20 Signs Of Imminent Financial Collapse In Europe

Are we on the verge of a massive financial collapse in Europe?  Rumors of an imminent default by Greece are flying around all over the place and Greek government officials are openly admitting that they are running out of money.  Without more bailout funds it is absolutely certain that Greece will soon default on their debts.  But German officials are threatening to hold up more bailout payments until the Greeks “do what they agreed to do”.  The attitude in Germany is that the Greeks must now pay the price for going into so much debt.  Officials in the Greek government are becoming frustrated because the more austerity measures they implement, the more their economy shrinks.  As the economy shrinks, so do tax payments and the budget deficit gets even larger.  Meanwhile, hordes of very angry Greek citizens are violently protesting in the streets.  If Germany allows Greece to default, that is going to start financial dominoes tumbling around the globe and it is going to be a signal to the financial markets that there is a very real possibility that Portugal, Italy and Spain will be allowed to default as well.  Needless to say, all hell would break loose at that point.

So why is Greece so important?

Well, there are two reasons why Greece is so important.

Number one, major banks all over Europe are heavily invested in Greek debt.  Since many of those banks are also very highly leveraged, if they are forced to take huge losses on Greek debt it could wipe many of them out.

Secondly, if Greece defaults, it tells the markets that Portugal, Italy and Spain would likely not be rescued either.  It would suddenly become much, much more expensive for those countries to borrow money, which would make their already huge debt problems far worse.

If Italy or Spain were to go down, it would wipe out major banks all over the globe.

Recently, Paul Krugman of the New York Times summarized the scale of the problem the world financial system is now facing….

Financial turmoil in Europe is no longer a problem of small, peripheral economies like Greece. What’s under way right now is a full-scale market run on the much larger economies of Spain and Italy. At this point countries in crisis account for about a third of the euro area’s G.D.P., so the common European currency itself is under existential threat.

Most Americans don’t spend a lot of time thinking about the financial condition of Europe.

But they should.

Right now, the U.S. economy is really struggling to stay out of another recession.  If Europe has a financial meltdown, there is no way that the United States is going to be able to avoid another huge economic downturn.

If you think that things are bad now, just wait.  After the next major financial crisis what we are going through right now is going to look like a Sunday picnic.

The following are 20 signs of imminent financial collapse in Europe….

#1 The yield on 2 year Greek bonds is now over 60 percent.  The yield on 1 year Greek bonds is now over 110 percent.  Basically, world financial markets now fully expect that Greece will default.

#2 European bank stocks are getting absolutely killed once again today.  We have seen this happen time after time in the last few weeks.  What we are now witnessing is a clear trend.  Just like back in 2008, major banking stocks are leading the way down the financial toilet.

#3 The German government is now making preparations to bail out major German banks when Greece defaults.  Reportedly, the German government is telling banks and financial institutions to be prepared for a 50 percent “haircut” on Greek debt obligations.

#4 With thousands upon thousands of angry citizens protesting in the streets, the Greek government seems hesitant to fully implement the austerity measures that are being required of them.  But if Greece does not do what they are being told to do, Germany may withhold further aid.  German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble says that Greece is now “on a knife’s edge“.

#5 Germany is increasingly taking a hard line with Greece, and the Greeks are feeling very pushed around by the Germans at this point.  Ambrose Evans-Pritchard made this point very eloquently in a recent article for the Telegraph….

Germany’s EU commissioner Günther Oettinger said Europe should send blue helmets to take control of Greek tax collection and liquidate state assets. They had better be well armed. The headlines in the Greek press have been “Unconditional Capitulation”, and “Terrorization of Greeks”, and even “Fourth Reich”.

#6 Everyone knows that Greece simply cannot last much longer without continued bailouts.  John Mauldin explained why this is so in a recent article….

It is elementary school arithmetic. The Greek debt-to-GDP is currently at 140%. It will be close to 180% by year’s end (assuming someone gives them the money). The deficit is north of 15%. They simply cannot afford to make the interest payments. True market (not Eurozone-subsidized) interest rates on Greek short-term debt are close to 100%, as I read the press. Their long-term debt simply cannot be refinanced without Eurozone bailouts.

#7 The austerity measures that have already been implemented are causing the Greek economy to shrink rapidly.  Greek Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos has announced that the Greek government is now projecting that the economy will shrink by 5.3% in 2011.

#8 Greek Deputy Finance Minister Filippos Sachinidis says that Greece only has enough cash to continue operating until next month.

#9 Major banks in the U.S., in Japan and in Europe have a tremendous amount of exposure to Greek debt.  If they are forced to take major losses on Greek debt, quite a few major banks that are very highly leveraged could suddenly be in danger of being wiped out.

#10 If Greece goes down, Portugal could very well be next.  Ambrose Evans-Pritchard of the Telegraph explains it this way….

Yet to push Greece over the edge risks instant contagion to Portugal, which has higher levels of total debt, and an equally bad current account deficit near 9pc of GDP, and is just as unable to comply with Germany’s austerity dictates in the long run. From there the chain-reaction into EMU’s soft-core would be fast and furious.

#11 The yield on 2 year Portuguese bonds is now over 15 percent.  A year ago the yield on those bonds was about 4 percent.

#12 Portugal, Ireland and Italy now also have debt to GDP ratios that are well above 100%.

#13 Greece, Portugal, Ireland, Italy and Spain owe the rest of the world about 3 trillion euros combined.

#14 Major banks in the “healthy” areas of Europe could soon see their credit ratings downgraded.  For example, there are persistent rumors that Moody’s is about to downgrade the credit ratings of several major French banks.

#15 Most major European banks are leveraged to the hilt and are massively exposed to sovereign debt.  Before it fell in 2008, Lehman Brothers was leveraged 31 to 1.  Today, major German banks are leveraged 32 to 1, and those banks are currently holding a massive amount of European sovereign debt.

#16 The ECB is not going to be able to buy up debt from troubled eurozone members indefinitely.  The European Central Bank is already holding somewhere in the neighborhood of 444 billion euros of debt from the governments of Greece, Italy, Portugal, Ireland and Spain.  On Friday, Jurgen Stark of Germany resigned from the European Central Bank in protest over these reckless bond purchases.

#17 According to London-based think tank Open Europe, the European Central Bank is now massively overleveraged….

“Should the ECB see its assets fall by just 4.23pc in value . . . its entire capital base would be wiped out.”

#18 The recent decision issued by the German Constitutional Court seems to have ruled out the establishment of any “permanent” bailout mechanism for the eurozone.  Just consider the following language from the decision….

“No permanent treaty mechanisms shall be established that leads to liability for the decisions of other states, especially if they entail incalculable consequences”

#19 Economist Nouriel Roubini is warning that without “massive stimulus” by the governments of the western world we are going to see a major financial collapse and we will find ourselves plunging into a depression….

“In the short term, we need to do massive stimulus; otherwise, there’s going to be another Great Depression”

#20 German Economy Minister Philipp Roesler is warning that “an orderly default” for Greece is not “off the table“….

”To stabilize the euro, we must not take anything off the table in the short run. That includes, as a worst-case scenario, an orderly default for Greece if the necessary instruments for it are available.”

Right now, Greece is caught in a death spiral.  The more austerity measures they implement, the more their economy slows down.  The more their economy slows down, the more their tax revenues go down.  The more their tax revenues go down, the worse their debt problems become.

Greece could end up leaving the euro, but that would make their economic problems far, far worse and it would be very damaging to the rest of the eurozone as well.

Quite a few politicians in Europe are touting a “United States of Europe” as the ultimate solution to these problems, but right now the citizens of the eurozone are overwhelming against deeper economic integration.

Plus, giving the EU even more power would mean an even greater loss of national sovereignty for the people of Europe.

That would not be a good thing.

So what we are stuck with right now is the status quo.  But the current state of affairs cannot last much longer.  Germany is getting sick and tired of giving out bailouts and nations such as Greece are getting sick and tired of the austerity measures that are being forced upon them.

At some point, something is going to snap.  When that happens, world financial markets are going to respond with a mixture of panic and fear.  Credit markets will freeze up because nobody will be able to tell who is stable and who is about to collapse.  Dominoes will start to fall and quite a few major financial institutions will be wiped out.  Governments around the world will have to figure out who they want to bail out and who they don’t want to bail out.

It will be a giant mess.

For decades, the governments of the western world have been warned that they were getting into way too much debt.

For decades, the major banks and the big financial institutions were warned that they were becoming way too leveraged and were taking far too many risks.

Well, nobody listened.

So now we get to watch a global financial nightmare play out in slow motion.

Grab some popcorn and get ready.  It is going to be quite a show.

20 Quotes From European Leaders That Prove That They Know That The Financial System In Europe Is Doomed

The financial crisis in Europe has become so severe that it has put the future of the euro, and indeed the future of the EU itself, in doubt.  If the financial system in Europe collapses, it is going to plunge the entire globe into chaos.  The EU has a larger economy and a larger population than the United States does.  The EU also has more Fortune 500 companies that the United States does.  If the financial system in Europe breaks down, we are all doomed.  An economic collapse in Europe would unleash a financial tsunami that would sweep across the globe.  As I wrote about yesterday, the nightmarish sovereign debt crisis in Europe could potentially bring about the end of the euro.  The future of the monetary union in Europe is being questioned all over the continent.  Without massive bailouts, there are at least 5 or 6 nations in Europe that will likely soon default.  The political will for continued bailouts is rapidly failing in northern Europe, so something needs to be done quickly to avert disaster.  Unfortunately, as anyone that has ever lived in Europe knows, things tend to move very, very slowly in Europe.

If the bailouts end and Europe is not able to come up with another plan before then, mass chaos is going to unleashed.  Most major European banks are massively exposed to European sovereign debt, and most of them are also very, very highly leveraged.  If we see nations such as Greece, Portugal and Italy start to default, we could have quite a few major European banks go down in rapid succession.  That could be the “tipping point” that sets off mass financial panic around the globe.

Of course the governments of Europe would probably step in to bail out many of those banks, but when the U.S. did something similar back in 2008 that didn’t prevent the world from plunging into a horrible worldwide recession.

Right now, the way that the monetary union is structured in Europe simply does not work.  Countries that are deep in debt have no flexibility in dealing with those debts, and citizens of wealthy countries such as Germany are becoming deeply resentful that they must keep shoveling money into the financial black holes of southern Europe.

These bailouts cannot go on indefinitely.  Political and financial authorities all over Europe know this and they also know that Europe is rapidly heading toward a day of reckoning.

The quotes that you are about to read are absolutely shocking.  In Europe they openly admit that the financial system is dying, that the euro is in danger of not surviving and that the EU does not work in its present form.

The following are 20 quotes from European leaders that prove that they know that the financial system in Europe is doomed….

#1 Polish finance minister Jacek Rostowski: “European elites, including German elites, must decide if they want the euro to survive – even at a high price – or not. If not, we should prepare for a controlled dismantling of the currency zone.”

#2 Stephane Deo, Paul Donovan, and Larry Hatheway of Swiss banking giant UBS:Under the current structure and with the current membership, the euro does not work. Either the current structure will have to change, or the current membership will have to change.”

#3 EU President Herman Van Rompuy: “The euro has never had the infrastructure that it requires.”

#4 German President Christian Wulff: “I regard the huge buy-up of bonds of individual states by the ECB as legally and politically questionable. Article 123 of the Treaty on the EU’s workings prohibits the ECB from directly purchasing debt instruments, in order to safeguard the central bank’s independence”

#5 Deutsche Bank CEO Josef Ackerman: “It is an open secret that numerous European banks would not survive having to revalue sovereign debt held on the banking book at market levels.”

#6 ECB President Jean-Claude Trichet: “We are experiencing very demanding times”

#7 International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde: “Developments this summer have indicated we are in a dangerous new phase”

#8 Prince Hermann Otto zu Solms-Hohensolms-Lich, the Bundestag’s Deputy President: “We must consider whether it would not be better for the currency union and for Greece itself to go for debt restructuring and an exit from the euro”

#9 Alastair Newton, a strategist for Nomura Securities in London: “We believe that we are just about to enter a critical period for the eurozone and that the threat of some sort of break-up between now and year-end is greater than it has been at any time since the start of the crisis”

#10 Former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder: “The current crisis makes it relentlessly clear that we cannot have a common currency zone without a common fiscal, economic and social policy”

#11 Bank of England Governor Mervyn King: “Dealing with a banking crisis was difficult enough, but at least there were public-sector balance sheets on to which the problems could be moved. Once you move into sovereign debt, there is no answer; there’s no backstop.”

#12 George Soros: “We are on the verge of an economic collapse which starts, let’s say, in Greece. The financial system remains extremely vulnerable.”

#13 German Chancellor Angela Merkel: “The current crisis facing the euro is the biggest test Europe has faced for decades, even since the Treaty of Rome was signed in 1957.”

#14 Stephane Deo, Paul Donovan, and Larry Hatheway of Swiss banking giant UBS: “Member states would be economically better off if they had never joined. European monetary union was generally mis-sold to the population of the Europe.”

#15 Professor Giacomo Vaciago of Milan’s Catholic University: “It’s clear that the euro has virtually failed over the last ten years, even if you are not supposed to say that.”

#16 EU President Herman Van Rompuy: “We’re in a survival crisis. We all have to work together in order to survive with the euro zone, because if we don’t survive with the euro zone we will not survive with the European Union.”

#17 German Chancellor Angela Merkel: “If the euro fails, then Europe fails.”

#18 Deutsche Bank CEO Josef Ackerman: “All this reminds one of the autumn of 2008”

#19 International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde: “There has been a clear crisis of confidence that has seriously aggravated the situation. Measures need to be taken to ensure that this vicious circle is broken”

#20 German Chancellor Angela Merkel: “The euro is in danger … If we don’t deal with this danger, then the consequences for us in Europe are incalculable.”

Most of the individuals quoted above desperately want to save the euro.  They are not going to go down without a fight.  The overwhelming consensus among the political and financial elite in Europe is that increased European integration in Europe is the answer.

For example, EU President Herman Van Rompuy is very clear about what he believes the final result of this crisis will be….

“This crisis in the euro zone will strengthen European integration. That is my firm belief.”

Many of the elite in Europe are now openly talking about the need for a “United States of Europe”.  Just consider what former German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder recently had to say….

“From the European Commission, we should make a government which would be supervised by the European Parliament. And that means the United States of Europe.”

But as mentioned above, things in Europe tend to move very, very slowly.  The debt crisis in Europe is rapidly coming to a breaking point, and it is very doubtful that Europe will be able to move fast enough to head it off.

What we may actually see is at least a partial collapse of the euro and a massive financial crisis in Europe first, and then much deeper European integration being sold by authorities in Europe as “the solution” to the crisis.

This would be yet another example of the classic problem/reaction/solution paradigm.

The “problem” would be a horrible financial crisis and economic downturn in Europe.

The “reaction” would be a cry from the European public for someone to “fix” things and return things back to “normal”.

The “solution” would be a “United States of Europe” with much deeper economic and political integration which is something that many among the political and financial elite of Europe have wanted for a long, long time.

Right now, the people of Europe are very much opposed to deeper economic and political integration. For example, 76 percent of Germans says that they have little or no faith in the euro and one recent poll found that German voters are against the introduction of “Eurobonds” by about a 5 to 1 margin.

It looks like it may take a major crisis in order to get the people of Europe to change their minds.

Unfortunately, it looks like that may be exactly what is going to happen.

3, 2, 1: Global Debt Meltdown

We are steamrolling toward a massive global debt meltdown, and at this point world leaders seem to be all out of solutions.  Over the last 30 years or so, the greatest debt bubble in the history of the planet has produced unprecedented prosperity in the western world.  But now that debt bubble is starting to burst and the bills are coming due.  Many believe that “ground zero” for the coming global debt meltdown will be in Europe.  Unlike the U.S. and Japan, the nations of the EU can’t just print more money to cover their debts.  Nations such as Greece, Portugal and Italy must repay their debts in euros, and those nations are rapidly getting to the point where their debts are going to overwhelm them.  Unfortunately, major banks all over Europe are very highly leveraged and are also very heavily invested in the sovereign debt of nations such as Greece, Portugal and Italy.  If even one EU nation defaults it will start tipping over financial dominoes.  If more than one EU nation defaults it could cause a cataclysmic wave of bank failures all over Europe.

But Germany and the other more financially stable countries of the EU cannot bail out nations like Greece, Portugal and Italy indefinitely.  Pouring money into Greece is like pouring money into a black hole.  When you take money from financially stable countries and pour it into hopeless messes, you may stabilize things for a little while, but you also cause the financial condition of the financially stable nations to start deteriorating.

Right now, the yield on 2 year Greek bonds is up to 44%.  Basically, the market is screaming that these are horrible investments and that they will almost certainly default.

Greece cannot fire up the printing presses and print more money, so they are now totally dependent on others to bail them out.

Just how desperate have things become in Greece?  Just consider the following excerpt from a recent article by Puru Saxena….

In Greece, government debt now represents almost 160% of GDP and the average yield on Greek debt is around 15%. Thus, if Greece’s debt is rolled over without restructuring, its interest costs alone will amount to approximately 24% of GDP. In other words, if debt pardoning does not occur, nearly a quarter of Greece’s economic output will be gobbled up by interest repayments!

Can you imagine?

No nation on earth can afford to pay out nearly a quarter of GDP just on interest on government debt.

So just how did Greece get into this position?  Well, it turns out that big U.S. banks such as Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase played a big role.  The following is an excerpt from a recent article by Andrew Gavin Marshall….

In the same way that homeowners take out a second mortgage to pay off their credit card debt, Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan Chase and other U.S. banks helped push government debt far into the future through the derivatives market. This was done in Greece, Italy, and likely several other euro-zone countries as well. In several dozen deals in Europe, “banks provided cash upfront in return for government payments in the future, with those liabilities then left off the books.” Because the deals are not listed as loans, they are not listed as debt (liabilities), and so the true debt of Greece and other euro-zone countries was and likely to a large degree remains hidden. Greece effectively mortgaged its airports and highways to the major banks in order to get cash up-front and keep the loans off the books, classifying them as transactions.

All over the world, politicians love to “kick the can down the road”, and big Wall Street banks love to find creative ways to help them do that.

But now Greece is about to collapse, and the people that helped them get into this mess will probably never be held accountable.

If Greece does default, it is going to have dramatic consequences all over Europe.  For a chilling look at what could potentially happen when Greece defaults, just check out this article by John Mauldin.

Sadly, Greece is far from the only problem in Europe.  Portugal, Ireland and Italy also have debt to GDP ratios that are above 100%.

The biggest potential problem, at least in the near-term, is Italy.

Italy is the fourth largest economy in the EU, and lately the financial problems of the Italian government and Italian banks have been making headlines all over the globe.

Italy is a far, far larger potential problem than Greece is.

The EU can handle bailing out Greece, at least for now.

If Italy gets to the point where it needs large bailouts, that is going to bring down the whole system.  The EU simply does not have enough money to perform an extensive financial rescue of Italy.

As you can see from this chart, the exposure that European banks have to Italian debt is absolutely massive.  If Italian debt goes bad, it is going to take down a whole bunch of banks.

Not only that, but many believe that the European Central Bank itself is now in some very dangerous territory.

It is estimated that the European Central Bank is now holding somewhere in the neighborhood of 444 billion euros worth of debt from the governments of Greece, Italy, Portugal, Ireland and Spain.

The financial consequences of a default by one or more of those nations could potentially be catastrophic.

According to London-based think tank Open Europe, the European Central Bank is massively overleveraged….

“Should the ECB see its assets fall by just 4.23pc in value . . . its entire capital base would be wiped out.”

That doesn’t sound good.

Surely the European Central Bank would be recapitalized somehow, but this is just another example that shows just how dangerous huge amounts of leverage can be.

As I wrote about in a recent article about the sovereign debt crisis, if the dominoes begin to tumble in Europe it is going to take everybody down.

The big banks in Europe are leveraged to the hilt, and they are massively exposed to government debt.

If you don’t think that this is a problem, just remember what happened back in 2008.

Back then, Lehman Brothers was leveraged 31 to 1.  When things turned bad, Lehman was wiped out very rapidly.

Today, major German banks are leveraged 32 to 1, and those banks are currently holding a massive amount of European sovereign debt.

Yes, things could become really nightmarish if the dominoes start to fall.

Already we are seeing huge signs of trouble at major banks all over Europe.

Major European banks UBS, Barclays, Credit Suisse, RBS, and HSBC have all announced layoffs recently.  In fact, when you add them all up, the total number of layoffs announced by these banks just this month is over 40,000.  Overall, the grand total of layoffs by European banks so far this year is now up to 67,000.

The mood in the financial sector over in Europe is very dark right now.  Just consider the following excerpt from a recent Bloomberg article….

“It’s a bloodbath, and I expect things to get worse before they get better,” said Jonathan Evans, chairman of executive- search firm Sammons Associates in London. “I cannot see a lot of those who have lost their jobs getting re-employed. Regardless of how good someone is, no one wants to talk about hiring. Life will be very difficult for two or three years.”

Just like back in 2008 with U.S. banks, we are seeing European banks getting absolutely pummeled right now.  A recent article in The Sydney Morning Herald documented some of the carnage….

The 46-member Bloomberg Europe Banks and Financial Services Index has fallen 31 per cent this year. RBS tumbled 49 per cent, Barclays 44 per cent and France’s Societe Generale 48 per cent.

Credit Suisse and UBS both reported a 71 per cent drop in investment-banking earnings in the second quarter. Revenue at Edinburgh-based RBS’s securities unit dropped 35 per cent in the period, while London-based Barclays Capital posted a 27 per cent decline in pretax profit.

Things in Europe continue to get worse and worse and worse.

Do not take your eyes off of Europe.  This crisis is just getting started.

Not that there aren’t huge debt problems around the rest of the globe as well.

Japan has a national debt that is now over 200 percent of GDP, and they are really struggling to recover from the recent disasters that devastated that nation.

Moody’s has just downgraded Japanese government debt one notch to Aa3, and more downgrades could be coming.  For now Japan is still able to borrow huge piles of money very, very cheaply but if that changes Japan could be wiped out very quickly.

Of course the nation with the biggest debt of all is the United States.

At the moment, the U.S. national debt is sitting at a grand total of $14,649,289,670,347.85.

Fortunately, the U.S. is also able to borrow massive amounts of money very, very cheaply right now.  But when that changes it is going to be absolutely cataclysmic for our economy.

Sadly, our politicians continue to act as if this debt binge can go on forever.

According to the Congressional Budget Office, the budget deficit for the federal government will be about 1.28 trillion dollars this year.  This will be the third year in a row that we have had a budget deficit of over a trillion dollars.

To put that in perspective, from George Washington to Ronald Reagan the U.S. government racked up a grand total of about one trillion dollars of debt.  But this year alone we will go 1.28 trillion dollars more into debt.

At the moment, the U.S. national debt is expanding by about 2 and a half million dollars every single minute.  It is hard to put into words how absolutely foolish that is.

As I wrote about yesterday, someone needs to wake up America.  Our debt is exploding and our economy is dying.

We haven’t even solved the problems caused by the last financial crisis.  The real estate market is still a gigantic mess.  Purchases of both new and previously existing homes in the United States continue to fall.

But there will never be a housing recovery until there is a jobs recovery, and our politicians continue to stand by and watch as millions of our jobs are shipped overseas.

Unemployment is rampant, and even many of those that do have jobs are barely able to survive.

Back in 1980, less than 30% of all jobs in the United States were low income jobs.  Today, more than 40% of all jobs in the United States are low income jobs.

That is not a good trend.

Sadly, it looks like things are not going to get much better any time soon.

Right now, the Congressional Budget Office is projecting that unemployment in the U.S. will remain above 8% until 2014.

That should really scare you, because government numbers are almost always way too optimistic.  The folks in the federal government hardly ever project that unemployment will actually go up.

So if they are saying that unemployment will remain above 8 percent until 2014, the truth is that things will probably be worse than that.

We have entered very frightening times.  We are on the verge of a massive global debt meltdown, and nobody is sure what is going to happen next.

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

Uh Oh – Italy Is Coming Apart Like A 20 Dollar Suit

Did anyone really think that Italy would be able to get through this thing without needing a bailout?  Just when you thought that things in Europe could get back to normal for a little while, here comes Italy.  On Friday, there was a bit of a “mini-panic” as investors started dumping Italian financial assets.  European officials are concerned that the sovereign debt crisis that has ravaged Greece, Ireland and Portugal will now put the Italian economy through the wringer.  European Council President Herman Van Rompuy has called an emergency meeting for Monday morning.  He is denying that the meeting is about Italy, but everyone knows that Italy is going to be discussed.  European Central Bank President Jean-Claude Trichet and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso along with a host of other top officials will also be at this meeting.  If it does turn out that Italy needs a bailout, it is going to change the entire game in Europe.

What is going on in Italy right now is potentially far more serious than what has been going on in Greece.  Italy is the fourth largest economy in the European Union.  If Italy requires a bailout, the rest of Europe might not be able to handle it.

An anonymous European Central Bank source told one German newspaper the following on Sunday….

“The existing rescue fund in Europe is not sufficient to provide a credible defensive wall for Italy”

The source also added that the current bailout fund “was never designed for that“.

Italy has already implemented austerity measures.

This was not supposed to happen.

But it is happening.

This latest crisis was precipitated by a substantial sell-off of Italian financial assets on Friday.  An article posted by Bloomberg described the pounding that the two largest Italian banks took….

UniCredit SpA (UCG) and Intesa Sanpaolo SpA (ISP), Italy’s biggest banks, fell to the lowest in more than two years in Milan yesterday as contagion from Europe’s debt crisis threatened to spread to the region’s third-largest economy.

UniCredit plunged 7.9 percent, the biggest decline since March 30, 2009, while Intesa dropped 4.6 percent. Both hit lows not seen since the period when markets were emerging from the crisis spawned by the collapse of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc.

Unfortunately, this is just the continuation of a trend that has been going on for a while.

When you look at them as a group, the stocks of the five largest Italian banks have lost 27% since the beginning of 2011.

That is not a good sign.

Also, investors are starting to dump Italian government debt.  Reuters says that the yield on 10 year Italian bonds is approaching the danger zone….

The spread of the Italian 10-year government bond yield over benchmark German Bunds hit euro lifetime highs around 2.45 percentage points on Friday, raising the Italian yield to 5.28 percent, close to the 5.5-5.7 percent area which some bankers think could start putting heavy pressure on Italy’s finances.

The Italian national debt is now up to about 120 percent of GDP.  The Italian government would be able to manage it if interest rates were very, very low.  But unfortunately they are rising fast and if they get too much higher they are going to become suffocating.

As I have written about previously, government debt becomes very painful once you take low interest rates out of the equation.  For example, if Greece could borrow all of the money that it wanted to borrow at zero percent interest, it would not have a debt problem.  But now the yield on 2 year Greek bonds is over 30 percent, and there is not a government on the face of the earth that can afford to pay interest that high for long.

Unfortunately for Italy, this could just be the beginning of rising interest rates.  Just recently, Moody’s warned that it may be forced to downgrade Italy’s Aa2 debt rating at some point within the next couple of months.

If things continue to unravel in Italy, all of the credit agencies may downgrade Italy sooner rather than later.

The frightening thing about Italy is that a financial crisis has a way of exposing corruption, and there are very few countries that can match the kind of corruption that goes on in Italy.

As a child, I had the chance to live in Italy.  I love Italy.  The people are friendly, the weather is great, the architecture is amazing and the food is spectacular.  I will always have great affection for Italy and I will always cheer for the Italian national team when the World Cup rolls around.

However, I also know that corruption is deeply ingrained into Italian culture.  It is simply a way of life.

Just check out the prime minister of Italy.  Silvio Berlusconi is the consummate Italian politician.  He is greatly loved by many, but it would take days to detail all of the scandals that he has been linked to.

At this point, Berlusconi has become a parody of himself.  Each new sex scandal or financial scandal just adds to his legend.  Italy is one of the only nations in Europe where such a corrupt politician could have stayed in office for so long.

Not that the U.S. government is much better.  Our government becomes more corrupt with each passing year.

But the point is that if a financial collapse happens in Italy and people start “turning over rocks” it could turn up all sorts of icky stuff.

So what is Europe going to do if Italy needs a bailout?

Well, they are probably going to have to fire up the printing presses because it would probably take a whole lot more euros than they have right now.

The truth is that the EU has now entered a permanent financial crisis.  You have a whole bunch of nations that have accumulated unsustainable debts and that cannot print their own currencies.  The financial system of the EU as it is currently constructed simply does not work.

Some believe that the sovereign debt crisis will eventually cause the breakup of the EU.  Others believe that this crisis will cause it to be reformed and become much more integrated.

In any event, what just about everyone can agree on is that the financial problems of Europe are not going away any time soon.  For now, EU officials are keeping all of the balls in the air, but if at some point the juggling act falters, the rest of the world better look out.

A financial crash in Europe would be felt in every nation on earth and it would be absolutely devastating.  Let’s hope that we still have some more time before it happens.

Has The Financial Collapse Of Europe Now Become Inevitable?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So what is the answer?

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

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

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

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

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

So why should Americans care about all this?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“If the euro fails, then Europe fails.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Economic Collapse