Eurogeddon Postponed Termporarily Due To Financal Conjuring Tricks

by John de Roe
12 August 2011

Euroggedon has been temporarily averted again. Jean-Claude Trichet, head of the European Central Bank (ECB) has arrived Superman - like in the nick of time to save the world. There will not be a bond crisis spiralling out of control in Italy and Spain in early August after all. An imminent meltdown of Europes financial system has been averted. Until September.

At first glance this looks good but not great. Ultimately European bureaucrats and central banker will have to face up to the fact that the Euro (the European Single Currency) can only be saved by engineering the departure from the community of nations that make up the Eurozone. A German exit from EMU would halt the debt-deflation spiral in PIIGS countries (Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece, Spain,) and clear the way for economic recovery to get under way.

Saying that is easy of course, getting it done is a tad more difficult. Unless the ECB is willing to embrace its new role as lender-of-last-resort by making massive purchases of dodgy looking Italian and Spanish debt, it will inevitably be tested in the financial markets. Weaker investors will use temporary rallies to offload holdings onto the ECB, i.e. onto eurozone taxpayers. Frankfurt will find itself underwater very quickly without a legal mandate or EU treaty authority.

Royal Bank of Scotland calculates that the ECB will have to buy roughly half the outstanding negotiable debt of the two countries to defend the single currency. RBS calculates 850bn. I would put it nearer 1 trillion. Unfortunately The ECB does not have any money and is acting as a temporary back-stop until the revamped EFSF bail-out fund is ratified by all parliaments over coming months.

Again that looks simple until we remember the EFSF has no money either. The parliaments of Eurozone nations have not even ratified the earlier boost to 440bn. As of today, the fund has barely 80bn left after all the commitments to Greece, Ireland, and Portugal. The rescue plan is more a fantasy novel than a plan.

As for boosting the fund further to 2 trillion or more as suggested by Citigroup, RBS, and the European Parliament we face a little local difficulty across the Rhine,France currently being in trouble itself, Austria being a no no because of the Micawberish eccentricities of local economics, Holland becoming more sceptical about the single currency by the day and Finland and Luxembourg the last of the Eurozone's solvent nations being tiny. With Germany the only nation capable and willing to bail out the Euro yet again, the provincial government of Bavaria, the Social Christians said they will not back one bent Pfennig for extra bail-outs, and the Angela Merkel's coalition partners in the Federal government, the FDP Free Democrats are almost of the same mood. Angela Merkels own Christian Democrat Union base grows more restless with every new economic problem that is announced. In any case, such an expansion of the EFSF would set off its own chain-reaction as France and then Germany lost their AAAs and plunged into the debt spiral abyss.

So, obviously markets will turn very nervous once ECB purchases approach the level that corresponds to the EFSF ceiling. They know that the ECBs German members will fall on their swords rather than cross that line, taking the bond risk directly onto the ECBs own balance sheet. Falling on swords could commence by the beginning of September as interest payments, become due and another trance of debt has to be refinanced. Gary Jenkins from Evolution Securities has noted that Greek yields fell from 12.43pc to 7.35pc in the week following the ECBs first bond purchases, only to fly out of control six weeks later.

Whether buying time can solve anything depends on whether investors believe that Italy and Spain can grow their economies sufficiently quickly to break out of the debt traps they find themselves in. If we were on the cusp of a new global boom, then Italy and Spain can make it within EMUs current structure but all the economic indicators suggest we are heading for another global recession..

If we do go into a global double-dip (defined as global growth below 2.5pc), they have no chance at all unless the ECB throws all caution to the wind, defenestrates the two German members from the top floor of the Eurotower, and embarks on a programme of Quantitative Easing that will have us all taking a wheelbarrow load of cash to buy a box of matches..

Germany might not like that prospect so despite all the talk from Bureaucrats and politicians, nothing whatsoever has been resolved by the latest plan to save the world..

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