by ilene - January 21st, 2011 9:42 pm
Courtesy of Zero Hedge
Europe risks getting it wrong again on rate rises
From European Central Bank, posted first in the FT
The euro project has not gone according to plan. It reminds me of the story of the James Bond character Q, based on the British intelligence officer Charles Fraser-Smith. It was he who invented a compass for spies hidden in a button that unscrewed clockwise. The contraption was based on the simple yet brilliant theory that the unswerving logic of the German mind would never guess that something might unscrew the wrong way. This is really what happened with the euro. New member states were supposed to take lower German interest rates and invest their resources wisely to improve and deepen their productive capacity. Instead, they used the advantage to finance speculative asset bubbles. The peripheral nations of Europe turned the wrong way. The Germans are unhappy.
But, desperate to cling to monetary union, the other European sovereigns have opted to default on their spending promises to voters rather than impose a haircut on their financial creditors. In the 1920s the pay-off structure had been very different. The first world war took an intolerable toll on the typical household both in terms of the loss of life and financial well-being; everyone had become poorer. Accordingly, there was little willingness on the part of the ruling political class to force austerity measures to redress the fiscal imbalances. The people had suffered long enough. Consequently, there was much procrastination and fiscal deficits persisted way beyond the end of the war, making capital markets reluctant to accept the waning security of government paper and forcing the sovereign to rely on the central bank’s printing press.
This time around, however, the political class has concluded that the Greeks (especially the Greeks!) and the other peripheral states have done so well off the back of the euro project that it is their turn to shoulder the burden. They calculate that the social pain would be less severe than the financial costs of a debt default and/or a euro exit. Of course, this is to neglect the financial consequences of bailing out the financial sector in 2008 and its ensuing impact on the ordinary household. Can an analogy be drawn between the first world…
by ilene - November 17th, 2010 2:43 pm
Courtesy of Gonzalo Lira
The sky is black with PIIGS coming home to roost: I was going to write my customary long and boring think piece—but the simmering crisis in the Eurozone just got the heat turned up: Things are boiling over there!
|“Euro Dead” by Ryca.|
So let’s take a break from our regularly scheduled programming, and give you a run-down of this late-breaking news:
The bond markets have no faith in Ireland—Greece has been shown up as having liedagain about its atrocious fiscal situation—and now Portugal is teetering—
—in other words, the PIIGS are screwed. I would venture to guess that we are about to see this slow-boiling European crisis bubble over into a full blown meltdown over the next few days—and it’s going to get messy.
So to keep everything straight, let’s recap:
The spreads on Irish sovereign debt widened, and the Germans are pressing them to accept a bailout—despite the fact that the Irish government is fully funded until the middle of 2011. But it’s not the Irish fiscal situation that the bond markets or the Germans are worried about—it’s the Irish banking sector that is freaking everyone out.
After all, the Irish government fully—and very foolishly—backed the insolvent Irish banks back in 2008. And for unexplained reasons, the Irish government is committed to honoring Irish bank bonds fully—which the country simply cannot afford. However, German banks are heavily exposed to Irish banks, which explains why Berlin is so eager to have Ireland accept a bailout.
Right now, European Union, International Monetary Fund and European Central Bank officials are meeting with Irish representatives, putting together a bail-out package. The reason the Irish are so leery, of course, is that any bail-out would be accompanied by very severe austerity measures: In other words, the Irish people would suffer the consequences of shoring up the Irish banks—which is the same as saying the Irish people would suffer austerity measures in order to keep German banks from suffering losses. Also, the EU/IMF/ECB bail-out would probably also cost the Irish their precious 12.5% corporate tax rate—a key magnet for bringing capital to the Emerald Isle.
Add to the Irish worry, Greece is once again wearing a bright red conical dunce cap: They’ve been shown up to have lied again about their fiscal situation. Three guesses what they lied about: If you guessed Greek deficit, you win—yesterday, the Greek government officially revised…
by ilene - September 29th, 2010 3:45 pm
Courtesy of Jr. Deputy Accountant
On September 6th, A E-P made Bernanke’s way to more easy money extremely clear (after bashing America’s awful economic performance lately, as if he’d actually bought into the idea that we recovered from the last round and was genuinely disappointed by us) and gave him a treasure map to blowing up the bond market and pumping fresh "not money" into the system.
Get a grip, the lot of you. While there is no easy way out for the US after stealing so much prosperity from the future through debt, there is no excuse for this dead-end defeatism. Clearly, the ‘canonical New Keynesian’ model that holds such sway on America’s elites is intellectually exhausted.
The Fed has an arsenal of neutron bombs if it wants to use them, and uses them correctly. It can engage in "monetary policy a l’outrance" as Maynard Keynes propsed in his Treatise on Money in 1930, before he lost his way with the General Theory.
Blitz the market with bond purchases, but do so outside the banking system by buying from insurers, pension funds, and the public. This would gain traction on the broad M3 money instead of letting it collapse (yes, the "monetary base" has exploded, but that is a red herring), working through the classic Fisher/Friedman mechanisms of the quantity of money theory.
This is quite different from the Fed’s QE which buys bonds from the banks and works by trying to drive down borrowing costs. While Bernanke’s ‘creditism’ is certainly better than nothing, it is not gaining full traction.
By the 27th, he was calling to pull the plug on the Fed and begging for forgiveness, having seen the error of his easy money-pushing ways.
That’s a pretty incredible turnaround in a matter of weeks for a guy who has pretty much been squealing for more easy money this entire time. When the European Central Bank finally dropped the monetary WMDs I’m sure he had to clean his screen after he wrote the fansite review of the ECB’s QE measures. Please.
by ilene - September 23rd, 2010 9:40 pm
and Keep Its Economic Surplus for Itself
Courtesy of Michael Hudson
CDES Conference, Brasilia, September 17, 2010
I would like to place this seminar’s topic, ‘Global Governance,’in the context of global control, which is what ‘governance’ is mainly about. The word (from Latin gubernari, cognate to the Greek root kyber) means ‘steering’. The question is, toward what goal is the world economy steering?
That obviously depends on who is doing the steering. It almost always has been the most powerful nations that organize the world in ways that transfer income and property to themselves. From the Roman Empire through modern Europe such transfers took mainly the form of military seizure and tribute. The Norman conquerors endowed themselves as a landed aristocracy extracting rent from the populace, as did the Nordic conquerors of France and other countries. Europe later took resources by colonial conquest, increasingly via local client oligarchies.
The post-1945 mode of global integration has outlived its early promise. It has become exploitative rather than supportive of capital investment, public infrastructure and living standards.
In the sphere of trade, countries need to rebuild their self-sufficiency in food grains and other basic needs. In the financial sphere, the ability of banks to create credit (loans) at almost no cost on their computer keyboards has led North America and Europe to become debt ridden, and now seeks to move into Brazil and other BRIC countries by financing buyouts or lending against their natural resources, real estate, basic infrastructure and industry. Speculators, arbitrageurs and financial institutions using “free money” see these economies as easy pickings. But by obliging countries to defend themselves financially, their predatory credit creation is ending the era of free capital movements.
Does Brazil really need inflows of foreign credit for domestic spending when it can create this at home? Foreign lending ends up in its central bank, which invests its reserves in US Treasury and Euro bonds that yield low returns and whose international value is likely to decline against the BRIC currencies. So accepting credit and buyout “capital inflows” from the North provides a “free lunch” for key-currency issuers of dollars and Euros, but does not help local economies much.
The natural history of debt and financialization
by ilene - June 20th, 2010 2:25 am
Excellent interview by Guns & Butter with Dr. Michael Hudson on Europe’s Financial Class War Against Labor, Industry and Government. - Ilene
Interview with Dr. Michael Hudson
"Europe’s Financial Class War Against Labor, Industry and Government" with Dr. Michael Hudson. Economic crisis in Europe created by predatory lending; European Central Bank stranglehold on the Eurozone; the Euro; foreign banks decimate Greece’s social structure; Marx’s industrial capital versus fictitious capital; Latvia as a model for the rest of Europe; Hudson’s financial and fiscal plan for Latvia; the Cold War and its ruinous effect on progressive economic thought. Guns & Butter.
by ilene - June 13th, 2010 1:14 am
Courtesy of MIKE WHITNEY writing at CounterPunch
On Thursday, European Central Bank head Jean-Claude Trichet announced that he would continue the ECB’s low interest rates (1 per cent) and easy lending policies for the foreseeable future. Wall Street rallied on the news, sending shares rocketing up 273 points on the day. Trichet also said that he would continue his controversial bond-purchasing program which has drawn fire from wary German leaders who fear the onset of inflation. The bank chief dodged questions on the program suggesting that he will operate secretively like the Fed, buying up downgraded assets and concealing their original owner. By appointing himself the de facto Fiscal Czar of the European Union, Trichet has stopped the fall of the euro, scattered the short-sellers, and zapped the markets upward. Not bad for a day’s work.
Up until yesterday, credit conditions in the EU had been steadily deteriorating. Hoarding by banks had intensified while the rates that banks charge each other for short-term loans was on the rise. Lenders were afraid that the $2.4 trillion in loans to countries in the south (Greece, Italy, Spain, Portugal) and East Europe would not be repaid and that that would push more banks into default. Euribor (the rate at which euro interbank term deposits within the euro zone are offered by one prime bank to another ) had been creeping upwards while overnight deposits at the ECB were setting new records every day. Jittery banks have parked over $390 billion at the ECB’s deposit facility since the crisis began. Banks would rather get low interest on their deposits then lend in the money markets where they might not be repaid at all.
From Bloomberg News:
“Jean-Claude Trichet said the European Central Bank will extend its offerings of unlimited cash and keep buying government bonds for now as it tries to ease tensions in money markets and fight the European debt crisis.
“ ‘It’s appropriate to continue to do what we’ve decided’ on sovereign bonds, ECB President Trichet said at a press conference in Frankfurt today. ‘We have a money market which is not functioning perfectly.’
Trichet’s ECB is buying debt and pumping unlimited funds into the banking system as part of a European Union strategy to stop the euro region from breaking apart. While Trichet refused to bow to some investors’ demands for more details
by ilene - June 10th, 2010 3:51 pm
Courtesy of Jr. Deputy Accountant
Hell, they may get desperate and monetize whatever IS nailed down if things don’t look up and quick. Wonder if Trichet has Bernanke on speed dial for this one. At least the ECB is being completely clear about its intentions.
Jean-Claude Trichet said the European Central Bank will extend its offerings of unlimited cash and keep buying government bonds as it tries to ease tensions in money markets and fight the European debt crisis.
“It’s appropriate to continue to do what we’ve decided” on purchases of sovereign and corporate bonds, Trichet, who heads the ECB, said at a press conference in Frankfurt today. Earlier, the central bank kept its benchmark interest rate at 1 percent. “We have a money market which is not functioning perfectly.”
The ECB is buying state debt and pumping unlimited funds into the banking system as part of a strategy by European policy makers to stop the euro region from breaking apart. While Trichet refused to bow to some investors’ demands for more details on the bond purchases, he said the ECB plans to offer further help to banks struggling to raise cash in money markets.
“The ECB is really in fire-fighting mode and is no longer thinking about exit,” said Nick Kounis, chief European economist at Fortis Bank Nederland NV in Amsterdam. “Interest rates will be lower for longer because of this euro-region sovereign debt crisis.”
Whatever it takes!
by ilene - June 9th, 2010 12:58 pm
Courtesy of Karl Denninger at The Market Ticker
You want to know where the spikes in the Euro came from today?
That’s "official intervention" by the Swiss National Bank and if they don’t cut this crap out they’re going to cause an equity and credit market collapse.
These jackasses now have double the Euros they held just a short while ago from these "operations", and as you can see, they’re pissing into a hurricane on even a daily basis, say much less on anything more consequential:
Congress does not have the right to get involved in the affairs of a foreign sovereign.
But Congress has every right to demand that Bernanke close his goddamn swap lines right now until this shit stops, lest The Fed be the one who is on the hook when the entire ECB structure comes apart and WE THE TAXPAYERS are on the hook.
This sort of tampering, performed by a private party, is illegal. Of course it’s routine and "expected" in the FX space for sovereigns to interfere, but much of the instability that we have seen of late has been caused by this sort of "intervention." Specifically, today it was responsible for a sixteen point, or 1.5%, jackrabbit move in both directions in the stock market in the space of less than two hours.
There is absolutely no excuse for The United States to support this sort of garbage with our taxpayer backstops. These instabilities in the foreign exchange markets make it impossible for real companies to hedge costs and profits in foreign nations and do severe and irrevocable damage to these firm’s operations.
It is also reflecting into the US Commercial Paper markets and driving spreads wider there as well. This is the very same market that locked up in 2008 and triggered the equity market collapse.
The SNB’s "interest" in doing this is clear: Half of European banks are stuffed full of debt written in Swiss Francs – in nations where the currency is the Euro! These idiots (both the borrowers and the banks that offered these "products") have now seen the principal balance of these loans represented in Euros rise by 11% in the last year.
by ilene - June 7th, 2010 12:31 am
Courtesy of Karl Denninger at The Market Ticker
Anyone who doesn’t believe that "they" (the powers that be) "get it" at this point needs to remove their head from their ass:
G-20 central bankers and finance ministers agreed in a joint statement today that “within their capacity, countries will expand domestic sources of growth.” At the same time, European Central Bank President Jean-Claude Trichet told reporters that Europe’s best contribution to the global rebound is to achieve fiscal sustainability.
Those two are polar opposites. You just heard Trichet admit that what everyone wants they cannot have.
Look folks, if you currently spend 11% of GDP by borrowing money and blowing into the economy to prop it up and you achieve "fiscal sustainability" (defined as not doing that any more) GDP will inevitably contract by the amount of stimulative borrowing you withdraw.
Geithner said at a press briefing today that “credible commitments to fiscal sustainability over the medium term” are needed to generate a durable recovery. Spain’s Finance Minister Elena Salgado said at a separate European press briefing that deficit reduction should come “no later than 2011.”
Game’s up folks – that’s six months out.
Let’s be straight with everyone here. These are the current deficit additions for the first five months of 2010 (click for a larger copy):
That’s nearly $700 billion in five months. Annualized it’s $1.68 trillion. Last year’s total was $1.647 trillion.
Ignore the CBO and other government claims. That which is borrowed is that which is owed, and the increase in that which is owed over a year’s time is the true deficit in the budget, irrespective of all claims otherwise.
This comes out to roughly 12% of GDP. If we contract that deficit spending in 2011 to the European standard of no more than 3% of GDP then either GDP contracts by the difference (8-9%) or the government extracts that from you in the form of taxes.
The ECB Blasts Governmental Fear-Based Racketeering, Questions Keynesianism, Believes The Fed’s Powers Are Overestimated
by ilene - May 29th, 2010 4:58 pm
The ECB Blasts Governmental Fear-Based Racketeering, Questions Keynesianism, Believes The Fed’s Powers Are Overestimated
Courtesy of Tyler Durden at Zero Hedge
In what could one day be seen by historians as a seminal speech presented before the Paul Volcker-chaired Group of Thirty’s 63rd Plenary Session in Rabat, the ECB’s Lorenzo Bini Smaghi had two messages: a prosaic, and very much expected one: of unity and cohesion, if at least in perception if not in deed, as well as an extremely unexpected one, in which the first notable discords at the very peak of the power echelons, are finally starting to leak into the public domain. It is in the latter part that Bini Smaghi takes on a very aggressive stance against not only the so-called "inflation tax", or the purported ability of central bankers to inflate their way out of any problem, but also slams the recently prevalent phenomenon of fear-mongering by the banking and political elite, which has become the goto strategy over the past two years whenever the banking class has needed to pass a policy over popular discontent. The ECB member takes a direct stab at the Fed’s perceived monetary policy inflexibility and US fiscal imprudence, and implicitly observes that while the market is focusing on Europe due to its monetary policy quandary, it should be far more obsessed with the US. Bini Smaghi also fires a warning shot that ongoing divergence between the ECB and Germany will not be tolerated. Most notably, a member of a central bank makes it very clear that he is no longer a devout believer in that fundamental, and false, central banking religion – Keynesianism.
First, a quick read through the "prosaic" sections of Bini Smaghi’s letter.
Bini Smaghi, who is a member of the executive board of the ECB, has a primary obligation to defend the ECB’s public image in this time of weakness and complete lack of credibility. And so he does. When discussing the ECB’s response to the Greek fiasco and contagion, he is steadfast that the response, although delayed and volatile, was the right one. Furthermore, he claims that the hard path Europe has set on is the right one, as it will ultimately right all the fiscal wrongs, even without the benefit of individual monetary intervention. Ultimately, the ECB is convinced that not letting Greece fail, either in the…