said in an interview on BBC Radio 4’s World at One.

An article posted on Business Insider a while back says that Switzerland is also preparing for “a euro collapse”….

The Swiss government is preparing for a collapse of the euro, according to Swiss Finance Minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf.

She told parliament that a work group was studying the imposition of capital controls and negative interest rates to protect Switzerland from the capital flight that a euro collapse would engender

Frightening stuff.

On the other side of the world, the government of China is also taking action.  In fact, China is actually injecting money into the stock market in order to prop up stock prices.

The following comes from an article in the China Post….

In a movement considered “long overdue” by some analysts, the injection of government money into the tanking stock market to prop up stock prices has been given the green light, government officials announced yesterday.

Vice Premier Chen, the topmost government official charged with the country’s financial stability, however, insisted the fundamentals of the economy and the stock market are sound, expressing his hope for continued optimism among the people.

Of course the Federal Reserve is not going to stand on the sideline while all of this is going on.  In a recent article, I described how the Federal Reserve is helping to bail out European banks….

The Federal Reserve, the European Central Bank, the Bank of England, the Bank of Canada, the Bank of Japan and the Swiss National Bank have announced a coordinated plan to provide liquidity support to the global financial system.  According to the plan, the Federal Reserve is going to substantially reduce the interest rate that it charges the European Central Bank to borrow dollars.  In turn, that will enable the ECB to lend dollars to European banks at a much cheaper rate.  The hope is that this will alleviate the credit crunch which has gripped the European financial system by the throat.  So where is the Federal Reserve going to get all of these dollars that it will be loaning out at very low interest rates?  You guessed it – the Fed is just going to create them out of thin air.  Our currency is being debased so that Europe can be helped out.

If the global financial system was in good shape, all of these bailouts would not be happening.

These desperate measures are a clear sign that something is up.

The financial authorities of the world are doing their best to keep the system together, but in the end they are not going to be able to prevent the collapse that is coming.

The world is heading for incredibly hard economic times.

So is the end of the world coming?

No.

But to many in the financial world it may feel like it.  The coming global recession is not going to be fun.

We have now reached a point where it has become “normal” for governments and central banks to throw money at one financial crisis after another.

At one time, bailouts were so unusual that they provoked a great deal of outrage.

Today, bailouts have become standard operating procedure.

The bailouts will continue to get larger and larger, and authorities all over the globe will do their very best to keep the house of cards from coming crashing down.

Unfortunately, they will not be successful.

The Economic Collapse