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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So what is coming next?

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

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

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

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

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

*Graham Summers of Phoenix Capital Research:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And So It Begins – The First Major European Bank Has Been Bailed Out And More Bailouts Are Coming

And so it begins.  The first major European bank bailout of 2011 has now happened.  French/Belgian banking giant Dexia has failed and both governments have pledged to participate in a rescue plan.  But Dexia will not be the last major European bank to fail.  Even now, governments all over Europe are feverishly developing plans to bail out major national banks in the event that the current financial crisis goes from bad to worse.  Instead of learning the lessons of 2008, most major European banks have continued to pile up huge mountains of debt, leverage and risk.  Now the bill for that stupidity is about to be passed on to the taxpayers of those nations.  But with most nations in Europe already drowning in debt, are bank bailouts really the right course of action?  What is it going to happen to Europe if dozens of major banks start failing and trillions of euros are needed to bail them all out?

Dexia is the first victim of the new credit crunch.  It got to the point where Dexia simply could not get access to the funding that it needed in the credit markets.

We are starting to see this all over Europe.  Nobody wants to loan much money to European banks right now because it is unclear what is going to happen next in Europe and it is uncertain which banks are stable and which are on the verge of collapse.

This is so similar to what happened back in 2008.

But Dexia is not going to be “the next Lehman Brothers” because the governments of France and Belgium are stepping in to save Dexia from collapse.

A recent article in the Financial Post described how the rescue of Dexia is likely to proceed….

Dexia will effectively be broken up, with the sale of healthier operations while toxic assets, including Greek and other peripheral euro zone government bonds, will be placed in a state-supported “bad bank.”

The details of the plan will be negotiated over the coming days, but authorities are making it clear that Dexia is not going to be allowed to collapse.  Bank of France Governor Christian Noyer is assuring everyone that Dexia is going to have access to plenty of liquidity….

“We will loan Dexia as much as it needs”

It appears that the “too big to fail” doctrine is alive and well in Europe.

Sadly, this is not the first time that Dexia has been bailed out.  France and Belgium also bailed out Dexia back in 2008.

But this was not supposed to happen.

Just three months ago, Dexia received “a clean bill of health” from regulators during European Union bank stress testing.

It just shows how credible those “stress tests” really are.

So are more European bank bailouts coming?

It certainly looks that way.

An article in the Financial Post on Tuesday stated the following….

European finance ministers agreed on Tuesday to prepare action to safeguard their banks as doubts grew about whether a planned second bailout package for debt-laden Greece would go ahead.

Of course when they talk about the need “to safeguard their banks” they are talking about those that are deemed “too big to fail”.  Just like in the United States, banks that are “too small” don’t get bailed out at all.

But western governments are very protective of the big banks.  The big banks are allowed to take gigantic risks, and if they succeed they make tons of money and if they fail then the taxpayers bail them out.

With big trouble on the horizon in Europe, authorities are already getting ready to bail out the major banks.  A Bloomberg article from last month acknowledged that the German government has been very busy getting ready to bail out their major banks in the event that a Greek default becomes a reality….

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government is preparing plans to shore up German banks in the event that Greece fails to meet the terms of its aid package and defaults, three coalition officials said.

As you read this, there are already signs of trouble at major German banks.  For example, Deutsche Bank has just announced that it is eliminating 500 more jobs.

The fundamental problems that Europe is facing are not being solved and the financial crisis is getting progressively worse.  With each passing day, more bad financial news comes pouring in.

For example, Moody’s slashed Italy’s bond ratings by three levels on Tuesday.

A reduction of just one level is very serious business.  For Moody’s to hit Italy that hard is a really big deal.

Italian banks have also been targeted by the credit rating agencies.  The other day, S&P slashed the credit ratings of seven different Italian banks.

If Italy goes down, it is going to be an absolute nightmare.  The Italian economy absolutely dwarfs the Greek economy.  The EU has been really struggling to bail out Greece, and there is no way in the world that they would be able to bail out Italy.

So if nations such as Italy or Spain start collapsing, will the U.S. Federal Reserve step in to help bail them out?

You never know.

The sad truth is that the Federal Reserve can do pretty much whatever it wants and nobody can stop them.

As I wrote about the other day, the Federal Reserve has agreed to join with other major central banks to lend hundreds of billions of dollars to major European banks in October, November and December.

As the past few years have shown, wherever big, global banks are in trouble, the Federal Reserve is sure to step in and help.

And many big banks in Europe are definitely headed for trouble.  Right now, European banks are holding more than $4 trillion in European sovereign debt.

A lot of that debt is bad debt.  Today, troubled European nations Greece, Portugal, Ireland, Italy and Spain owe the rest of the world about 3 trillion euros combined.

That is a whole lot of debt out there, and many big banks are so leveraged that just a 5 percent reduction in the value of their holdings could wipe them out.

Hold on to your hats folks.

So what should we be watching next?

Well, Greece continues to be a huge problem.

The IMF, the European Central Bank and the European Union are very frustrated with Greece right now.

On Monday, it was revealed that Greece is not going to hit the deficit reduction targets set for it by the “troika” either this year or next year.

European officials have been particularly displeased that Greece has been getting all of this aid money and yet has not been strictly adhering to the austerity measures that they agreed to.

However, the reality is that the austerity measures that Greece has actually bothered to implement have hit the Greek economy really hard.  The more Greece reduces government spending the more the Greek economy seems to slow down.

Greek Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos recently announced that the Greek economy is projected to shrink by 5.3% in 2011, and Greek debt continues to spiral out of control.

Meanwhile, severe economic pain continues to spark huge protests all over Greece.  Scenes of riot police firing tear gas and protesters throwing stones at police have become so common in Greece that most of us don’t even pay much attention anymore.

But all of us should pay attention to what is happening in Greece.

Eventually these kinds of economic riots will spread throughout the rest of the western world as well.

And every day Greece just seems to get closer and closer to default.

At this point, global financial markets seem to consider a Greek default to be inevitable.  The yield on 2 year Greek bonds is now over 65 percent.  The yield on 1 year Greek bonds is now over 135 percent.

Greece is toast without more bailout money.

But now major politicians all over Germany are declaring that Germany is done contributing money to the European bailout fund.

And without Germany, the rest of the eurozone is not going to be able to continue the bailouts.

So the clock is ticking.

Once the current bailout fund has dried up, the bailout game will be over.

What will happen then?

Will that be what sets off a massive financial collapse in Europe?

Could we actually see the end of the euro?

For a long time there was speculation that it would be weak nations such as Greece that would leave the euro.

But now it appears increasingly likely that if someone is going to leave the euro it might be Germany.

Most German citizens would be in favor of such a move.  One recent poll conducted for Stern magazine actually found that 54 percent of all Germans would favor leaving the euro.

But if Germany left the euro it would absolutely implode.  German economic strength is the primary thing holding the euro up at this point.

In any event, it is going to be very interesting to watch what will happen to Europe over the coming months.

Greece, Italy, Portugal and Spain are all steadily marching toward collapse.

Germany says that it is done bailing out other members of the eurozone.

Dozens of major European banks are teetering on the brink of disaster.

People get ready – a storm is coming.

Time is running out for Europe and there is no help in sight.

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.

The Economic Collapse