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Eurozone Banks Stop Lending To Each Other

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The eurozone banks have stopped lending to each other in a clear sign that mistrust has entered the system. We already know that Deutsche Bank is 60 times over leveraged with a massive derivative exposure. As Irish economist Karl Whelan put it best “At any point in time, this thing can blow up”.

euroEUROZONE banks are refusing to lend to peers in other countries in the common currency bloc, signalling a worrying fall in confidence that appears to have worsened since the Cyprus bailout earlier this year, data analysed by Reuters shows.
European Central Bank data shows the share of inter-bank funding that crosses borders within the eurozone dropped by one-third, to just 22.5pc in April from 34.5pc at the start of 2008.

The silent retreat to within national borders is most pronounced in the troubled economies of southern Europe, but is even seen in Germany.

Cross-border inter-bank funding of German banks was down by 11.2pc year-on-year in March, equivalent to banks elsewhere in Europe withdrawing €29.5bn from its biggest economy.

Eurozone banks’ stock of lending to their Greek peers was a startling 68pc lower in April than in the same month a year earlier, equivalent to €18bn withdrawn. In Portugal, the decrease was roughly a quarter.

The ECB figures include lending between separate banks in different eurozone countries and within a single banking group to its cross-border units.

CYPRUS

Faltering confidence may be responsible for the reduction in cross-border lending, due in part to a bailout of Cyprus that closed one of its two main banks.

Lobbyists for the banking industry also say a soon-to-be-finalised EU law making it possible to impose losses, or “haircuts”, on bank creditors could hurt confidence.

“At any point in time, this thing can blow up,” said Karl Whelan, an economist at University College Dublin, warning of a potential spillover on to regular savers.

“We are relying on an absence of panic among depositors while we sit around and work out who to haircut. There is a risk of large-scale deposit withdrawals in Spanish banks, in particular. They are the obvious tinder box.”

A spokesman for the European Central Bank countered that the trend was due to a general shift towards secured lending and funding via retail deposits. Banks were deleveraging, which increases the importance of stable retail deposits. (Reuters)

Source: Irish Independent

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ANALYSIS: WHY THE REAL EU FUHRER IS NOW MARIO DRAGHI

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During the week the Telegraph broke the story of how the ESM will be used to bailout broke banks. The article from the Slog explores how all the power now resides with Draghi.

ANALYSIS: WHY THE REAL EU FUHRER IS NOW MARIO DRAGHI.

German Court Case Has Potential To Force Euro Exit

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Last summer to avert the euro crisis, Mario Draghi announced Outright Monetary Transactions (OMT) to support the Spanish and Italian bonds. Now finally the German constitutional court is to hold hearings this week on the legality of the ECB using OMT as a tool to finance deficits in bankrupt states. Already Bundesbank’s Jens Weidmann has submitted a report to the court objecting to OMT but the panel looks split and the ruling could go either way. This has the potential to possibly force a German euro exit or at very least throw the eurozone back into a full blown crisis.

Udo di Fabio, the constitutional court’s euro expert until last year, said the explosive case on the legality of the European Monetary Union rescue machinery could provoke a showdown between Germany and the European Central Bank (ECB) and ultimately cause the collapse of monetary union.

“In so far as the ECB is acting ‘ultra vires’, and these violations are deemed prolonged and serious, the court must decide whether Germany can remain a member of monetary union on constitutional grounds,” he wrote in a report for the German Foundation for Family Businesses.

“His arguments are dynamite,” said Mats Persson from Open Europe, which is issuing its own legal survey on the case on Monday.

Dr Di Fabio wrote the court’s provisional ruling last year on the European Stability Mechanism (ESM), the €500bn (£425bn) bail-out fund. His comments offer a rare window into thinking on the eight-strong panel in Karlsruhe, loosely split 4:4 on European Union issues.

The court is holding two days of hearings, though it may not issue a ruling for several weeks. The key bone of contention is the ECB’s back-stop support for the Spanish and Italian bond markets or Outright Monetary Transactions (OMT), the “game-changer” plan that stopped the Spanish debt crisis spiralling out of control last July and vastly reduced the risk of a euro break-up.

germanThe case stems from legal complaints by 37,000 citizens, including the Left Party, the More Democracy movement, and a core of eurosceptic professors, most arguing that the ECB has overstepped its mandate by financing the deficits of bankrupt states.

Berenberg Bank said the case was now “the most important event risk” looming over the eurozone, with concerns mounting over an “awkward verdict” that may constrain or even block ECB action.

Dr Di Fabio said the court, or Verfassungsgericht, does not have “procedural leverage” to force the ECB to change policy but it can issue a “declaratory” ultimatum. If the ECB carries on with bond purchases regardless, the court can and should then prohibit the Bundesbank from taking part.

The Bundesbank’s Jens Weidmann needs no encouragement, say experts. He submitted a report to the court in December attacking the ECB head Mario Draghi’s pledge on debt as highly risky, a breach of both ECB independence and fundamental principles. The ECB does not have a legal mandate to uphold the “current composition of monetary union”, he wrote.

Dr Di Fabio said it was hard to imagine that an “integration-friendly court” would push the EMU “exit button”, but it can force a halt to bond purchases. This may amount to the same thing, reviving the eurozone crisis instantly.

“It would pull the rug from under the whole project. It is the OMT alone that has calmed markets and saved the periphery,” said Andrew Roberts from Royal Bank of Scotland. Mr Draghi said last week that the OMT was the “most successful monetary policy in recent times”.

The court dates back to the Reichskammergericht of the Holy Roman Empire created in 1490, but it was revived after the Second World War along the lines of the US Supreme Court.

It has emerged as the chief defender of the sovereign nation state in the EU system, asserting the supremacy of the German Grundgesetz over EU law, hence the German term “Verfassungspatriotismus”, or constitution patriotism.

The court backed the Lisbon Treaty but also ruled that Europe’s states are “Masters of the Treaties” and not the other way round, and reminded Europe that national parliaments are the only legitimate form of democracy. It said Germany must “refuse further participation in the EU” if it ever threatens the powers of the elected Bundestag.

It issued another “yes, but” ruling last September. It threw out an injunction intended to freeze the ESM, but it also tied Berlin’s hands by capping Germany’s ESM share at €190bn, and blocked an ESM bank licence. It killed off hope of eurobonds, debt-pooling, or fiscal union by prohibiting the Bundestag from “accepting liability for decisions by other states”.

Crucially, the court said the Bundestag may not lawfully alienate its tax and spending powers to EU bodies, even if it wants to, for this would undermine German democracy.

Chief Justice Andreas Vosskuhle said at the time that Germany had reached the limits of EU integration. Any further steps would require a “new constitution”, and that in turn would require a referendum.

 

Source: The Telegraph

Euro May Have To Devalue By Mid Year

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In an original interview with Handelsblatt, Felix Zulauf founder of  Zulauf Asset Management in Switzerland has declared that the euro will most likely experience a crisis by mid year and will have to devalue.

euroThe Euro crisis will escalate again says Felix Zulauf. Swiss money manager is preparing for a collapse of the stock market. But even greater is his concern that angry citizens could take to the streets.

The markets were expecting the world economy to recover, but he suspected that neither the economy nor corporate earnings would develop as hoped. Once the distance between “wish” and “reality” became apparent, “it could cause a crash.”

Timeframe? This year. Optimism might hang in there for a while; the second quarter would be more problematic. Over time, downdrafts in some markets could reach 20% to 30%. Despite the incessant insistence by Eurozone politicians that the worst was over, he didn’t see “any normalization.” The structural problems were still there, they’ve only been hidden, “drowned temporarily in an ocean of new liquidity.”

“Look at the economic data,” he said. “There is no visible improvement.” As if to document his claim, the Eurozone Purchasing Managers Index was released. It dropped again after three months of upticks that had spawned gobs of hope that “the worst was over.” Business activity has now declined for a year and a half. New orders, a precursor for future activity, fell for the 19th month in a row. While Germany was barely in positive territory, France’s PMI crashed to a low not seen since March 2009 and was on a similar trajectory as in 2008—when it was heading into the trough of the financial crisis!

Sure, the financial markets calmed down, but only because the ECB pulled the “emergency brake” by declaring that it would finance bankrupt states so that the euro would survive. It was a signal for the banks to buy sovereign debt. Borrowing from the ECB at 1%, buying Spanish or Italian debt with yields above 5%, while the ECB took all the risks—”a great business for the banks,” he said. As a consequence, the banks were once again loaded up with sovereign debt. “The problems weren’t solved but kicked down the road,” he said.

Politicians would muddle through. Government debt would continue to rise. But next time something breaks, the pressure would come from citizens, he said. Standards of living have been deteriorating. Many people have lost their jobs. Real wages have declined. “We’ve sent millions into poverty!” People were discontent. And it was conceivable that “someday, they could go on the street and attack these policies.”

Mid year is the timframe for the euro to hit a crisis. Draghi will have no choice but to “lira-ize” the euro.

Countries were devaluing their currencies to gain an advantage. This “race to the bottom” could escalate to where governments would impose limits on free trade. The devaluation of the yen would hit other countries. In Germany, it would pressure automakers, machine-tool makers, and others. By midyear, he said, “Europe will reach a point when it can no longer live with this euro.”

It would have to be devalued. France’s President François Hollande was already agitating for it. “And he has to because the French economy is in a catastrophic condition. It’s no longer competitive. France is becoming the second Spain.”

But didn’t the ECB emphasize that the exchange rate was irrelevant for monetary policy? And wasn’t the Bundesbank resisting devaluation?

“The policies of the Bundesbank are unfortunately dead,” he said, and its representatives were only “allowed to bark, not bite.” Monetary policy at the ECB was made by Draghi, “an Italian.” He’d push for the “lira-ization of the euro,” he said, “not because he likes it, but because he has no choice.” It was the only way to keep the euro glued together. “Mrs. Merkel knows that too, but she cannot tell the truth; otherwise citizens would notice what’s going on.”

So what does Zulauf recommend ?

Given this dreary scenario, what could investors do? Long-term, equities were a good choice, he said, but this wasn’t the moment to buy.

Gold? That it was down from its peak a year and half ago was “normal,” he said. Currently, gold funds were forced to liquidate, which could cause sudden drops, but it also signified “the end of a movement.” He expected the correction to end by this spring. “Long-term, the uptrend is intact,” he said.

Bonds? They had a great run for 30 years but were now “totally overvalued”—in part due to central banks that had bought $10 trillion in debt “with freshly printed money” over the past five years. Debt markets were completely distorted, but central banks would be able to hold the bubble together for “a while longer.” So he admitted, “Last summer, I sold all long-term debt.”

But where the heck was he putting his money now? That’s when he made his sobering remark, “I’m sitting on cash.”

Source: Testosteronepit, Handelsblatt

Draghi Silences German Finance Minister Over Cyprus “let them default” Comments

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There is one word within the EUSSR that’s never to be uttered and thats DEFAULT. No matter what, bank debt must be honoured, God forbid they loose one cent and that is at the heart of the matter in Germany. Just before the German parlimentary elections, nobody wants to be seen bailing out Cyprus or more importantly shady Russia money via the back door since the majority of Cyprus’s debt is owned to Russia.

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble has publicly stated that he doesn’t think a Cyprus default would have much harm on the euro. Draghi’s response was of the line, “you are a lawyer so STFU”.

A debate has been raging in Germany about Cyprus. Not that the German parliament, which has a say in this, wouldn’t rubberstamp an eventual bailout, as it rubberstamped others before, but right now they’re not in the mood. Cyprus is too much of a mess. Bailing out uninsured depositors of Cypriot banks would set a costly precedent for other countries. And bailing out Russian “black money,” which makes up a large portion of the deposits, would be, well, distasteful in Germany, a few months before the federal elections.

For the tiny country whose economy is barely a rounding error in the Eurozone, it would be an enormous bailout. At €17.5 billion, it would amount to about 100% of GDP: €10 billion for the banks, €6 billion for holders of existing debt, and €1.5 billion to cover budget deficits through 2016. The new debt, a €2.5 billion loan that Russia extended in 2011, and other debt would amount to 150% of GDP, according to Moody’s. Unsustainable. So haircuts would be necessary. But whose hair would be cut?

As always, there is never an alternative to a bailout. “It’s essential that everybody realizes that a disorderly default of Cyprus could lead to an exit of Cyprus from the Eurozone,” said Olli Rehn, European Commissioner for Economic and Monetary Affairs. “It would be extremely stupid to take any risk of that nature.”

A risk German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble would be willing to take. He’d been saying publicly that it wasn’t certain yet that a default would put the Eurozone at risk—”one of the requirements that any bailout money can flow at all,” he said. Cyprus simply wasn’t “systemically important.” In fact, there were alternatives.

Heretic words. He needed to be shut up, apparently. And that happened at the meeting of Eurozone finance ministers a week ago, details of which sources just leaked to the Spiegel.

The meeting was marked by the transfer of the Eurogroup presidency from Jean-Claude Juncker to the new guy, Dutch Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem. Cyprus was also on the agenda, but not much was accomplished, other than an agreement to delay the bailout decision until after the Cypriot general elections in February. The government has resisted certain bailout conditions, such as the privatization of state-owned enterprises and the elimination of cost-of-living adjustments for salaries. Now, everyone wanted to deal with the new government.

The put down.

But what didn’t make it into the press release was that ECB President Mario Draghi, bailout-fund tsar Klaus Regling, and Olli Rehn, all three unelected officials, had formed a triumvirate to gang up on Schäuble.

That Cyprus wasn’t “systemically important” was something he kept hearing everywhere from lawyers, Draghi told Schäuble at the meeting. But it wasn’t a question that can be answered by lawyers, he said. It was a topic for economists.

A resounding put-down: Schäuble, a lawyer by training—not an economist—wasn’t competent to speak on the issue and should therefore shut up!

The smoke and mirror argument the triumvirate used was that a Cypriot default would affect Greece, which is true, but for German taxpayers it would be extremely distasteful for the majority of this bailout to go to shady Russian depositors.

The two largest Cypriot banks had an extensive network of branches in Greece, the triumvirate argued. If deposits at these branches weren’t considered safe, Greek depositors would be plunged again into uncertainty, which could then infect Greek banks and cause a serious relapse in Greece.  

If Cyprus went bust, they contended, it would annihilate the flow of positive news that has been responsible recently for calming down the Eurozone.

For weeks, all signs have pointed towards an improvement, they argued. Risk premiums for Spanish and Italian government debt have dropped significantly, and balances between central banks, which had risen to dangerous levels, have been edging down. If the money spigot were turned off, this recovery could reverse, they argued. Contagion would spread and could jeopardize Ireland’s and Portugal’s return to the financial markets.

Further, Cyprus was carrying its portion of the bailout funds and therefore had a right to its own bailout—a legal argument even a mere lawyer should be able to grasp.

And so, letting tiny Cyprus default could tear up the rest of the Eurozone, they argued—saying essentially that bailouts were a delicate con game, and that Schäuble, by digging in his heels, was blowing it up.

Eurocrats bitch slap the German Finance Minister and tell the Germans to hand over the cash. If this show of force from the bankers doesn’t demonstrate who holds the balance of power in eurozone then I don’t know what will.

It made for another bitter Eurozone irony: the democratically elected finance minister of a country whose taxpayers have to pay more than any other for the bailouts got shut down by unelected Eurocrats who, in a continued power grab, postulated that Cypriot banks, their bondholders, their depositors, even their uninsured depositors, even Russian “black money” depositors had a “right” to the German money (and anyone else’s). And if Schäuble refused, it would blow up the entire Eurozone. Schäuble’s response hasn’t bubbled to the surface yet. And bailout queen Chancellor Merkel, who is trying to avoid tumult ahead of her elections, has a new headache. Read…  Russian “Black Money” Threatens To Boot Cyprus Out Of The Eurozone.

Source: Testosterone Pit

ECB Balance Sheet At $15 Trillion and Growing

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What was it that Jean Claude Juncker used to say?, “When it becomes serious, you have to lie”. Well, when it comes to the ECB’s balance sheet, they must have taken a leaf out of Junker’s book. According to ZeroHedge, the real figure of the balance sheet is $15 trillion because “guaranteed debt” is not counted even if its Greece.

The ECB, as I quoted recently from their own published balance sheet, has $15 trillion in loans outstanding to Europe. They claim a $4 trillion balance sheet based upon not counting guaranteed loans by various nations and by not counting contingent liabilities. This is the same scheme that is used for calculating the debt to GDP ratios of the countries in Europe. The methodology is consistent. If a loan, a debt, is guaranteed by a nation or if the liability is “contingent;”it is not counted. This, of course, does not mean that possibility of having to fund or write-off something is not there; it just means it is not counted.

Furthermore all guaranteed loans or debts of any nation, including Greece, are deemed “risk-free” and so the balance sheet of not just the ECB but the banks in Europe are skewed, as in incorrect by American standards, by the methodology employed. What is the “Standard Operating Procedure” in Europe would be fraudulent in the United States and while you may think that everyone is entitled to their own manner of doing things it also must be said that the European invention allows for increased risks and leverage that could overcome the Continent at any point. “Not counted” does NOT mean “not there” and so the cause for my great concern.
 
European banks were supposed to be de-leveraging  in accordance with the Basel III rules but have grown by 7% according to recent data released by Eurostat. Target2 was supposed to be shrinking but has grown to almost one trillion Dollars. The loans at the ECB have been increasing and whether the credit line to the Spanish banks or the loans to the banks of many countries in Europe to buy their debt at auction keeps on growing. The risk factor is magnified so far past any margin of safety that I am fearful, more than fearful, that some event, some relatively minor event in fact could throw Europe off a cliff that will make our fiscal cliff look like a gently rolling hill in comparison.
 
I repeat and repeat again:

“NOT COUNTED” DOES NOT MEAN “NOT THERE!”

Source: ZeroHedge

What Life Outside The Euro Would Look Like

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