As southern Europe buckles under the weight of unserviceable debt and 60%+ youth unemployment rates, Germany is coasting along with an almost historically low unemployment rate; the disparity between Germany and its southern neighbors could not be more obvious. So it is ironic that Angela Merkel is leading the public pledge to ‘tackle’ the continent’s job crisis. Of course, European policy to deal with the jobs crisis is quite simple: print more money. Their latest initiative, a few billion more to fight the youth unemployment rate, was mercilessly eviscerated yesterday in the European Parliament by Nigel Farage... one of the few voices of reason left on the continent.
The "XXXXX is not YYYYY" jokes aside, Europe's union of nations is beginning to separate increasingly between the haves and the have-nots. The sad truth, as Bloomberg's Niraj Shah notes, is that recession/depression has pushed Spanish and Italian GDP-per-capita below the EU average in purchasing power terms - just like Cyprus, Slovenia, and Greece. Irish GDP per capita was 29% above the average, while Greek and Portuguese per capita output were 25% below. Output per head for the EU ranged between 47% (Bulgaria) and 271% (Luxembourg) of the average. With today's news that retroactive ESM recaps are unlikely, the banking-sovereign symbiosis of Spain and Italy will increasingly come under pressure and with productivity so dismal, there is little hope for now.
- PBOC Says China Shouldn’t Be ’Blindly Optimistic’ on Inflation (BBG)
- Foreigners Buying Half of London New Homes Prop Up Building (BBG) - first they come for the foreign deposits, then for the real assets...
- Investors Rediscovering Margin Debt (WSJ) - well, yes: it is at record highs
- China issues new rules targeting wealth management fund pools (RTRS)
- Navy $37 Billion Ships Seen Unsuitable Have 2-Year Window (BBG)
- New York may have to drop claims against BofA over Merrill (RTRS)
- FBI Rejects Boston Police Stance in Spat Over Terror Data (BBG)
- In eastern Syria oil smugglers benefit from chaos (RTRS)
On an unweighted average basis, European shadow economies are 22.1% of total economic activity or around $3.55 trillion (as large as Germany's whole economy). A report by Tax Research, suggests that Austria and Luxemburg have the smallest shadow economies in the euro area at 9.7% of GDP, while Bulgaria at 35.3% and Romania at 32.6% top the list. Of the major economies, Germany clocks in at 16%, France at 15%, Italy at 27% and Spain 22.5%. Stunningly, in terms of tax revenues lost, the shadow economy translates into an estimated €864bn or just over 7% of euro area GDP and, in context, accounts for 105.8% of the enture healthcare spending of the EU. It appears that more and more Europeans have no choice but to shift to a shadow economy (as taxes rise among other things), and this is the biggest threat to the entire economy. This is likely one reason the 'austerity' actions have not been successful since far less taxes are being paid via the conventional channels.
The Stunning Differences in European Costs of Labor: Or Why “Competitiveness” Is A Beggar-Thy-Neighbor StrategySubmitted by testosteronepit on 03/27/2013 21:20 -0400
So, relocate all manufacturing plants from Sweden to Bulgaria?
The Troika has run roughshod over the rule of law. By calling for a universal bail-in of depositors (the securest part of bank capital ladder) before extracting money from shareholders, junior and subordinated bondholders, the EU bureaucrats and IMF have unilaterally ripped up the legal framework for property rights. This is a truly worrying and frightening progression – actually regression – in economic freedom. Unfortunately bank depositors (savers) have long been under the misguided impression that they are potentially immune from a bank collapse, with the State providing a safety net in the form of deposit guarantees up to a declared sum. I would argue that individuals, partly due to government propaganda in the good times, have long since forgotten – or indeed have never understood – that once you deposit your money into a bank, you give up your right to ownership, ie, It’s a LOAN! An asset which is lent out multiple times as is the agreed practice under fractional reserve banking, clearly has a risk of no return, albeit a seemingly a low risk when confidence and trust is high in the economic system... The bail-in announcement for the Cypriot banks late Friday night was one of those events when we all look back and think that was the beginning of the end of the real global financial crisis. This should leave any individual in Europe under no illusion that the political elite will enact whatever it deems fit to protect their positions in the name of the euro and their own positions of power.
- Kuroda to Hit ‘Wall of Reality’ at BOJ, Ex-Board Member Says (BBG)
- Venezuelans mourn Chavez as focus turns to election (Reuters)
- South Korea says to strike back at North if attacked (Reuters)
- Milk Powder Surges Most in 2 1/2 Years on New Zealand Drought (BBG)
- As Confetti Settles, Strategists Wonder: Will Dow's Rally Last? (WSJ)
- Pollution, Risk Are Downside of China's 'Blind Expansion' (BBG)
- Obama Calls Republicans in Latest Round of Spending Talks (BBG)
- Ryan Budget Plan Draws GOP Flak (WSJ)
- Samsung buys stake in Apple-supplier Sharp (FT)
- China Joining U.S. Shale Renaissance With $40 Billion (BBG)
- Say Goodbye to the 4% Rule (WSJ)
- Traders Flee Asia Hedge Funds as Job Haven Turns Dead End (BBG)
- Power rustlers turn the screw in Bulgaria, EU's poorest country (Reuters)
Chevron and Royal Dutch Shell are getting an early start on shale exploration campaigns in eastern European countries. With the United States fast emerging as a shale natural gas leader, European economies eager to bolster their own energy independence are working to follow suit. Shell plans to spend more than $400 million to tap into Ukrainian shale, while Chevron has similar ambitions in eastern Romania. While regional shale gas production isn't going to match that seen in the United States, it's expected to eventually weaken the Russian grip on the region's energy sector. The U.S. Energy Department's Energy Information Administration estimates that, together, Bulgaria, Hungary and Romania may hold many trillion cubic feet of shale natural gas. That was enough to give U.S. supermajor Chevron the confidence to move ahead with an exploration campaign there. The company began taking on shale concessions in 2010 and has since announced plans to start exploration. If EIA estimates are close to accurate, there may be enough shale gas in Romania to cover its energy needs for the next 40 years.
The chart below, from the Economist, takes a look at how long it would take an individual from any given country to become a millionaire based on "how much the main breadwinner in an average household makes each year (before tax)." No major surprises here: the fastest spawning place for a budding millionaire, a term that has long ago lost its one-time cachet thanks to the world's central banks who have pumped some $14 trillion into the market, is the US, while those hoping to hit the vaunted seven figures in Bulgaria, Mexico and Romania would need to wait about 2-3 average lifetimes before they hit their monetary goal.
That precious metals are not the best friends of central banks, whose sole provenance is in creating, and lately massively diluting, faith-based fiat currency is no secret, especially not after the recent snafu involving the Bundesbank and its shocking gold repatriation announcement which came in direct refutation of its public statements just 2 months earlier about faith in the NY Fed this, and bashing of a "phantom debate" on the safety of gold reserves that. Yet it was not gold gold, silver or even tungsten that was the object of derision in an amusing paper released by the ECB in early November titled "Virtual Currency Schemes", which we profiled at the time, but rather the decentralized electronic currency BitCoin, which was supposed to highlight what, in the eyes of the Draghi-led Frankfurt institutions, is nothing but a Ponzi scheme. Why the ECB suddenly felt threatened so much by Bitcoin, it felt an imperative to issue a 55 page paper decrying such electronic currencies we will never know. What we do know, however, courtesy of a reminder by Bloomberg's Max Raskin, is that since the publication of said paper, the value of Bitcoin as tracked by the Mtgox exchange, has soared some 40% in just under three months, from a "fiat equivalent value" of $13 to a most recent closing price of $18.50, and has doubled in the past 12 months alone.
Just because it has been a while since the ponytailed Swiss pundit's cheerfulness graced these pages, here is a reminder that things can always be worse:
- FABER: `I'M HYPER BEARISH, SOMETIMES WANT TO JUMP OUT WINDOW'
- FABER: `PLACE FOR KEYNESIANS IS NORTH KOREA'
Dr. Gloom, Boom and Doom: consistent to the very end.
The economic implosion of Europe is accelerating. Even while the mainstream media continues to proclaim that the financial crisis in Europe has been “averted”, the economic statistics that are coming out of Europe just continue to get worse. Meanwhile, those of us living in the United States smugly look down our noses at Europe because we are still living in a false bubble of debt-fueled prosperity. But eventually we will feel the sting of austerity as well. The recent fiscal cliff deal was an indication of that. Taxes are going up and government spending is at least going to slow down. It won’t be too long before the effects of that are felt in the economy. And of course the reality of the situation is that the U.S. economy really did not perform very well at all during 2012 when you take a look at the numbers. The cold, hard truth is that the U.S. economy has been declining for a very long time, and there are a whole bunch of reasons to expect that our decline will accelerate even further in 2013. So if you are an American, don’t laugh at what is happening over in Europe at the moment. We are headed down the exact same path that they have gone, and we are going to experience the same kind of suffering that they are going through right now. Use these last few “bubble months” to prepare for what is ahead.
In the spirit of the holidays and hope for a more prosperous 2013, we thought readers might appreciate a little humor to partially offset the relentless 'cliff' doom and gloom. So please, don’t take this too seriously. But if you happen to stumble across a ‘paperbug’ or two over the holidays, perhaps you could share some of the points made here. Humor sometimes helps people realize just how hopelessly misguided they are... Quantitative easing changes nothing. Remember, the PhDs are in charge of our economies and they know exactly how much our money should be worth. Those of us concerned that our money might lose purchasing power are just being paranoid. Choice is dangerous. Think Adam and Eve and you’ll get my point. Those arguing in favour of monetary freedom, of choice in money, of repealing legal tender laws, they’re just like that nasty snake Lillith in the Garden of Eden, the source of all trouble I tell you. ‘Tis the season to borrow and spend folks, as indeed it has been since 1971.
We know it is sometimes difficult. Europe puts out the numbers which many assume are real. Then they talk about the data as if it was real. Then they point to the numbers time and time again as if they were real and finally people make decisions and act upon the figures thinking they are real and then the train begins to go bump in the night and derailment is possible on the next track and people wonder how it happened. We are at that point where “bump” is about to happen because there is nothing left that can happen. The dream is about over. Soon everyone will be waking up. It will not be a good morning.
Gazprom has Europe’s natural gas market in a stranglehold and Europe is attempting to fight back, first with a raid last year on the Russian giant’s offices and then with a probe launched earlier this week against its allegedly illicit efforts to control the EU’s natural gas supplies. The bottom line is that the same natural gas revolution in the US, which was enabled by hydraulic fracturing (fracking), is now threatening to loosen Gazprom’s noose on the EU, and Gazprom simply won’t have it. Let’s not pretend that energy companies are clean and that governments aren’t using them to forward nefarious geopolitical objectives (US multinationals in Northern Iraq, for instance). The point is not to paint Gazprom as the ultimate evil in energy. This is about Europe, and the EU’s “Mommy Dearest” struggle with Gazprom, which is undoubtedly playing an underhanded energy-politics game worthy of the most sinister of accolades.