Zero Hedge has the pleasure to bring its readers this extensive Q&A with one of the most prominent voices of "Austrian" economic sensibility, and foremost experts on capital markets and commodities: Diapason's Sean Corrigan, who has repeatedly graced our pages in the past and who always provides a much needed 'on the ground' perspective on his native Europe. Among the numerous topics discussed are the Eurozone, its collapse, its insolvent banks, and the EFSF as the Swiss Army Knife ex Machina; the 3rd year anniversary of Lehman's failure and what lessons have been learned (if any); how to fix the US economy; on Goldman's relentless attempts to intervene in, and define, US monetary policy; what the Fed's role should be (if any) in the economy and capital markets; his views on the Occupy Wall Street movement; his advice to an inexperienced 25 year old looking to make their way in the world; And lastly, the $64K question: what is the endgame. A fascinating must read.
Remember this from Sarkozy on Wednesday: "If there isn't a solution by Sunday, everything is going to collapse." Well, judging by the "conclusions" just released by the European Council, everything is about to collapse, because the only "solution" reached is the following: "The death of Muammar Gaddafi marks the end of an era of despotism and repression from which the Libyan people have suffered for too long. Today Libya can turn a page in its history, pursue national reconciliation, and embrace a new democratic future." This is a statement written by the Golum on the left in the picture below.
For those who need a hearty dose of laughter on a Sunday, here is Europe's version of Professor Chaos and General Disarray yapping at the Clown Summit, having finally received the first shipment of HP-12C in history, and realizing they are all fornicated.
In typical European leadership fashion, the need to speak useless words to an audience waiting for some sense of real actionable solution outweighs any actual ability to add value or say something new. What is even more incredible is that we expect the 17 (or 27) nations to agree on anything when they can't even communicate effectively internally as we see the Sarkozy/Merkel press conference perfectly overlap with the Barroso/Van-Rompuy conference. Bloomberg is reporting the headlines - which are the same old same old - and awe-inspiring in their lack of specificity and potential for total opposition in view. Grant Williams (of Things That Make You Go Hhmm fame) perhaps sums it up best: "Europe is broken and the people charged with trying to fix it are clearly not up to the job."
That Europe is, and for a long time has been nothing more than one spring club loaded, and destructive Jack in the Box, just waiting to be unleashed upon the world when the conditions are most dire, is by now nothing new to regular readers: it was roughly two years ago when we presented for the first time the case of how European bank debt is not only orders of magnitude greater than American debt, but that the equity tranches is a tiny sliver in a world where one bank's assets are another bank's liabilities, and any modest write down of debt would result in a cascading domino effect which wipes out billions and possibly trillions in "book value." It is also yesterday, that we refreshed on why a Greek forced write down of up to 60% would promptly spread like wildfire and lead to every troubled European sovereign to demand the same conditions as Greece, pushing French banks (and their US proxies, we all know who they are), to the edge of the abyss because while one Greek write down of 50% may be viable, the same treatment afforded to Italy (which will become inevitable) will simply topple French banks. And putting it all together is this chart redux of who owes what to whom via the NYT. It is nothing new, and it speaks for itself.
It is painfully clear now, that in spite of months of talk, headlines, and propaganda, very few people in the EU worked on any details. I thought, at the very least, they were working with traders, lawyers, and structurers and somehow were just getting the wrong answers. But now, it looks like asides from the IMF, no one else was figuring out anything, they were just saying what they thought the market wanted them to say. The IMF and other countries finally realize real losses need to be taken and recognized on Greek debt. For once, they can step back, break away from their existing thinking – the IIF’s PSI proposal – and do something that will actually work.
As the sheer mathematical certainty of the event horizon that is Europe these days is slammed at light speed into the foreheads of the European cognoscenti, we finally see some actual frustration, foot-stomping, and 'throw-your-teddy-bear-out-of-the-pram'-ness. The Telegraph reports on some choice turns-of-phrase among the leading players, our favorite being:
"It was grim. The worst mood I have ever seen, a complete mess," said one eurozone finance minister.
But it only got better from there, with several of the major movers feeling the need to express their frustration (and what is German for Schadenfreude?).
In 1932, approximately 80 years ago, 43,000 marchers (17,000 veterans) descended upon Washington D.C. The Bonus Expeditionary Force, also known as the “Bonus Army”, marched on Washington to advocate the passage of the “soldier’s bonus” for service during World War I. They set up a camp with tents to bring attention to their cause. After Congress adjourned, bonus marchers remained in the city and became unruly. On July 28, 1932, two bonus marchers were shot by police, causing the entire mob to become hostile and riotous. The government turned the U.S. military upon its citizens. Army cavalry units led by General Douglas MacArthur dispersed the Bonus Army by riding through it and using gas. Fifty five veterans were injured and 135 were arrested. Critics of the marchers described them as communists, troublemakers, and criminals. Fast forward 80 years and we have protestors setting up camp in a public square, not far from where the same exact banks that caused the Great Depression have created the Greater Depression. The biggest Wall Street banks have gotten bigger. The Federal Reserve, in collusion with the Wall Street banks, has engineered a two year stock market rally, while the average American has seen their wages decline, food and energy prices soar, home prices fall, and banks paying them .1% on their savings. Anger and disillusionment continue to build in this country like a volcano preparing to blow. Some people are angry at Washington politicians. Some are angry at Wall Street. Others aren’t sure who to be angry at. The evil oligarchy of bankers, corporate titans, and bought off Washington politicians that control the agenda and mainstream media, continue to scorn, ridicule and denigrate the middle class of America. Their financial engineering is failing. They’ve gone too far. The debt accumulation is unsustainable. The mood of the country has darkened and talk of revolution and the shadow of impending violence is growing.
As so often happens, one of the biggest surprises of the recent period of broad economic weakness, has been the American consumer, who always somehow manages to come through (or so the official econometric authorities make us believe) and cross a chasm of economic stagnation with shopping bags full of stuff. But while the "consumer" (or his department of truth proxy) has sourced the US economic dynamo in the past several months as Europe imploded, and thus served as a supporting brace for the latest incarnation of the US decoupling thesis (where not just Europe, but also the economies of Japan and China have been deteriorating rapidly), the reality is that unless European problems are promptly fixed (which they won't be) the last ditch global economic support pillar, the US consumer, is about to roll over, because as Bank of America explains, "heading into the holiday shopping season; most [consumer statistics] measures are no better than they were last year. In fact, many are worse." And in what may be news to JP Morgan, "With home prices continuing to decline, a wealth driven consumption binge looks unlikely." In other words, while for now the bottom had managed not to fall off the global economy as the tapped out US consumer spent their last dollar to avoid a worldwide re-depression, if European problems are not rapidly resolved, and by that we mean well before the Thanksgiving sales begin, not even "record" corporate profits (which incidentally are rolling over and are purely at the expense of consumption capacity), will do much to prevent the market from finally catching up to reality.
With the OWS movement leaving many Americans confused as to whether they should support or stay away, one thing is for certain, Americans are aware of a certain truth that is happening in our country. We have a certain combination of events that is leaving many people struggling and asking very good questions. The truth is this; We have structurally high unemployment, salaries are stagnant, debt burdens are rising, costs for education, health and energy are on the rise and we are increasingly overwhelmed with clear and present danger coming from every corner of the earth. To make matters worse the ruling elite of this country and the very wealthy are continuing to benefit while the remainder of the population struggles. This is the appeal of the OWS movement despite the fact that the members making up the movement are advocating entirely unappealing solutions in the form of wealth distribution, punishing success and other hard left ideologies...In a country where American Idol and the Jersey Shore are better known than who currently runs the Federal Reserve it is hardly a wonder that cries for Socialism just sound appealing. To further exacerbate the overall ignorance of the populace our education system and emphasis on history and economics appear to be tilted in the direction that highlight correlation and anecdotal evidence rather that fundamentals. I understand it does not behoove me to openly ostracize a large segment of the population, but until we address core understanding of our economy and core principles of what makes our society tick then the partisan rifts will continue. So let us tackle this "explanation" of inequality which is now being circulated on the internet and shared on Facebook with proud posters feeling rather enlightened about their "discovery".
The math of the European bailout (using the EFSF or otherwise) is so easy even a cave-EUReaucrat can do it: It doesn't work. But leave it to Europe's financial ministers to figure this out in the literally last minute. As Bloomberg reports, "A 10-hour meeting in Brussels failed to yield a blueprint for banks’ role in a revamped Greek rescue as European finance ministers haggled over what they called a “credible firewall” against fallout from deeper writedowns." And now it's 5 start dinner time: "The ministers’ meeting broke up at about 7 p.m. after reaching agreement that European banks may need about 100 billion euros ($139 billion) in capital after marking their sovereign-debt holdings to market values, according to a person familiar with the discussions. This amount is needed to reach a core tier 1 capital level of 9 percent based on a European Banking Authority test, said the person, who declined to be identified because discussions are private." No, it's not, it's a joke. The number, once again for those who dare to approach "stuff" mathematically is anywhere between €400 billion and €1 trillion. But we give the EUReaucrats another 2 months before they comprehend this simple fact. Which means that tomorrow's summit which was supposed to be the "come to God" meeting which was expected to resolve all of Europe's problems, much to our, and every other non-momo's relentless snickering, will be a complete and total disaster. But fear not: because Europe has another 3 whopping days after that until Summit #2, when everything will be fixed. For realz.
Goldman Sees An "Unusually Uncertain" Future And Another Debt Ceiling Hike Just In Time For The Presidential ElectionSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 10/22/2011 - 15:42
Even if the European Lack of Union does, miraculously, come up with some short-term resolution of a mathematically unsolvable crisis (at its core, the problem is that there is simply far more debt than there are assets, let alone cash flow, period, end of story) suddenly the market's will refocus its attention on the question of our own intractable math: i.e., how will America, suddenly once again the "neo-decoupled" source of global growth (don't look now but the Shanghai Composite is at multi-year lows even post the bank bailout from two weeks ago so the "dynamo" sure won't be Beijing), proceed to lead the world out of its latest slump? The answer is simple - it won't. At least not according to Goldman Sachs, which once again focuses on what everyone so conveniently chooses to ignore - the complete fiasco that is America's fiscal situation. Here is a reminder: "The fiscal policy outlook is unusually uncertain, and this uncertainty will persist even after the “super committee” reaches a decision by its deadline roughly one month from today." The European math is not the only one that does not work: "Even if reforms are agreed to next month, further legislation will need to be passed next year to address the expiring 2001/2003 tax cuts and the potential constraint of the statutory debt limit (again). Some lawmakers may also want to intervene to alter the automatic spending cuts that would take effect in early 2013 if the super committee fails to reach its $1.2 trillion deficit reduction target." For those who enjoy solving insolvable problems: you take your 2.0% (tops) Q3 GDP, and cut it by 2.5%, and that's the growth rate in 2012. Why? "In FY2011, several temporary provisions added to the budget deficit. These included the payroll tax cut; emergency unemployment compensation; spending from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA), and expensing for corporate investment. Together, these account for almost 2.5 percentage points of GDP in FY2011." With the GOP dead set on making the president seem like an economic disaster, you can kiss these "temporary" boosts goodbye. And, the kicker, as far as the president is concerned, is that as Steve Jobs predicted, he most likely will not have a second run for one simple reason. "Based on our FY2012 deficit forecast along with non-deficit financing needs and accumulation of Treasuries in federal trust funds (which count toward the debt limit) borrowing authority might be exhausted by November or December of 2012, not long after the presidential election." Or, not long before the presidential election if the US continues to spend at the current rate. In which case, Jobs will be once again 100% spot on.
The only thing better than general satire, is capital markets satire, courtesy of William Banzai, who explains precisely what to expect following the imminent start of trading in GRPN shares (remember: get them now before they are "90% off" in a group discount liquidation, and bundled free with that weekly Brazilian wax special).
Back in May 2, 2010, when discussing the first failed Greek bailout (still to be implemented) we made the following observation: "Ignore for a second the sheer lunacy of anyone who thinks that the Greek government can grow GDP and decline the budget deficit in a straight line now that the country will see crippling strikes and rolling riots (not to mention blackouts) on a daily basis. But do note the black line, which shows the projected Debt/GDP ratio for the country as part of the bailout package. In essence Greece will go from having "only" a 133% Debt/GDP ratio to an insane 149% in 2013 before presumably dropping to 144% lower in 2014, still a good 11% higher than currently. Greece just got bailed out so it can get into even more debt! What psychopath of the Keynesian school thinks that this unbelievable trajectory is anything but a complete and utter waste of money? German, and US taxpayers, are merely giving Greece money so it can increase it debtor status with French and a few other European banks. To say that this is a viable solution is something that only those who bow at the altar of Alan Greenspan can do." And so once again, in the endless battle between common sense and Keynesianism, it is former 1 - latter 0, after the Troika yesterday released its revised projections for total Greek debt/GDP, which has just been hiked from 149% to 186% by 2013! Said otherwise, Econ 101 textbook insanity just cost the Greek people roughly half their entire GDP in incremental debt (which they will never be able to repay anyway), however in the process they kept French banks alive and well as a Greek default in May 2010 (the only real option) would have not only destroyed a failed economic monetary union, but blown up the entire French bank system. Fair trade off in that other endless battle, between the 99% and the 1%.