September 30, 2011

Portfolio: Preparing for Greece's Failure

Portfolio: Preparing for Greece's Failure


The financial news of the week again is about the eurozone and we are seeing lots of entities come up with lots of possible solutions about how to solve the eurozone problem. They all of course rest on what to do about Greece. The problem is, they are coming from the wrong angle. From STRATFOR’s point of view, Greece does not have a particularly bright future as a state before the eurozone crisis is taken into account.
Modern Greece has traditionally been supported by three pillars. First is shipping. As a culture that is mostly coastal it makes sense they would be very good at sailing; however, in the age of modern transport and super container ships, Greece simply can’t compete, and most of its ship building industry has long ago left for greener pastures in places such as Norway, China or Korea. The second pillar is tourism and this continues to be an option, but tourism by itself cannot support a modern state. The final option and the one that the Greeks have gotten the most mileage out of is leveraging Greece’s position. Typically to allow some external power a means of battling somebody in Greece’s neighborhood. When Greece achieved independence in the early 1800’s that external power was the United Kingdom who used Greece as a foil against the Turks. Later, the Americans played a similar role supporting Greece against the Soviets. In both cases massive volumes of capital came in to support Greece. However, in the post-Cold War era Turkey is a member of NATO, and while the Greeks might not get along with the Turks, nobody is looking to use Greece as a military foil against them. Greece no longer has a regional foe that it shares with anyone else. The closest might be the Turks again, but only if the Turks miscalculate their ongoing relationship with Israel or Cyprus and miscalculate very very badly.
Bottom-line, the various supports that have allow the Greek state to exist since the 1820’s simply aren’t there anymore and so the path forward goes like this: Greece is not salvageable. Greece simply can’t compete unless it is being given a constant, steady supply of capital from abroad that it doesn’t necessarily have to pay back. And even if that could be restarted, Greece can not emerge from its own debt load. It is simply too large. Greece has to be kicked out of the eurozone if the euro is to survive, but between here and there, first, a firebreak fund. The EFSF expansion has to happen because if you cannot sequester the 280 billion euro of Greek government debt that exists outside of Greece, then you’re going to trigger a massive financial catastrophe that the eurozone simply can’t survive. And so to prepare for a Greek ejection, you have to prepare a fund that can handle three things more or less simultaneously. First, you need about 400 billion euro to firebreak Greece off from the rest of eurozone. Second, you need about 800 billion euro in order to prevent a wide-scale banking meltdown, because the day that Greece defaults on that debt, the day that it’s ejected from eurozone, there will be catastrophic banking collapses in Portugal, Italy, Spain and France, probably in that order.
Third, the markets will go wild and the state that is in the most danger of falling after Greece is Italy. Using the bailouts that have happened to date as a template, any bailout of Italy would have to provide enough financing to cover all Italian needs for three years. That comes out to about another 800 billion euro. So until the Europeans have 2 trillion euro in funding stashed away, they can’t kick Greece out of the system.

Daily Photo: Florence


September 29, 2011

The men who crashed the world

The new series on Al Jazeera explores in 4 episodes  how greed and recklessness led to financial collapse.




In the first episode of Meltdown, we hear about four men who brought down the global economy: a billionaire mortgage-seller who fooled millions; a high-rolling banker with a fatal weakness; a ferocious Wall Street predator; and the power behind the throne.
The crash of September 2008 brought the largest bankruptcies in world history, pushing more than 30 million people into unemployment and bringing many countries to the edge of insolvency. Wall Street turned back the clock to 1929.
But how did it all go so wrong?
Lack of government regulation; easy lending in the US housing market meant anyone could qualify for a home loan with no government regulations in place.
Also, London was competing with New York as the banking capital of the world. Gordon Brown, the British finance minister at the time, introduced 'light touch regulation' - giving bankers a free hand in the marketplace.
All this, and with key players making the wrong financial decisions, saw the world's biggest financial collapse.

Head of Unicredit Securities declares Euro death


The Head of UniCredit global securities Attila Szalay-Berzeviczy, and former Chairman of the Hungarian stock exchange, has written an unbelievable oped in the Hungarian portal Index.hu which, frankly, make Alessio "BBC Trader" Rastani's provocative speech seem like a bedtime story.

Only this time they cannot say Szalay-Berzeviczy is an inexperienced naive.
If someone knows the truth, this guy at the top of UniCredit is the one.
Among the stunning allegations (stunning in that an actual banker dares to tell the truth) are the following:  
"the euro is “practically dead” and Europe faces a financial earthquake from a Greek default"... “The euro is beyond rescue”... “The only remaining question is how many days the hopeless rearguard action of European governments and the European Central Bank can keep up Greece’s spirits.”...."A Greek default will trigger an immediate “magnitude 10” earthquake across Europe."..."Holders of Greek government bonds will have to write off their entire investment, the southern European nation will stop paying salaries and pensions and automated teller machines in the country will empty “within minutes.”
and Bloomberg is adding:
The impact of a Greek default may “rapidly” spread across the continent, possibly prompting a run on the “weaker” banks of “weaker” countries, he said.

“The panic escalating this way may sweep across Europe in a self-fulfilling fashion, leading to the breakup of the euro area,” Szalay-Berzeviczy added.

Szalay-Berzeviczy has just arrived in Hungary from a trip abroad and can’t be reached until later today, a UniCredit official, who asked not to be identified because she isn’t authorized to speak to the press, said when Bloomberg called Szalay-Berzeviczy’s Budapest office to seek further comment.
Full op-ed from Index.hu, translated via Google from Hungarian. Something may be lost, but the message is quite clear.

Europe's common currency is virtually dead. The euro's doomed situation. The only open question now is, that European governments and the European Central Bank's desperate rearguard action even number of days to keep the spirit in Greece. For the moment, when Athens is declared bankrupt, a "10 magnitude" earthquake will shake Europe, which will be the overture to a whole new era in the life of the old continent.
Indeed, Greece is not only bankruptcy will mean that the Greek government securities holders did not get back their money invested, but also to the interior of the state will not be able to meet its debts.
From the moment only Greek teachers, doctors, police, army, ministry and local government employees will not receive a salary, just as the seniors did not expect nyugdíjukra good time. The ATM is emptied in minutes. The local banks are stuck holding government securities, an immediate liquidity crisis, devaluation of the Greek banking system in total collapse. Thus the savings of depositors is totally wasted because the Greek government deposit insurance or guarantee was now living. Bankkártyájukról since then, not only at home will not be able to withdraw some money, but the world's only automatájából not. The benzinkutakból run out of fuel, as well as food from the grocery store. Greece is practically a full stop at least a decade of life and dramatic drop in poverty in the country as a whole.
The problem is that in this case, the disaster can not stop at the Greek border, but great speed and momentum tovagy?r?z?dik then the entire euro zone, Europe, and finally shake the world. Channel for the spread of infection, of course, such a scenario would also back the banking system. Indeed, the international banks in Greece suffered hundreds of billions of euros t?kevesztésükön too soon be forced to lock hitelkereteit other banks, which will have to do with a country where - according to investors' expectations - the Greek thunderbolt strike again.
And when the banks no longer trust each other, not to lend to each other, the international financial markets stop. This in turn means that all financial institutions left alone with clients.
Poor countries with weak banks start to panic withdrawals of retail funds. But since the retail and corporate deposits and loans are allocated in the form of inter-bank market, these banks can not borrow bridging purposes, may be an immediate liquidity crisis. This is, to all financial institutions can be put into bankruptcy, which is stable and there is no capital behind strong, creditworthy countries. European countries are now, of course, guarantee the safety of their deposits, but the collapse of the banking system would be in financial straits due to the governments of the countries whose banking systems should extend under his arm. Thus, the escalating self-fulfilling panic söpörhet way through Europe, the euro zone which then leads to disintegration.
Of course, Angela Merkel, Nicolas Sarkozy and Jose Manuel Barroso repeated daily unos-untalan to disintegration of the euro zone there is no question of the euro remains in any case, as an alternative to this would be a huge cost to all Member States. But the currency union dissolution is probably one of the main features will be managed from Brussels, it is not a process but an uninvited guest arriving as a result of financial apocalypse. The euro area break-up, timing, strength of the human factors as well as money and capital market forces and trends will define the politicians was only with us panic watching the developments as three years ago was when Lehman Brothers collapsed.
The now four-year, and is constantly raging crisis in the greedy, selfish human nature too is certainly not the banks, not brokers, not the weather and no natural disasters, but above all, and especially at any price with economic growth, power libertine policy responsible for the global elite. Namely, those legislators, the majority of whom have never been able to see through the international financial developments, therefore, the corresponding pre-crisis legislation will only have been available, when in 2008 the world has collapsed.
However, the banks should be regulated, not criminalized or stigmatized.
The American politicians, at least it has always been understood that the money and capital markets are efficient economic policy allies of the investor for the company are responsible for. In contrast, their counterparts in Europe, unfortunately, still do not understand the nature of markets, most of them think that the financial system, the ancient enemy, because it does not work the way it is dictated by their own political interests.
Was a huge mistake and irresponsibility on the part of the political elite of the international crisis in 2009, the easing of its own negligence and error concealment of public passion in order to make a scapegoat of feltüzelésével from financial institutions. When everyone knows exactly that the taxpayers 'money to government banks are not rescued, but the corporate, retail and municipal depositors' money. This was not a political decision - like, say, airlines or car manufacturers for - but a serious system troubleshooting.
The two reasons people moved their money to the bank: I want to know it is safe and hope the interest on their savings. The bank has to create the security, interests, it must produce. It will only be able to do so, it assigns to the deposits in the form of credit to where money is needed for the operation, growth and job creation. It is sufficient interest to be collected by then to be able to pay interest to depositors.
Banks are so important to the economy, fuel carriers, which in times of crisis in the economies most vulnerable points, which therefore must be protected and safeguarded at all costs. Eventually, this belátva "after the rain the rain jacket," the way Europe was born in the EU capital adequacy directive, the United Kingdom, Vickers Commission's recommendation, the United States, the Dodd-Frank Act, while at the global level, the Basel Committee (Basel Committee on Banking Services) III. package. These are all one and all of the banking capital and liquidity position on increasing. The regulations, restrictions - which is no small effect on the Hungarian banking capital and liquidity position as well - but the price that banks in lending rates to curb forced a diminishing impact on economic growth and increase unemployment.
There is a country ...
However, there is still a country in Europe where the political elite in recent years not learning from the crisis of economic policy impasse will continue its adventures. A place where politicians continue to irresponsibly mantrázzák that banks are the source of every problem and an imaginary part of the economic Patriotic War must convince them, instead of strengthening their capital rohannának the upcoming Euro final before the onset of disaster. And is still seriously they think the country will benefit if long-term processes in the international market against marching.
This, unfortunately, no other country like Hungary, where governments, businesses and a significant proportion of the population indebted up to the neck, near the Swiss franc will spend his days. By now almost everyone's favorite topic of "what the devizahiteleseinkkel start" in the story, which is again due to the political elite of our society began to polarize. Despite the disagreement is not really suffering, and lack of solidarity between runs, but the solution and a further deterioration of the situation. Finally, the Government of a sudden, shocking everyone with lightning speed by dragging points in the debate. For many, the record speed in the parliament adopted legislation relevant music for the ears. I, however, the minority that the government of the country for the wrong, dangerous and immensely unjust solution.
Who is responsible for the credibility of the currency situation that has evolved?
To determine if this is not necessary to set up committees of inquiry. The situation that has evolved over the past decade, the whole Hungarian political elite is responsible for short-sighted and self-serving politizálásával the following four steps as a result of our country to benefit vulnerable position.
1) The spectacular public debt in 2000, started by the then Urban's government overspending as part of a drastic cut in home loan into a generous budget kamattámogatásába. This was the hope that in the 2002 elections will help the start-up in domestic demand growth path to make the country an international crisis in the middle. Eventually won the elections, Socialist Party of Free Democrats coalition that he is "hundred-day program," observed head (which was then in opposition Fidesz is automatically voted on) that some further policy steps complete with an amazing total indebtedness of the country. Both political side hoped that the expansion of domestic demand BOOST artificial, accelerated through the distributing political economy, that will then automatically produces a cover to hide the resulting deficits. However, this hypothesis was wrong, the more so because the supercharged domestic demand stimulated imports only, and this is only exploited by the country's trade balance. The resulting fiscal imbalance is a false illusion of wealth, causing catalyzed by the growing demand for consumer credit.
2) The Hungarian population is not the currency of their own band, not to loans after the country's deteriorating economic condition of the forint faced having to pay the interest rate premium. In the nine years of failed economic policy (unsustainable pension, health and housing subsidy system, beyond the minimum 50 percent increase for public servants carried out under 50 percent wage increase, a 19 thousand forints single pension supplement, the 13th month pension, the introduction of the minimum wage, tax exemptions make the reckless áfaváltoztatások, the state and the private sector, real or imagined, a partnership of PPP investments proliferation, unrealistically expensive highway construction), an abnormally low taxpayer morale, coupled with a growing hole in the state household, and this is the country's indebtedness resulted. A short well-being of our economy and substance of political change in direction instead of the current Hungarian Government to finance its foreign investors, who do all this, of course, the increased risks due to a high interest rate premium they would do next.
3) The current Hungarian government's fault that 21 years after the regime change in the financial and economic fundamentals are still not subject to the compulsory part of secondary school education and the maturity of. The reason people can not just lending a little, but have no idea what's the difference between the interest rate and the APR, there is no sufficient information about themselves on the bank, a financial trader. For this reason, then vulnerable, defenseless, non-savers are active, spend more strength above. What megtakarítanak yet, I want to keep it under his pillow, and averse from the Stock Exchange do not understand the fundamental economic relationships are not. So, of course, are highly susceptible to demagogic politicians banking and capital market, anti-rhetoric, when the situation rather than solutions themselves instead of trying to find those responsible.
4) The adóforintjainkból reserved for government and the financial market supervisory bodies to be surprised at the deepest crisis in his sleep in 2008. They were not able to perform a task, and therefore unprepared for the crisis in Hungary, it was more severe effect. The current government, parliament, central bank supervision and the responsibility to monitor, if necessary, regulate the market trends and anomalies if large or dangerous trends are seen, it is time to take action early - applying for the relevant law must drive everyone back on track. (For example, if a bank responsible wanted to act and therefore does not give franc loan to the customer, the customer response passed from another bank, which serve them.) Therefore, the Socialist-Free Democrats government enormous mistake when unleashed in Hungary in foreign currency lending, instead of restrictive legislation would have created that all banks are equally strong against the standards of the franc would have corroborated related lending. This of course does not dealt with the then opposition in parliament.
The government in the role of Don Quixote
The Hungarian government, the fiscal position to deal with a simple but populist solution. The problem with all of its declared banks began systematically stamping: the crisis in the banking system, taxes were imposed, a moratorium on the enforcement of mortgages, a three-year rate lock maximizing debtors' monthly repayments. These measures, of course, painful lives of all financial institutions, but also understandable and tolerable in view of the crisis. The government's latest idea, a stream of foreign exchange price fixed mortgage repayments, however, is beyond all the existing boundary of sanity.
The banks seem to be borne by the strokes well, because they are the eyes of external sources of unrestricted funds (but not their own money to the banks, the depositors and shareholders should have). But the reality is that domestic banks in these lépéssekkel lose their profit and a significant part of their capital, which puts a dangerous situation in the Hungarian banking system just when the world, the banks' capital and liquidity, strengthening the position of working with governments. The current situation at home, in response to the banks to curb lending further forced the mostly foreign-owned banks are a part of our opt for the departure. Of course, this last step we can say that this is who cares: just because it will improve under the leadership of the Hungarian financial institutions, market-making opportunity.
But the situation is far more complex. Firstly, the total size of Hungarian banks are not enough large to be financed only from domestic sources themselves the entire Hungarian economy. Second, any taxpayer suicide in terms of budget, job-creating companies elüldözni, especially when it leads to the purchase of Hungarian government securities. And last but not least, a shrinking national economy and increasingly risky financial institution operating in a responsible one is not increasing market shares. If it is the country where the bank is also home country, this means increase in the risk of increasingly sidelined in international financial markets and is also much more expensive than the current one, or none at all will not be able to involve funds from abroad.
Therefore, higher interest rates and forint dramatically in need of corporate and household lending in Hungary can be expected that we all have bad news. Especially when considering the lawfulness that each percentage point of economic growth should grow in the order of four percent each year, the bank's loan portfolio. Failing this, the road remains a continuing recession and rising unemployment direction. Same point in the past three years has shown that the unlimited and unregulated credit expansion is what can lead to trouble. But that is a credit to the economy in which the living body of water: an essential and irreplaceable. It is not to mention that the lack of competition in supply and rising bank costs, and declining service quality leads.
Long live the social implications
A favorable exchange rate for foreign currency loans, repayment options and money market of the real economic problems are a very important set of issues it raises: the action is extremely unfair to socially as well.
1) Take yourself, who adósodott not it?
We turn to a bank loan, because we decided against that and not because of this gun to force bank. A man with a credit consumer, who is living beyond its capabilities with real, or better living conditions than that you can afford. But this is not a problem per se, but only in private. Especially if the forint borrowing rather than foreign currency. The foreign debt is nothing more than speculation in the currency weakening. The borrower to receive foreign currency, the forint strengthened or will increase, so the repayments are lower, or even weaken, the depreciation rate will never exceed the forint and Swiss franc relative kamatkülönbözetb?l from profits. The customer decides the bank to credit the HUF will be required over 10 per cent interest or more on selected franc loan 6 percent. One man's debt burden is higher, but there is no exchange rate risk, while the other smaller interest burden, coupled with exchange rate risk. So the possibility of the borrower, risk tolerance in relation to the choice. Responsibility for the judgments of others do not sew the neck, once it did not work for what we expected. However, the government decided that the losses for the banks to take over. This means that if a crisis of financial institutions to the edge of collapse because of their capital szétporladó are, the Hungarian government, the taxpayers will have to set their feet so as not to lose there money to depositors, since they guarantee. That is simplistic: while the forint was strong, the currency authentic nyer?ben were, and when the partially self-constructed position weakened forint due to losses incurred when the government that tries them be required to pay, who did not want a loan, but instead saved a and deposit bankjuknál form affixed. Those who are indebted in HUF, are now beyond their own pain authentic solidarity even in the foreign exchange burden themselves may assume, therefore, double-pay. This is extremely unfair to those who lives without borrowing to the extent possible is held responsible, thinking the more expensive or forint loans was recorded, compared to a profit for many years a relatively foreign credit insurance.
The exchange of authentic reference that no one told them to such an extent, the forint weakened and discredited simply unacceptable. In addition, point in a country with a population over many decades, they were socialized to be the best foreign currency savings, as the forint has already been countless times leértékelve. Not to mention that the man, after long and careful consideration in choosing real estate. It is difficult to imagine that a funding condition can not inquire about the system thoroughly.
2) Support those who took the rose hill francs their apartment?
The saving on foreign exchange authentic parliamentary decision that the existing foreign currency loan will only be able to repay, whose savings are adequate or sufficiently stable income and good relations among the living, that this new fund is now forint-based loans. The decisions of the government due to the weakening forint started to plunge even more difficult situation is really in need credible currency, even though at the expense of others throws lifeline to those who hitelükb?l luxury apartments and holiday homes at Lake Balaton meeting.
3) Trash the sanctity of property rights
The government has just sent a message to voters: the sense of responsibility to the community and handle finances, because if it goes wrong, you will help the paternalistic state. The parliament's decision on Monday, however, has virtually legislated that Hungary should rob banks.
The banks do not stuff themselves with money bags, where they can and can extract any number of free money. They are companies whose owners are its shareholders. Who had invested money in this industry because earnings are expected. The income is derived from those customers who have placed their savings to the bank as security in exchange and interest rate are expected. The bank will need to generate the operation, the cost of the depositors and the interest rate on dividends to shareholders. If this process the government all sorts of sober reflection, without prior consultation and say, you have the savings of depositors and the shareholders' investment risk. This would not only lead to bankcs?dhöz worse, but the extent undermines the confidence towards Hungary to deter those who have money want to invest Hungary economy.
A reliable and well-functioning market economy, democratic country built on two main criteria: the sanctity of private property, and the megkérd?jelezhetetlensége FAKTUM to repaying the debt is still all right. And these two factors can not only political power and does not want megpiszkálni. Because everyone knows that the country where the prime minister during breakfast work out the same day regardless of which operator will be something to take away, which was then a parliamentary lunch already constitution also to the President on the same day before dinner underneath write and publish the investors to avoid the sight of a banana republic.
What is medicine?
The people, companies, municipalities and the state foreign debt of the current level of real macroeconomic risks, which need to be addressed. The pékt?l doctors and bankers to bus drivers is the same for all of us an equal interest in the more tolerable rate of repayment. But it does not matter what method is achieved. The parliament adopted the Law on foreign credit repayments in the short term as to help affluent debtors, but it is extremely unfair and harmful to the greater part of the country. This is a money market and real activity leads to start had to sooner rather than later to 300 forint euro exchange rate over the direction of take. There are some steps that might sound good now, but in fact points to a fast-track court sent the country after the Greeks. While other ideas are not sound popular, but in the medium term, stable and reasonable solution to the problem of genuine currency.
The latter are the authentic economic policy decisions that the government reduce the size of the pension and health and public administration reform will help improve competitiveness. Measures to attract investors and investment, increase tax revenues are put into place to increase - making it finally fall in unemployment - may be less public debt and, last but not least, appreciation can start the forint to finally fall to start a foreign currency mortgage payments.

Greece tax claims blocked by lack of ink

In an FT article describing the new set of austerity measures you can read the following: "The conservative opposition New Democracy party said a shortage of ink had prevented the computerised tax centre at the finance ministry from sending out claims to taxpayers over the last 10 days. There was no response from the finance ministry to the claim."...

If in Italy uncollected garbage is the metaphorical symbol of a dysfunctional state unable to provide the most basic of services, in Greece the lack of ink sounds as total capitulation to economic disaster.

Daily Photo: Emirates Towers


September 25, 2011

Daily Photo: Famagusta Beach


Super-sized EFSF and Greece Default

Germany's economic elite has said it would agree to an EFSF expansion and hence installation of European firewall, but at a price: a "controlled" default by Greece and 50% haircuts for private bondholders (good for German banks who have already offloaded their Greek bonds).

This means that a second "Lehman" moment is indeed here!
So as part of this new strategy, here are the three key components of the plan to "firewall" contagion, via the Telegraph.
Sources said the plan would have to be released as a whole, as the elements would not work in isolation.

First, Europe’s banks would have to be recapitalised with many tens of billions of euros to reassure markets that a Greek or Portuguese default would not precipitate a systemic financial crisis. The recapitalisation plan would go much further than the €2.5bn (£2.2bn) required by regulators following the European bank stress tests in July and crucially would include the under-pressure French lenders.

Officials are confident that some banks could raise the funds privately, but if they are unable they would either be recapitalised by the state or by the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF) – the eurozone’s €440bn bail-out scheme.

The second leg of the plan is to bolster the EFSF. Economists have estimated it would need about Eu2 trillion of firepower to meet Italy and Spain’s financing needs in the event that the two countries were shut out of the markets. Officials are working on a way to leverage the EFSF through the European Central Bank to reach the target.

The complex deal would see the EFSF provide a loss-bearing “equity” tranche of any bail-out fund and the ECB the rest in protected “debt”. If the EFSF bore the first 20pc of any loss, the fund’s warchest would effectively be bolstered to Eu2 trillion. If the EFSF bore the first 40pc of any loss, the fund would be able to deploy Eu1 trillion.

Using leverage in this way would allow governments substantially to increase the resources available to the EFSF without having to go back to national parliaments for approval, which in a number of eurozone countries would prove highly problematic.

The arrangement is similar to the proposal made by US Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner to the eurozone at the September 16 EcoFin meeting in Poland. Gathering turmoil in financial markets has convinced Germany to begin work of some kind of variant of the US plan, despite having initially rejected the notion as unworkable as threatening to compromise ECB independence.

 The proposal would be hugely sensitive in Germany as its parliament has yet to ratify the July 21 agreement to allow the EFSF to inject capital into banks and buy the sovereign debt of countries not under a European Union and International Monetary Fund restructuring programme. The vote is due on September 29.

As quid pro quo for an enhanced bail-out, the Germans are understood to be demanding a managed default by Greece but for the country to remain within the eurozone. Under the plan, private sector creditors would bear a loss of as much as 50pc – more than double the 21pc proposal currently on the table. A new bail-out programme would then be devised for Greece.


The Great Debt



The Great Flow of US Debt
Created by: MBA Online

September 24, 2011

Breaking News: Greece to default after October

And just minutes after my last post wondering when to let Greece go, Sky News is anticipating the EU make up their minds in letting Greece default after October.

More from Sky News correspondent Ed Conway (via Twitter):
  • G20 now preparing itself for Greek default after October - Sky sources. Will be on Sky News imminently with more
  • G20 sources: all efforts behind the scenes (by G20 members) are now going into recapitalising banks, preparing economies for default.
  • G20 sources: default not expected until after Cannes G20 early November. Emergency funding should still keep Greece afloat thru October
  • G20 sources: No suggestion Greek default need imply country leaving the euro
  • G20 sources: @ Washington summit marked difference in attitude. Confident euro members edging closer to recapitalising banks, expanding EFSF

Europe's Dilemma: When to cut Greece out of the Eurozone

Finally, Greece default is no longer a taboo, but in the last days it has been finally given real consideration with plans being devised to try and make it as soft as possible.
Europe should have let Greece default 1 years ago and it would have been much less costly to the EU and maybe would have prevented a Domino effect.  The reality now is that Europe needs to abandon the existing perimeter and fall back to a more defensible position.  Europe doesn’t need to collapse, but it does need to retreat to a core, stronger position, where it can dig in its heels and defend itself, how deep the retreat will be is going to be defined by events in the following weeks.
Contagion was a concern back then in regards to Ireland and Portugal, now it is a reality.  Only the darkest of the doom and gloom crowd believed that contagion could really spread to Spain and Italy, yet now we have reached that point.

Italy and Spain are now trading almost where Portugal was a year ago before being bailed-out. Italy is the biggest loser in the recent turmoil and it is leading stock market losses with an incredible -33%.  How much easier would it have been for Italy to withstand a Greek default when it’s 5 year bonds were trading at Bunds + 134 instead of Bunds + 407. 
Let’s just admit it is gangrene and that it has already spread farther than is safe, but it is still better to cut off an arm to save the body.  If we keep waiting it may not be possible to save the patient.  The patient is getting weaker by the day, and being blind to that is just as big and just as dangerous as letting Greece default now.

Daily Photo: Boboli Gardens View


September 20, 2011

Radiation could cause some Tokyo areas to be evacuated

The hidden Fukushima disaster is still an escalating issue and it appears that radiation in some parts of Tokyo is now higher than in the Chernobyl exclusion zone. Yesterday, Al Jazeera pointed out:
Experts estimate the radiation leaked from Fukushima nuclear plant will exceed that of Chernobyl.
The need to evacuate parts of the sprawling capital of 35 million may have once seemed an incredible prospect but some experts say the possibility can no longer be ignored
Japan Times reports today, the Japanese government started discussing the potential need to evacuate Japan soon after the quake hit:
In the days immediately after the crisis began at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, the government received a report saying 30 million residents in the Tokyo metropolitan area would have to be evacuated in a worst-case scenario, former Prime Minister Naoto Kan revealed in a recent interview.

“It was a crucial moment when I wasn’t sure whether Japan could continue to function as a state,” he said.

After the March 11 earthquake and tsunami crippled the plant, Kan instructed several entities to simulate a worst-case scenario. One of those assessments said everyone residing within 200 to 250 km of the plant — an zone that would encompass half to all of Tokyo and cut clear across Honshu to the Sea of Japan — would have to be evacuated.



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Daily Photo: African Rainbow


September 19, 2011

Siemens' bank run: 500 million euro withdrawn from unidentified French bank

If someone had doubts that banks in Europe are the next nightmare well it is time to consider alternatives.
Financial Times reports that Siemens, pulled €500 million form a large French bank, which is not BNP so that leaves just SocGen or Credit Agricole and deposited the money straight to the ECB.
The implications of this are stunning, as it means that even European companies now refuse to work directly with their own banks, and somehow the ECB has become a direct lender of only resort to private non-financial institutions!
As Bloomberg reports further on the FT story, in total, Siemens has deposited between 4 billion euros and 6 billion euros, mostly through one-week deposits, with the ECB, FT says.
It isn’t clear from which bank Siemens withdrew its deposits, per the FT... but it is hardly difficult to figure out.
BNP Paribas isn’t the bank involved, FT reports, according to an unidentified person familiar with the bank.
This story will have a major impact on markets.

Daily Photo: Tuscany Landscape


September 18, 2011

Daily Photo: Nile crocodiles


Europe's Web of Debt Update


The update of the Web of Debt is here.
A new entry in the graph is Britain who is still the most indebted nation in Europe with almost 1 trillion Euro of liabilities mostly toward Spain and Germany.

Europe's Web of Debt (as it stood in May 2011)




September 17, 2011

The World of Seven Billion Infograph

World of Seven Billion
National Geographic has a look at where and how we live:
The map shows population density; the brightest points are the highest densities. Each country is colored according to its average annual gross national income per capita, using categories established by the World Bank.




Daily Photo: Monaco Grand Canal


September 16, 2011

Spain crisis: local authorities approaching default

After Castilla today is the turn of Navarra being on the edge of default:

Navarra has no money to pay for commitments made this year.
The Vice President of the Government of Navarra, Roberto Jimenez, said that "the situation is dramatic provincial coffers are empty and there is no money to pay for commitments made this year."
"There is money to pay public workers but no money to continue to provide quality public services"
Navarra has a deficit of 600 million euros," added Jimenez.



It is not an isolated problem since local councils and regions all over Spain are facing a breakdown after massive spending cuts are turning a severe recession even more harmful.

The Telegraph reports Electricity cut off to Spanish town over unpaid bills
Coin, near Malaga in southern Spain, is, like many towns across the crisis-hit nation, on the verge of bankruptcy with an estimated debt of nearly 30 million euros (£26m) owed by the town council.

For more than a week there has been no lighting in public areas after power company Endesa cut services because of an outstanding bill of 280,000 euros (£240,000).

Meanwhile some 500 council employees in the town have not yet been paid their August wages, it was reported.

The town of 22,000 residents has been ordered to make an urgent payment of 400,000 euros (£346,000) to the Treasury in monthly instalments to cover its debts but the mayor has said the town will be forced to file for bankruptcy.

It is a problem repeated in municipalities across Spain. In some towns, police officers have been ordered to walk to crime scenes in a bid to save costs on patrol cars.

On Tuesday rating agency Moody's warned that Spain's regions could fail to meet their deficit-cutting targets, a move considered necessary for the nation to meet the EU-agreed public deficit ceiling of 3 per cent of GDP by 2013.

Greece crisis: photo sequence of bank protester on fire

A man set himself on fire today outside a Piraeus bank branch in Thessaloniki in northern Greece.
The 55-year old man had entered the bank and asked for a renegotiation of his overdue loan payments on his home and business, according to police, which he could not pay, but was refused by the bank (Reuters).




Daily Photo: Burj Al Arab, Dubai


September 15, 2011

Berlusconi's wiretap scandal spinning out of control

There is a major event unfolding in Italy which could have huge ramifications and damage the country at a critical moment in its history. What started as another sex scandal involving Prime Minister Berlusconi is getting completely out of control and risking to escalate to a major diplomatic incident if not worst.


From The Guardian:

Police this month arrested the alleged purveyor of women for Berlusconi's parties, Giampaolo Tarantini, and his wife, on suspicion of blackmailing the prime minister through an intermediary.

The prosecutors believe more than €500,000 (£438,000) was handed over.
According to leaked wiretap transcripts published on Thursday, after it was reported that an investigation had been launched, Berlusconi told the intermediary he should stay abroad. He reportedly added: "I will of course exonerate everyone."
Prosecutors in Naples have said they believe the money was paid to prevent Tarantini contradicting the prime minister's insistence that he was unaware the women, some of whom spent the night, were paid.
The prosecutors want to question Berlusconi, but he has avoided an encounter. This week they announced that, if he continued dodging them, they would ask a judge to order the police to bring him in.
Furthermore today's International newspapers got their hands on wiretaps of Berlusconi's conversations. We do not know yet the full content but it must be atomic material since Berlusconi today in the midst of a major economic crisis found time to try and pass a law banning wiretaps, after a rejection in the Parliament he rushed to visit the Italian President asking or rather begging to sign into law an emergency decree blocking wiretaps.
The Italian President diplomatically refused to sign and invited Berlusconi to be questioned by judges to avoid further turmoil in the country.
Berlusconi insisted in return to at least stop the wiretaps involving comments on foreign leaders and mentioned that if they will come out on the press they will destroy not only him and his government but will destroy Italy as well.
Few hours later the first wiretap has been published by major newspapers all over the world and read as such:

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi reportedly called German Chancellor Angela Merkel "culona inchiavabile" during a July phone conversation with an Italian journalist that was recorded by investigators. According to The Daily Mail the phrase roughly translates to "unfuckable lardarse." The comments were recorded during an investigation into an extortion plot against the Italian prime minister. In the same call, he also described Italy as a "shitty" country.

It appears this could be just the starter of a wave of revelations that risk toppling down Berlusconi's government.
There are over 1000 wire taps and most of them probably leaked to newspapers where it seems there is trash on everyone, how many of them at one stage or the other will be published it remains to be seen.





Daily Photo: Gondola on the Grand Canal


September 14, 2011

Dumber and Dumber

It seems education is in free fall together with the economy.
Reading scores reach an all time low!