Greece

Guest Post: The Greeks Have Already Dumped the Euro

We first noted the shift to a barter economy that is occuring in Greece back in April. But Mike's excellent update below shows that this 'barter' has progressed to a new 'alternative' currency. The city of Volos, 200 miles north of Athens with a population of 170,000 is highlighted in the article due to the size of its alternative money market centered around a local currency call the Tem.  This sort of behavior will be the wave of the future in all countries, as Central Bank currencies are debased into extinction (and it's happening in the US already).

Spain - Out Damned Spot

If you own the debt of Spain; sell it. If you are thinking about buying their sovereign debt; don’t. I hope that is clear enough. I don’t believe that I have left out any corner of my thinking or that there is any wavering on my part. All of the new Spanish debt will carry Collective Action Clauses which gives Spain the right to force bondholders to their knees. This is reminiscent of Greece and we should have all learned the lesson from that experience. It is my opinion that Spain will be forced to the till at the ECB and the EU and that the amount of financing that will be demanded will cause rancor in the fiscally disciplined nations.

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After all, it’s clear at this point that the entire EU financial system is essentially held together via duct tape by the ECB. And with Spain and Greece’s banking systems once again in dire need of capital I’m very concerned that the next round of the EU Crisis is fast approaching and EU leaders are trying to start the damage control in advance.

Happy New Year Germany: Greece Needs A New Bailout

When it comes to the main sovereign story of 2011 and 2012, namely the endless bailout of Greece, now in its third iteration, the conventional wisdom is that courtesy of the near elimination of the country's private sovereign debt and the fact that its official foreign debt held by benevolent taxpayer funded globalist powers (IMF, ECB, EFSF) has been mostly converted into a zero-coupon, perpetual piece of paper, the country is fine. After all it has no debt interest expense to finance, and the only shortfall it has to plug is that created by its primary budget deficit (which as we showed earlier is "improving" on a year over year basis not because the economy is improving, but because the Greek government is simply refusing to pay its bills). So there is nothing more to do but sit back and wait while the economy slowly recovers, the unprecedented internal imbalance with Germany is gradually aligned, are the unemployment rate drops, (while hoping that the population does not die out first) right? Wrong.   Moments ago Kathimerini reported that in 2012, the amount of non-performing loans has exploded by a laughable amount, rising some 50% from December 2011, when it was "only" 16% and stood at 24% last month. And therein lies the rub, because as Kathiermini prudently notes, the "bad loans come to a considerable 55 billion euros. This means that the sum of NPLs already exceeds the total funds set aside for the recapitalization of the local credit system, which amounts to €50 billion."

Oops.

Byron Wien's 2013 Predictions Unveiled

While the predictions of Blackstone's Byron Wien (born in 1933), who may not be in the senate or "sleep-deprived", but this year will become an octogenarian, may have been all over the place in the past 10 years, some correct, but most miserably wrong (with a recent hit rate of about 25%), he always does provide entertainment value. Which is the only value in the latest release of his 10 forecasts for 2013. Naturally, take all of these with a salt mine.

Chart Of The Day: Europe's Resolution To Unpaid Bills? Ignore Them

Curious how Europe's insolvent peripheral countries, where the government is increasingly the only source of demand (if not funding), have managed to avoid falling into a primary budget deficit abyss? Simple: instead of paying their outstanding bills, Europe's insolvent nations are simply not paying them. And with the entire European bond market now a central bank controlled policy mechanism, meaning there are no longer any checks and balances to keep governments honest, there is no pressure on said countries to actually pay. Hopefully those companies on the other end of these unpaid invoices have as generous a benefactor as the ECB to fund their now persistent and growing undercapitalization.

2012 Greatest Hits: Presenting The Most Popular Posts Of The Past Year

For the fourth year in a row we continue our tradition of summarizing what you, our readers, found to be the most relevant, exciting, and actionable news of the year, determined simply by the number of page views. Those first eager for a brief stroll down memory lane of prior years can do so at their leisure, by going back in time to where the top articles of 2009, 2010 and 2011 are recapped. With that out of the way, here is what readers found to be the most popular posts of the past 365 days..

Postponed

“Postponed” is the official stamp across the world. This is the operative word of governmental policy. Whether Europe or America, whether capitalist or socialist government; this is the credo, the banner, the flag waving in the wind for dealing with economic problems. Throw more money at it and barrels of it, have the central banks print and defer any pain much less any tough decisions. We live in a state of postponement, defer and delay which cancels the consequences of the moment but places more severe consequences, greater pain and tougher choices but moments out into our future. Make no mistake; the world has become a more dangerous place either haunted by the specter of rampant inflation or haunted by valuations of debt and currencies that could turn the financial markets into a swirl of dislocation where a plunge into a freezing sea of disarray awaits as capital goes to gold, senior debt regardless of yields and nations deemed to be safe havens.

Friday Humor: Top Ten Reasons Why Fiat Currency Is Superior To Gold

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.

Monetary Malpratice: Deceptions, Distortions & Delusions

By the Deceptive means of Misinformation and Manipulation of economic data the Federal Reserve has set the stage for broad based moral hazard. Through Distortions caused by Malpractice and Malfeasance, a raft of Unintended Consequences have now changed the economic and financial fabric of America likely forever. The Federal Reserve policies of Quantitative Easing and Negative real interest rates, across the entire yield curve, have been allowed to go on so long that Mispricing and Malinvestment has reached the level that markets are effectively Delusional. Markets have become Dysfunctional concerning the pricing of risk and risk adjusted valuations. Fund Managers can no longer use even the Fed's own Valuation Model which is openly acknowledged to be broken.