18 Indications That Europe Has Become An Economic Black Hole Which Is Going To Suck The Life Out Of The Global Economy

Summer vacation is over and things are about to get very interesting in Europe.  Most Americans don’t realize this, but much of Europe shuts down for the entire month of August.  I wish we had something similar in the United States.  But now millions of Europeans are returning from their extended family vacations and the fun is about to begin.  During August economic conditions continued to degenerate in Europe, but I figured that it wouldn’t be until after August that the European debt crisis would take center stage once again.  And as I wrote about last week, if there is going to be a financial panic, it typically happens in the fall.  The stock market has seen quite a nice rally over the summer, and many investors are nervous that we could see a significant “correction” very soon.  The month of September has been the absolute worst month for stock performance over the past 50 years, and it has also been the absolute worst month for stock performance over the past 100 years as well.  Of course that does not guarantee that anything is going to happen this year.  But things in Europe continue to get worse.  Unemployment rates are spiking, manufacturing activity is slowing down, housing prices are crashing and major financial institutions are failing.  What is happening in Europe right now appears to be an even worse version of what happened to the United States back in 2008.

But most Americans aren’t too concerned about what is happening in Europe.

In fact, most Americans don’t believe that a European financial collapse would be much of a problem for us.

Well, just remember what happened back in 2008. When the U.S. financial system started coming apart at the seams it sparked a devastating worldwide recession which was felt in every corner of the globe.

If the European financial system implodes, the consequences could be even worse.

Why?

Europe has a larger population than the United States does.

Europe has a larger economy than the United States does.

Europe has a much, much larger banking system than the United States does.

If Europe experiences a financial collapse, the entire globe will feel the pain.

And considering how weak the U.S. economy already is, it would not take much to push us over the edge.

What is going on in Europe right now is a very, very big deal and people need to pay attention.

The following are 18 indications that Europe has become an economic black hole which is going to suck the life out of the global economy….

#1 The unemployment rate in France is up to 10 percent, and the French media is buzzing about the fact that the number of unemployed French workers has now hit the 3 million mark.

#2 The French government has just announced the nationalization of its second largest mortgage lender.  Additional bailouts are likely on the way.

#3 French automaker PSA Peugeot Citroen has announced that it will be cutting more than 10,000 jobs.  But of course major layoff announcements like this are coming out of Europe almost every day now.

#4 Home prices in France are falling rapidly and the recent election of a socialist president has created a bit of a panic in the French housing market….

British people with homes in France were today warned that the property market is in ‘free fall’.

A combination of factors including the election of a tax-and-spend Socialist government means that prices are tumbling.

It means an end to the boom years, when thousands of Britons poured money into rental or retirement investments across the Channel.

#5 A slow-motion bank run is happening in Spain.  The amount of money being pulled out of the Spanish banking system is absolutely unprecedented.  The following is from a recent Zero Hedge article….

The central bank of Spain just released the net capital outflow numbers and they are disastrous. During the month of June alone $70.90 billion left the Spanish banks and in July it was worse at $92.88 billion which is 4.7% of total bank deposits in Spain. For the first seven months of the year the outflow adds up to $368.80 billion or 17.7% of the total bank deposits of Spain and the trajectory of the outflow is increasing dramatically. Reality is reality and Spain is experiencing a full-fledged run on its banks whether anyone in Europe wants to admit it or not.

If this pace keeps up, more than 600 billion dollars will be pulled out of Spanish banks by the end of the year.

Keep in mind that the GDP of Spain for all of 2011 was just 1.49 trillion dollars.

So by the end of this year we could see the equivalent of more than 40 percent of Spanish GDP pulled out of Spanish banks and sent out of the country.

In case you were wondering, yes, that is a nightmare scenario.

#6 The unemployment rate in Spain is over 25 percent.  The youth unemployment rate in Spain is well over 50 percent.  Spain is a tinderbox that could be set ablaze at any moment.

#7 The yield on 10 year Spanish bonds is up to 6.85 percent.  This is an unsustainable level, and if rates don’t come down on Spanish debt soon it is inevitable that Spain will end up just like Greece.

#8 On Monday it was announced that Spanish banking giant Bankia will be getting an emergency “cash injection” of between 4 and 5 billion euros.  Apparently “cash injection” sounds better to the politicians than “a bailout” does.

#9 The housing crash in Spain just continues to get worse.  It is being reported that some homes in Spain are being sold at a 70% discount from where they were at the peak of the market back in 2006.  At this point there are approximately 2 million unsold homes in Spain.

#10 There are persistent rumors that the government of Spain will soon be forced to officially ask for a bailout from the rest of Europe.  But who is going to bail them out?  Most of the other governments of the eurozone are on the verge of bankruptcy themselves.

#11 Manufacturing activity in Europe has contracted for 13 months in a row.  The following is from a recent Reuters report….

The downturn that began in the smaller periphery members of the 17-nation bloc is now sweeping through Germany and France and the situation remained dire in the region’s third and fourth biggest economies of Italy and Spain.

“Larger nations like France and Germany remain in reverse gear… the (manufacturing) sector is on course to act as a drag on gross domestic product in the third quarter,” said Rob Dobson, senior economist at data collator Markit.

Markit’s final Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) for the manufacturing sector fell from an earlier flash reading of 45.3 to 45.1, above July’s three-year low of 44.0, but notching its 13th month below the 50 mark separating growth from contraction.

#12 Chinese exports to the EU declined by 16.2 percent in July.  U.S. exports to Europe have been steadily falling as well.

#13 Slovenia and Cyprus are two other eurozone members that are in desperate need of bailout money.  The dominoes just keep falling and nobody seems to be able to come up with a plan to “fix” Europe.

#14 Even the “strong” economies in Europe are being dragged down now.  For example, unemployment in Germany has risen for five months in a row.

#15 According to one recent poll, only about one-fourth of all Germans want Greece to remain a part of the eurozone.  The odds of a breakup of the euro seem to rise with each passing day.

#16 It is now estimated that bad loans make up approximately 20 percent of all domestic loans in the Greek banking system at this point.

#17 The suicide rate in Greece is more than 30 percent higher than it was last year.  People are becoming very desperate in Greece and there is no end in sight to the economic depression that they are going through.

#18 Large U.S. companies have been rapidly getting prepared for a Greek exit from the eurozone.  The following is from a recent New York Times article….

Even as Greece desperately tries to avoid defaulting on its debt, American companies are preparing for what was once unthinkable: that Greece could soon be forced to leave the euro zone.

Bank of America Merrill Lynch has looked into filling trucks with cash and sending them over the Greek border so clients can continue to pay local employees and suppliers in the event money is unavailable. Ford has configured its computer systems so they will be able to immediately handle a new Greek currency.

Every time European leaders get together they declare that they have “a plan” that will solve the problems that Europe is experiencing, but as we have seen things in Europe just continue to get worse with no end in sight.

A key date is coming up in the middle of this month.  On September 12th, Germany’s Constitutional Court will determine the fate of the recent fiscal pact and the ESM.  According to UniCredit global chief economist Erik Nielsen, if the court rules against the fiscal pact and the ESM the fallout will be catastrophic….

“If they were to surprise us by striking down Germany’s participation, I would think it’d be an utter bloodbath in markets”

But that is not the only thing that could set off a full-blown panic in the financial markets.

The truth is that Europe is teetering on the edge.

One wrong move and it is going to be 1929 all over again.

As I have maintained all along, the next wave of the economic collapse is rapidly approaching, and this time the epicenter for the crisis is going to be in Europe.

But that does not mean that things are going to be easier for the United States than last time.  We have never even come close to recovering from the last recession.  Most Americans families are just barely getting by.  In fact, 77 percent of them are living paycheck to paycheck at least part of the time.

Right now there are millions of Americans that have lost their jobs and their homes in recent years and that feel forsaken by society.

After this next wave hits us there will be tens of millions of Americans feeling the pain of economic desperation.

The last wave of the economic collapse hurt us.

This next wave is going to absolutely devastate us.

Watch what is happening in Europe very carefully.  What Greece, Spain, Italy and France are experiencing right now is going to hit us soon enough.

Greece Has Defaulted – Which Country In Europe Is Next?

Well, it is official.  The restructuring deal between Greece and private investors has been pushed through and the International Swaps and Derivatives Association has ruled that this is a credit event which will trigger credit-default swap contracts.  The ISDA is saying that there are approximately $3.2 billion in credit-default swap contracts on Greek debt outstanding, and most analysts expect that the global financial system will be able to absorb these losses.  But still, 3.2 billion dollars is nothing to scoff at, and some of these financial institutions that wrote a lot of these contracts on Greek debt are going to be hurting.  This deal with private investors may have “rescued” Greece for the moment, but the consequences of this deal are going to be felt for years to come.  For example, now that Greece has gotten a sweet “haircut” from private investors, politicians in Portugal, Italy, Spain and other European nations are going to wonder why they shouldn’t get some “debt forgiveness” too.  Also, private investors are almost certainly going to be less likely to want to loan money to European nations from now on.  If they will be required to take a massive haircuts at some point, then why in the world would they want to lend huge amounts of money to European governments at super low interest rates?  It simply does not make sense.  Now that Greece has defaulted, the whole game is going to change.  This is just the beginning.

The “restructuring deal” was approved by approximately 84 percent of all Greek bondholders, but the key to triggering the payouts on the credit-default swaps was the fact that Greece decided to activate the “collective action clauses” which had been retroactively inserted into these bonds.  These collective action clauses force most of the rest of the bondholders to go along with this restructuring deal.

A recent article by Ambrose Evans-Pritchard explained why so many people were upset about these “collective action clauses”….

The Greek parliament’s retroactive law last month to insert collective action clauses (CACs) into its bonds to coerce creditor hold-outs has added a fresh twist. These CAC’s are likely to be activated over coming days. Use of retroactive laws to change contracts is anathema in credit markets.

If a government can go in and retroactively change the terms of a bond just before it is ready to default, then why should private investors invest in them?

That is a very good question.

But for now the buck has been passed on to those that issued the credit-default swaps.  As mentioned above, the ISDA says that there are approximately $3.2 billion in Greek credit-default swaps that will need to be paid out.

However, that number assumes that a lot of hedges and offsetting swaps cancel each other out.  When you just look at the raw total of swaps outstanding, the number is much, much higher.  The following is from a recent article in The Huffington Post….

If you remove all hedges and offsetting swaps, there’s about $70 billion in default-insurance exposure to Greece out there, which is a little bit bigger pill for the banking system to swallow. Is it possible that some banks won’t be able to pay on their default policies? We’ll find out.

Yes, indeed.  We will find out very soon.

If some counterparties are unable to pay we could soon see some big problems cascade through the financial system.

But even with this new restructuring deal with private investors, Greece is still in really bad shape.

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble told reporters recently that it “would be a big mistake to think we are out of the woods”.

Even with this new deal, Greek debt is still projected to be only reduced to 120 percent of GDP by the year 2020.  And that number relies on projections that are almost unbelievably optimistic.

In addition, there are still a whole host of very strict conditions that the Greek government must meet in order to continue getting bailout money.

Also, the upcoming Greek elections in just a few weeks could bring this entire process to an end in just a single day.

So the crisis in Greece is a long way from over.

The Greek economy has been in recession for five years in a row and it continues to shrink at a frightening pace.  Greek GDP was 7.5 percent smaller during the 4th quarter of 2011 than it was during the 4th quarter of 2010.

Unemployment in Greece also continues to get worse.

The average unemployment rate in Greece in 2010 was 12.5 percent.  During 2011, the average unemployment rate was 17.3 percent, and in December the unemployment rate in Greece was 21.0 percent.

Young people are getting hit the hardest.  The youth unemployment rate in Greece is up to an all-time record of 51.1 percent.

The suicide rate in Greece is also at an all-time record high.

Unfortunately, there is no light at the end of the tunnel for Greece at this point.  The latest round of austerity measures that are now being implemented will slow the economy down even more.

Sadly, several other countries in Europe are going down the exact same road that Greece has gone.

Investors all over the globe are wondering which one will be the “next Greece”.

Some believe that it will be Portugal.  The following is from a recent article in The Telegraph….

“The rule of law has been treated with contempt,” said Marc Ostwald from Monument Securities. “This will lead to litigation for the next ten years. It has become a massive impediment for long-term investors, and people will now be very wary about Portugal.”

Right now, the combination of all public and private debt in Portugal comes to a grand total of 360 percent of GDP.

In Greece, the combined total of all public and private debt is about 100 percentage points less than that.

So yes, Portugal is heading for a world of hurt.  The following is more about Portugal from the recent Telegraph article mentioned above….

Citigroup expects the economy to contract by 5.7pc this year, warning that bondholders may face a 50pc haircut by the end of the year. Portugal’s €78bn loan package from the EU-IMF Troika is already large enough to crowd out private creditors, reducing them to ever more junior status.

So why should anyone invest in Portuguese debt at this point?

Or Italian debt?

Or Spanish debt?

Or any European debt at all?

The truth is that the European financial system is a house of cards that could come crashing down at any time.

German economist Hans-Werner Sinn is even convinced that the European Central Bank itself could collapse.

There is a Der Spiegel article that everyone out there should read.  It is entitled “Euro-Zone Central Bank System Massively Imbalanced“. It is quite technical, but if this German economist is correct, the implications are staggering.

The following is from the first paragraph of the article….

More than a year ago, German economist Hans-Werner Sinn discovered a gigantic risk on the balance sheets of Germany’s central bank. Were the euro zone to collapse, Bundesbank losses could be half a trillion euros — more than one-and-a-half times the size of the country’s annual budget.

So no, the European debt crisis is not over.

It is just getting warmed up.

Get ready for a wild ride.

The G-7 Forex Intervention Is A Perfect Example Of How Manipulated The Global Currency Market Really Is

What do governments and central banks do when they don’t like what is happening in the financial markets?  They directly intervene and they manipulate the financial markets of course.  On Friday, the central banks of the G-7 acted in concert to drive down the value of the surging yen.  So why did they do this?  Well, the fear was that a rising yen would hurt Japanese exports at a time when the economy of Japan needs all of the help that it can get.  So, as central banks have been doing with increasing frequency, they directly intervened in the Forex market in order to bring about the result that they desired.  Unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident.  The truth is that foreign governments, central banks and large financial institutions are constantly manipulating the Forex, precious metals and stock markets all over the globe.  You see, in today’s global economy the “stakes are so high” that the free market cannot be trusted.

The reality of the matter is that none of the financial markets are really “free markets” anymore.  Not that they are completely rigged, but to say that they are very highly manipulated would not be a stretch.

At least this time the manipulation was made public.  Of course it would have been really hard to hide the fact that all G-7 central banks intervened in the Forex on the same day.

The last time there was such a coordinated intervention in the global currency market was back in 2000 when central banks intervened to boost the struggling euro.

But the truth is that individual central banks attempt to manipulate the Forex all the time.

Some of these interventions become public.  In September 2010, a bold 12 billion dollar move by the Bank of Japan to push down the value of the yen made headlines around the globe but had only limited success.

Another example of this from last year was when the Swiss National Bank experienced losses equivalent to about 15 billion dollars trying to stop the rapid rise of the Swiss franc.

Many nations around the world have become extremely sensitive to currency movements.

In particular, there are several Asian nations that are known to be constant currency manipulators.  For example, Singapore is very well known for intervening in the foreign exchange market in order to benefit exporters.

And that is what this most recent intervention on behalf of the yen was all about.  It was about making Japanese exports cheaper.

But who is going to say no to Japan right now?  It is believed that Japan asked the G-7 to do this, and so they did.

Japanese Finance Minister Yoshihiko Noda told the media the following about this massive intervention in the marketplace by the G-7….

“Given yen moves after the tragic events that hit Japan, the United States, Britain, Canada and the European Central Bank have agreed with Japan to jointly intervene in the currency market.”

So isn’t the Forex supposed to be a free market?

If you still believe that, I have a bridge to sell you.

According to Kathleen Brooks, the research director at a major Forex trading firm, it looks like there is a certain level that global authorities simply will not allow the yen to rise to….

“It looks as though global authorities are willing to pull out all of the stops to defend the 80.00 level in dollar/yen.”

The following is the full statement released by the G-7 defending their currency intervention….

Statement of G-7 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors

March 18, 2011

We, the G-7 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors, discussed the recent dramatic events in Japan and were briefed by our Japanese colleagues on the current situation and the economic and financial response put in place by the authorities.

We express our solidarity with the Japanese people in these difficult times, our readiness to provide any needed cooperation and our confidence in the resilience of the Japanese economy and financial sector.

In response to recent movements in the exchange rate of the yen associated with the tragic events in Japan, and at the request of the Japanese authorities, the authorities of the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, and the European Central Bank will join with Japan, on March 18, 2011, in concerted intervention in exchange markets. As we have long stated, excess volatility and disorderly movements in exchange rates have adverse implications for economic and financial stability. We will monitor exchange markets closely and will cooperate as appropriate.

But it is not just foreign governments and central banks that manipulate financial markets.

If you want to try to make money on the Forex, you had really better know what you are doing, because most “little fish” get swallowed up and spit out.

A number of years ago I actually invested in the Forex and I rapidly learned that it is not a “clean game”.  I discovered that there are industry insiders that openly confess that several of the “big fish” in the industry brazenly “stop hunt” and regularly trade against the positions of their clients.

Not that stock markets around the globe are much better.  It would take thousands of pages just to document the well known cases of stock manipulation and insider trading.

And don’t get me started on the precious metals markets.  As I have written about previously, very compelling evidence of manipulation in those markets has been handed to the U.S. government and they have essentially done next to nothing with that evidence.

Not that people don’t make money in the financial markets.  Some people make a ton of money.  But those people are experts and they know how to survive in a “dirty game”.

If you are an amateur, you really need to think twice before diving too deeply into the financial markets.  If you think that you can jump into the Forex or the U.S. stock market and “get rich quick” you are in for a rude awakening.

The financial markets have become a game that is designed to funnel money to the “sharks” and to the “big boys”.  Once you put your money into the game, the odds are that “the house” is going to win.

For those that still do believe that the financial markets are a good way to build wealth, at least be prudent enough to get some sound financial advice.  There is no shame in having a financial professional invest your money for you.

But it is no guarantee of success either.  The truth is that millions of Americans have experienced a lot of pain in the financial markets over the last few years.

As the global economy becomes even more unstable, the manipulation of the financial markets by governments and by central banks is going to become even more dramatic.

As financial markets around the world crash and rise and crash again a whole lot of people are going to be wiped out financially.

You don’t have to be one of them.

14 Reasons Why The Economic Collapse Of Japan Has Begun

The economic collapse of Japan has begun.  The extent of the devastation is now becoming clear and many are now projecting that this will be the most expensive natural disaster in modern human history.  The tsunami that struck Japan on March 11th swept up to 6 miles inland, destroying virtually everything in the way.  Countless thousands were killed and entire communities were totally wiped out.  So how does a nation that is already drowning in debt replace dozens of cities and towns that have suddenly been destroyed?  Many in the mainstream media are claiming that the economy of Japan will bounce right back from this, but they are wrong.  The tsunami decimated thousands of square miles.  The loss of homes, cars, businesses and personal wealth is almost unimaginable.  It is going to take many years to rebuild the roads, bridges, rail systems, ports, power lines and water systems that were lost.  There are going to be a significant number of Japanese insurance companies and financial institutions that are going to be totally wiped out as a result of this great tragedy.  Of course in the days ahead the Japanese people will band together and work hard to rebuild the nation, but the truth is that it is impossible to “bounce right back” from such a massive loss of wealth, assets and infrastructure.

Just think about what happened after Hurricane Katrina.  Did the economy of New Orleans bounce right back?  No, there are some areas of New Orleans today that still look like war zones.

Well, this disaster is much worse.

The truth is that this is going to be one of the defining moments in the history of Japan.  Hundreds of miles along the coast of Japan have been absolutely devastated.  Authorities are finding it difficult to even get food and water into some areas at this point.

Even before this great tragedy Japan was one of the nations that was on the verge of a national economic collapse.  Their economy had been in the doldrums for over a decade and their national debt was well over 200 percent of GDP.  Now the Japanese economy has experienced a shock from which it may never truly recover.

The Bank of Japan is already flooding the Japanese economy with new yen, and so we may indeed see some impressive “economic growth” statistics at the end of the year.  But just because lots more yen are being passed around does not mean that the Japanese economy is in better shape.

The truth is that a tsunami of yen is not going to undo the damage that the tsunami of water did.  A massive amount of Japanese wealth was wiped out by this disaster.  An economy that was already teetering on the brink is now very likely going to plunge into oblivion.

It is fine to be optimistic, but the cold, hard reality of the situation is that this is a knockout blow for the Japanese economy.  The extent of the devastation is just too great.  This truly is a complete and total nightmare.

The following are 14 reasons why the economic collapse of Japan has now begun….

#1 The Bank of Japan has announced that they have decided to flood the Japanese economy with 15 trillion yen.  That is the equivalent of roughly $183 billion dollars.  This is going to provide needed liquidity in the short-term, but it is also going to set Japan on a highly inflationary course.

#2 Japan’s Nikkei 225 stock average declined by more than 6 percent on Monday.  As the full extent of the damage becomes apparent more declines are likely.

#3 Oil refineries all over Japan have been severely damaged or destroyed.  For example, six refineries that combine to process 31 percent of the oil for Japan have been totally shut down at least for now.

#4 The damage to roads, bridges, ports and rail systems is estimated to be in the billions of dollars.  The damage done to power lines and water systems is almost unimaginable.  It is going to take many years to rebuild the infrastructure of Japan.

#5 Right now the flow of goods and services in many areas of northern Japan has been reduced to a crawl, and this is likely to remain the case for quite some time.

#6 Many cities and towns along the east coast of Japan have essentially been completely destroyed.

#7 Japan’s nuclear industry is essentially dead in the water at this point.  Even if there is not a full-blown nuclear meltdown, the events that have transpired already have frightened people enough to cause a massive public outcry against nuclear power in Japan.

#8 Japan is going to need even more oil and natural gas in the long run to replace lost nuclear energy production.  Prior to this crisis, Japan derived 29 percent of its electricity from nuclear power.

#9 Japan is the second largest foreign holder of U.S. government debt, but that is about to change.  Japan currently has about $882 billion in U.S. Treasury bonds and they are going to have to liquidate much of that in order to fund the rebuilding of their nation.

#10 Many factories in Japan are closing down at least temporarily.  For example, Nissan has shut down four factories and Sony has shut down six factories.

#11 Toyota has shut down all production at its factories in Japan until at least March 16th.

#12 A substantial number of Japanese financial institutions and insurance companies are absolutely going to be devastated by this nightmare.

#13 Japan’s budget deficit was already 9 percent of GDP even before this tragedy.  Now they are going to have to borrow lots more money to fund the rebuilding effort.

#14 Japan’s national debt was already well over 200 percent of GDP even before this tragedy.  How much farther into the danger zone can they possibly go?

Sadly, as the economy of Japan goes down it is going to have a huge affect on the rest of the world as well.  For example, Japan is no longer going to be able to buy up huge amounts of U.S. Treasuries.  So who is going to pick up the slack?  Will our government officials beg China to lend us even more money?  Will the Federal Reserve just “buy” even more of our government debt?

Right now there are more questions than there are answers, but what is clear is that the Japanese economy has just been dealt an incapacitating blow.  Hopefully this tragedy will bring out the best in the Japanese people, but no matter how resilient they are, the truth is that this is something that no nation would be able to bounce back from quickly.

Let us hope that the economic damage from this tragedy will be contained and will not spread to the rest of the world.  The global economy is already in enough trouble, and hopefully this tragedy will not cause a cascade of economic failures to sweep the globe.

The Economic Collapse