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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

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Stock Market Exit Up Ahead

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Is it time to exit the stock market now? Soros has dumped 80% of his stock holdings. Well smart money seems to think so. The relationship between earnings and the stock prices suggest that the DOW should be over 200 points lower so maybe it time for and adjustment.

If wonderful times are ahead for U.S. financial markets, then why is so much of the smart money heading for the exits?  Does it make sense for insiders to be getting out of stocks and real estate if prices are just going to continue to go up?  The Dow is up about 17 percent so far this year, and it just keeps setting new record high after new record high.  U.S. home prices have risen about 11 percent from a year ago, and some analysts are projecting that we are on the verge of a brand new housing boom.  Why would the smart money want to leave the party when it is just getting started?  Well, of course the truth is that the “smart money” is regarded as being smart because they usually make better decisions than other people do.  And right now the smart money is screaming that it is time to get out of the markets.  For example, the SentimenTrader Smart/Dumb Money Index is now the lowest that it has been in more than two years.  The smart money is busy selling even as the dumb money is busy buying.  So precisely what does the smart money expect to happen?  Are they anticipating a market “correction” or something bigger than that?

Those are very good questions.  Unfortunately, the smart money rarely divulges their secrets, so we can only watch what they do.  And right now a lot of insiders are making some very interesting moves.

For example, George Soros has been dumping almost all of his financial stocks.  The following is from a recent article by Becket Adams

Everyone’s favorite billionaire investor is back in the spotlight, and this time he has a few people wondering what he’s up to.

George Soros has dumped his position with several major banks including JPMorgan Chase, Capitol One, SunTrust, and Morgan Stanley. He has reduced his exposure to Citigroup and decreased his stake in AIG by two-thirds.

In fact, Soros’ financial stock holdings are down by roughly 80 percent, a massive drop from his position just three months ago, according to SNL Financial.

So exactly what is going on?

Why is Soros doing this?

Well, there is certainly a lot to criticize when it comes to Soros, but you can’t really blame him if he is just taking his profits and running.  Financial stocks have been on a tremendous run and that run is going to end at some point.  Smart investors lock in their profits while they still can.

And without a doubt, stocks have become completely divorced from economic reality in recent months.  For example, there is usually a very close relationship between corporate earnings and stock prices.  But as CNBC recently reported, that relationship has totally broken down lately…

That trend disrupted a formerly symbiotic relationship between earnings and stock prices and is indicating that the bluechip average is in for a substantial pullback, according to Tom Kee, who runs the StockTradersDaily investor web site.

“They’ve been moving in tandem since 2009, until recently. Earnings per share for the Dow Jones industrial average have flatlined and the price has taken off,” Kee said. “There is something happening here that defines a bubble.”

At some point there will be a correction.  If the relationship between earnings and stock prices was where it should be, the Dow would be  around 13,500 right now.  That would be a fall of nearly 2,000 points from where it is at the moment.

And we appear to be entering a time when revenues at many corporate giants are actually declining.  As I noted in a previous article, corporate revenues are falling at Wal-Mart, Proctor and Gamble, Starbucks, AT&T, Safeway, American Express and IBM.

Of course a stock market “correction” can turn into a crash very easily.  Financial markets in Japan are already crashing, and many fear that the escalating problems in the third largest economy on the planet will soon spill over into Europe and North America.

And things in Europe just continue to get steadily worse.  In fact, the New York Times is reporting that the European Central Bank is warning that the risk of a “renewed banking crisis” in Europe is rising…

The European Central Bank warned on Wednesday that the euro zone’s slumping economy and a surge in problem loans were raising the risk of a renewed banking crisis, even as overall stress in the region’s financial markets had receded.In a sober assessment of the state of the zone’s financial system, the E.C.B. said that a prolonged recession had made it harder for many borrowers to repay their loans, burdening banks that had still not finished repairing the damage caused by the 2008 financial crisis.

And there are many financial analysts out there that are warning that their cyclical indicators have peaked and that we are on the verge of a fresh global downturn

“We see building evidence of a cyclical downturn,” said Fredrik Nerbrand, HSBC’s global asset guru. “We find it highly troubling that the eurozone is still marred in a recession at the same time as our cyclical indicators appear to have peaked.”

In the United States, a lot of the smart money has also decided that it is time to bail out of the housing market before this latest housing bubble bursts.  The following is one example of this phenomenon that was discussed in a recent Businessweek article

Hedge fund manager Bruce Rose was among the first investors to coax institutional money into the mom and pop business of single-family home rentals, raising $450 million last year from Oaktree Capital Group LLC.Now, with house prices climbing at the fastest pace in seven years and investors swamping the rental market, Rose says it no longer makes sense to be a buyer.

“We just don’t see the returns there that are adequate to incentivize us to continue to invest,” Rose, 55, chief executive officer of Carrington Holding Co. LLC, said in an interview at his Aliso Viejo, California office. “There’s a lot of — bluntly — stupid money that jumped into the trade without any infrastructure, without any real capabilities and a kind of build-it-as-you-go mentality that we think is somewhat irresponsible.”

So what does all of this mean?

Is there a reason why the smart money is suddenly getting out of stocks and real estate?

It could just be that the insiders are simply responding to market dynamics and that many of them are just seeking to lock in their profits.

Or it could be something much more than that.

What do you think?

Why are so many insiders heading for the exits right now?

Berlusconi Hints At Italy Returning to Lira

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Berlusconi has mentioned in the past of Italy possibly returning to the Lira and has is at it again as he warns of an Italian exit from the eurozone unless the European Central Bank gets more powers to ensure lower borrowing costs.

Reminding the world of just the kind of truthiness that got him sacked originally by that other Italian, the Ex-Goldmanite Mario Draghi, back in November 2011, and which the world has to look forward to when Silvio Berlusconi returns to power some time in 2013, even if not as PM (a position he currently has a snowball’s chance in hell of regaining based on current political polls), Reuters informs us that the Italian, who certainly has not read the Goldman book on status quo perpetuation, just said the unimaginable: the truth. To wit: “If Germany doesn’t accept that the ECB must be a real central bank, if interest rates don’t come down, we will be forced to leave the euro and return to our own currency in order to be competitive.” Berlusconi said in comments reported by Italian news agencies Ansa and Agi. The 76-year-old media tycoon has made similar remarks in the past about the possibility of Italy, or even Germany, leaving the euro, but has often at least partially rectified them later.” Not this time. Now with Germany and the Buba folding like a broken chair, Silvio is coming back and knows he can demand anything and everything, and Germany has no choice but to accept, Merkel reelection in a few months be damned.

Perhaps the former PM who recently got engaged to this 28 year old girl who obviously loves him for his personality has read our little primer on what happens in a Europe in which external devaluation (i.e., FX) is not a possibility, and where another 30-50% drop in PIIGS salaries would be neccesary to restore competitiveness. That, or a return to the Lira of course. And Berlusconi has seen that in the duel between Greece and Germany so far the former (and specifically its creditors) have gotten all the advantage. It is only a matter of time before he parlays that negotiating approach to Italy as well, and in the process destabilizes whatever artificial balance the ECB may have created.

….

Enjoy the little European respite ladies and gents, because in a few weeks, the Magic Money Tree-free reality is coming back with a vengeance.

Source: ZeroHedge

What Life Outside The Euro Would Look Like

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Greece Is Printing Its Own Euros And Everyone Turns A Blind Eye

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Nobody is brave enough to finally pull the plug on Greece and force it to exit the euro so the game continues. The Troika are due to release their report in September but in the meantime on 20 August a €3.2 billion bond is due to be paid. The ECB has stopped accepting Greek collateral. So where does Greece get its funding from? And here lies the fragility of the monetary system because Greek is printing its own money and everyone is turning  a blind eye.

A lot of politicians in Germany, but also in other countries, issue zingers about a Greek exit from the Eurozone and the end of their patience. Yet those with decision-making power play for time. They want someone else to do the job. Suddenly Greece is out of money again. It would default on everything, from bonds held by central banks to internal obligations. On August 20. The day a €3.2 billion bond that had landed on the balance sheet of the European Central Bank would mature. Europe would be on vacation. It would be mayhem. And somebody would get blamed.

So who the heck had turned off the dang spigot? At first, it was the Troika—the austerity and bailout gang from the ECB, the EU, and the IMF. It was supposed to send Greece €31.2 billion in June. But during the election chaos, Greek politicians threatened to abandon structural reforms, reverse austerity measures already implemented, rehire laid-off workers….

The Troika got cold feet. Instead of sending the payment, it promised to send its inspectors. It would drag its feet and write reports. It would take till September—knowing that Greece wouldn’t make it past August 20. Then it let the firebrand politicians stew in their own juices.

 

In late July, the inspectors returned to Athens yet again and left on Sunday. After another visit at the end of August, they’ll release their final report in September. A big faceless document on which people of different nationalities labored for months; a lot of politicians can hide behind it. Even Merkel. And the Bundestag, which gets to have a say each time the EFSF disburses bailout funds.

Alas, August 20 is the out-of-money date. September is irrelevant. Because someone else turned off the spigot. Um, the ECB. Two weeks ago, it stopped accepting Greek government bonds as collateral for its repurchase operations, thus cutting Greek banks off their lifeline. Greece asked for a bridge loan to get through the summer, which the ECB rejected. Greece asked for a delay in repaying the €3.2 billion bond maturing on August 20, which the ECB also rejected though the bond was decomposing on its balance sheet. It would kick Greece into default. And the ECB would be blamed.

But the ECB has a public face, President Mario Draghi. He didn’t want history books pointing at him. So the ECB switched gears. It allowed Greece to sell worthless treasury bills with maturities of three and six months to its own bankrupt and bailed out banks. Under the Emergency Liquidity Assistance (ELA), the banks would hand these T-bills to the Bank of Greece (central bank) as collateral in exchange for real euros, which the banks would then pass to the government. Thus, the Bank of Greece would fund the Greek government.

Its against the governing treaties but when has that stopped the elites in the EU who can break the rules whenever it suits them. As Eddie Van Halen once said, “To hell with the rules. If it sounds right, then it is.”

Precisely what is prohibited under the treaties that govern the ECB and the Eurosystem of central banks. But voila. Out-of-money Greece now prints its own euros! The ECB approved it. The ever so vigilant Bundesbank acquiesced. No one wanted to get blamed for Greece’s default.

If Greece defaults in September, these T-bills in the hands of the Bank of Greece will remain in the Eurosystem, and all remaining Eurozone countries will get to eat the loss. €3.5 billion or more may be printed in this manner. The cost of keeping Greece in the Eurozone a few more weeks. And on Tuesday, Greece “sold” the first batch, €812.5 million of 6-month T-bills with a yield of 4.68%. Hallelujah.

“We don’t have any time to lose,” said Eurogroup President Jean-Claude Juncker. The euro must be saved “by all available means.” And clearly, his strategy is being implemented by hook or crook. Then he gave a stunning interview. At first, he was just jabbering about Greece, whose exit wouldn’t happen “before the end of autumn.” But suddenly the floodgates opened, and deeply chilling existential pessimism not only about the euro but about the future of the continent poured out. Read….. Top Honcho Jean-Claude Juncker: “Europeans are dwarfs”

Source: Testosteronepit.com

Poll: Most Germans Want To Leave Euro

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It’s a story that will put further pressure on Merkel and may eventually provide a clue to what may happen. PressTV is reporting that over 50% of Germans now want to leave the euro but that should come as no surprise.

Most Germans think their country’s economic conditions would improve if Europe’s top economy leaves the 17-member debt-stricken eurozone, a poll suggests.

The Emnid poll for the Bild am Sonntag weekly showed 51 percent of Germans believed their country would be better off without Europe’s single currency, AFP reported on Sunday.As recently as last month, German finance ministry said it feared the country could face a significant economic slump in the event of a eurozone breakup.

The June 24 report in Spiegel news weekly suggested that German economy could contract up to 10 percent in the first year after the currency bloc break up, while unemployment could jump to more than five million people.

Various eurozone’s member states have been struggling with deep economic stagnancy since the bloc’s financial crisis began roughly five years ago.
Rising unemployment in Germany signals that even Europe’s biggest economy is not immune to the economic crisis in the eurozone and cannot be depended on to prop up growth.

Source: PressTV

Wolfson Interview on EuroZone Exit

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Wolfson interview with RT on exiting the euro.

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