Quantum Pranx

ECONOMICS AND ESOTERICA FOR A NEW PARADIGM

Posts Tagged ‘Trichet

ECB is euroland’s last hope as bail-out machinery fails to resolve crisis

leave a comment »

by Ambrose Evans-Pritchard

International Business Editor
Posted 14 Aug 2011

THE LEADERS OF GERMANY AND FRANCE HAVE THREE BAD CHOICES AS THEY DECIDE whether to save EMU this week, or pretend to do so. German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy will meet Tuesday in Paris. They can agree to fiscal fusion and an EMU debt union, entailing treaty changes and a constitutional revolution. This implies the emasculation of Europe’s historic nation states.

They can tear up the mandate of European Central Bank and order Frankfurt to go nuclear with €2 trillion of `unsterilized’ bond purchases until the M3 money supply in Italy, Spain, Portugal, Ireland, and Greece stops contracting at depression rates and starts to grow again at recovery speed (5pc). This might destabilize Germany. Or they can try to muddle through with their usual mix of half-measures and bluster. This will lead to a rapid disintegration of monetary union and a banking collapse. It risks a repeat of 1931 if executed badly, as it most likely would be. They have days or weeks to make up their minds, not months.

The EFSF rescue fund was never more than a stop-gap device to avoid grappling with the core issue: the economic chasm between North and South. It has failed. Insistence that it could handle a dual crisis in Spain in Italy was a bluff, and last week that bluff was called when France too was sucked into the maelstrom.

Escalating bail-out costs are eroding French debt dynamics. “Bad” is contaminating “good”. The EFSF has itself become a source of contagion and this would turn yet more virulent if the fund were quadrupled to €2 trillion as some suggest. “The larger the EFSF, the faster the dominos fall,” says Daniel Gross from the Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS).

“Only Germany can reverse the dynamic of European disintegration,” writes George Soros in the Handelsblatt. “Germany and the other AAA states must agree to some sort of Eurobond regime. Otherwise the euro will implode.” Mr Soros knows that the trigger for the denouement of the pre-euro ERM in 1992 was a quote from a Bundesbanker in the same Handelsblatt hinting that sterling and the lira were overvalued. That was all it took. The Tory government that had tied Britain’s fate to an over-heating Germany was destroyed.

Once again we are all reading the German press, and what we see is subversive commentary once again from Frankfurt, and bail-out fatigue and simmering anger among Bavaria’s Social Christians, Free Democrats (FDP), and Angela Merkel’s own Christian Democrats in Berlin. If Germany is about to immolate itself for the sake of EMU, this is not obvious in the Bundestag.

What German politicians want is yet more Club Med austerity, even though Euroland growth has wilted. The demands have become ideological, going beyond any coherent therapeutic dose. The effect of such fiscal tightening at this stage is to repeat the error of the 1930s Gold Standard when the burden of adjustment fell on weaker states, pushing them into a downward spiral that eventually engulfed everybody. Fiscal cuts make little sense for Italy, where the output gap is 3.1pc. “Increasing potential growth should be the main policy goal. Fiscal tightening could further depress aggregate demand” said the IMF in its Article IV report.

Italy does not have a debt problem as such. Its budget is in primary surplus this year. Total debt – the relevant gauge — is under 250pc of GDP: similar to France, and lower than Holland, Spain, Britain, the US, or Japan. Italy is one of the few EU states to have sorted out its pension liabilities, by linking payouts to life expectancy

What Italy has is a growth problem, rooted in currency misalignment. Having lost over 40pc in unit labour cost competitiveness against Germany since EMU, it is trapped in slump. Per capital income has contracted for a decade. So why is Europe forcing Italy to tighten drastically and run an even bigger primary surplus within two years, and doing so just as the world flirts with a double-dip downturn? Why too is the ECB’s Jean-Claude Trichet acting as the enforcer? His leaked letter to Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi is a diktat, a long list of measures imposed as a condition for the ECB’s action to shore up the Italian bond market.

Mr Berlusconi has capitulated, with a “bleeding heart”. He is slashing payments to regional authorities, though he has resisted wage cuts. “They made us look like an occupied government,” he said. Northern League leader Umberto Bossi accused the ECB of “trying to blow up the Italian government.”

Mr Trichet is moving into dangerous waters dictating budgets to sovereign parliaments. It matters enormously whether citizens have political “ownership” over austerity, or whether it is imposed by outside forces. His former colleague Otmar Issing fears that Europe is becoming a deformed union where officials run roughshod over nations and fiscal power lies beyond democratic control. Such encroachments have “brought war” in the past, he said.

The bank should correct its own errors first. It was ECB tightening that choked Europe’s recovery. “Eurozone monetary weakness has been the key driver of the recent deterioration in global economic and financial conditions,” said Simon Ward from Henderson Global Investors. Real M1 desposits are not only collapsing across southern Europe, they have turned negative in the North as well. This signals big trouble. “It was astonishing that the ECB, which trumpets adherence to monetary analysis, chose to rein back its longer-term repo lending in late 2010 and raise interest rates in April and July. This was a repeat of its error of 2008,” he said.

Mr Ward said the ECB should stop choosing which nations to rescue through “quasi-fiscal transfers” and stick to neutral central banking. It should launch quantitative easing for the whole of EMU.

“At this point the Eurozone needs a massive infusion of liquidity,” said Dr Gross from CEPS. Otherwise there will be a “break-down of the interbank market that would throw the economy into an immediate recession as after the Lehman bankruptcy”.

HSBC’s chief economist Stephen King said the ECB must print money a l’outrance in “exactly the same” way as the Fed. “At the heart of the problem is the ECB’s unwillingness to be seen ‘monetizing’ government debt. Yet if the alternative to QE is the collapse of the euro or a descent into depression, then massive expansion of the ECB’s balance sheet seems a small price to pay.” Such views are rarer in Germany but at last making themselves heard. Kantoos Economics said the ECB has been “extremely tight” and lost sight of its essential purpose. “It is therefore an important cause of the current mess.”

“European policy makers and central bankers are wrecking one of the most fascinating projects in human history, the unity and friendship among the countries of Europe. This is beyond depressing,” he said. The path of least resistance for Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy on Tuesday is surely to force the ECB to change course, by treaty power if necessary.

Or kiss goodbye to the Kanzleramt, the Elysee, and monetary union

The Economic Death Spiral has been triggered

leave a comment »

by Gordon T. Long
Posted originally May 27, 2011 
This posting has been abbreviated slightly

For nearly 30 years we have had two Global Strategies working in a symbiotic fashion that has created a virtuous economic growth spiral. Unfortunately, the economic underpinnings were flawed and as a consequence, the virtuous cycle has ended.  It is now in the process of reversing and becoming a vicious downward economic spiral.

One of the strategies is the Asian Mercantile Strategy.  The other is the US Dollar Reserve Currency Strategy. These two strategies have worked in harmony because they fed off each other, each reinforcing the other. However, today the realities of debt saturation have brought the virtuous spiral to an end.

One of the two global strategies enabled the Asian Tigers to emerge and grow to the extent that they are now the manufacturing and potentially future economic engine of the world. The other allowed the US to live far beyond its means with massive fiscal deficits, chronic trade imbalances and more recently, current account imbalances. The US during this period has gone from being the richest country on the face of the globe to the biggest debtor nation in the world. First we need to explore each strategy, how they worked symbiotically, what has changed and then why the virtuous cycle is now accelerating into a vicious downward spiral.

ASIAN MERCANTILE STRATEGY

The Asian Mercantile Strategy started with the emergence of Japan in the early 1980s, expanded with the Asian Tigers in the 90s and then strategically dominated with China in the first decade of this century. Initially, Japan’s products were poor quality and limited to cheap consumer products. Japan as a nation had neither the raw materials, capital markets, nor domestic consumption market to compete with the giant size of the USA. To compensate for its disadvantages, Japan strategically targeted its manufacturing resources for the US market.  By doing this, the resource poor island nation took the first step in becoming an export economy – an economy centered on growth through exports versus an economy like the US, where an excessive 70% of GDP is dependent on domestic consumption.

The strategy began to work as Japan took full advantage of its labor differential that was critical in the low end consumer product segment, which it initially targeted. Gradually, as capital availability expanded, Japan broadened its manufacturing scope, moving into higher levels of consumption products requiring higher levels of quality and achieving brand recognition. Success soon became a problem as the Yen began to strengthen. To combat this the Japanese implemented the second critical component of what became the Asian Mercantile Strategy template. It began to manipulate its currency by aggressively intervening in the forex market to keep the yen weak.

Further success forced Japan to move to a more aggressive forex strategy to maintain a currency advantage. It was strategically decided that Japan’s large and growing foreign reserves were to be re-invested back into the US. By buying US Agency and US Treasury debt instruments it kept the dollar strong relative to the Yen. The more successful Japan became, the more critical this strategy became. In the 80s Japan dominated global expansion as it brought US automotive and consumer electronics’ manufacturing to its knees.

By the early 90s the Japanese labor advantage was quickly being lost to the Asian Tigers because the Yen versus the Asian Tiger currencies was too strong. The Asian Tigers were following the Japanese model. The Asian Crisis in 1997 re-enforced to all Asian players the importance of holding large US dollar denominated reserves. This further accelerated and reinforced the strategy of purchasing US Treasury and Agency debt. With China’s acceptance into the World Trade Organization (WTO),  China emerged on the scene in full force. Armed with the lessons of the last twenty years, China took the Asian Mercantile Strategy to another level in its ongoing evolution.

The results were one of the largest and fastest transfers of industrial power ever to occur in history.  In ten years, China assumed the role of the world’s undisputed industrial powerhouse in the world.

The virtuous cycle further accelerated as Asia became more dominant because its reserves, reinvested back in the US, began to have a larger and larger impact. The more Asia bought US Treasury and Agency debt, the lower US interest rates were forced, allowing Americans to finance more and more consumption. The more Asia bought US securities, the stronger the US dollar was against Asian currencies, and therefore the cheaper Asian products were relative to US manufactured products. It was a self reinforcing Virtuous Cycle. The result was a staggering 46,000 factories transferred from the US to Asia over the same ten year period. The transfer set the stage for chronic unemployment and public funding problems, but it was temporarily hidden by equally massive increases in debt spending.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Greek “Ultimatum”: Bailout (for the Bankers) and (loss of) Sovereignty

with one comment

by Tyler Durden
Posted May 29, 2011

SO, AFTER ONE YEAR OF BEATING AROUND THE BUSH, IT IS FINALLY MADE CLEAR THAT, as many were expecting all along, the ultimate goal of the Greek “bailouts” is nothing short of the state’s (partial for now) annexation by Europe. According to an FT breaking news article, “European leaders are negotiating a deal that would lead to unprecedented outside intervention in the Greek economy, including international involvement in tax collection and privatisation of state assets, in exchange for new bail-out loans for Athens. People involved in the talks said the package would also include incentives for private holders of Greek debt voluntarily to extend Athens’ repayment schedule, as well as another round of austerity measures.”

Thus Greece is faced with the banker win-win choice, of not only abandoning sovereignty, a first in modern “democratic” history, in the pursuit of “Greek” policies that are beneficial for Europe, or not get a bailout, which would only serve to prevent senior bondholder impairments. How could Greek leaders and its population possibly not accept such an attractive option which either leaves the country as another Olli Rehn protectorate, or forces it to not bailout Europe’s overleveraged banker class. In essence Europe is now convinced, just like Hank Paulson was on September 14, 2008, that the downstream effects from letting Greece implode are manageable. But the key development is that the Greek bankruptcy, which from the beginning, and as Peter Tchir’s note below demonstrates, was always simply a Greek choice, was just made that much easier.

From the FT:

People involved in the talks said the package would also include incentives for private holders of Greek debt voluntarily to extend Athens’ repayment schedule, as well as another round of austerity measures. Officials hope that as much as half of the €60bn-€70bn ($86bn-$100bn) in new financing needed by Athens until the end of 2013 could be accounted for without new loans. Under a plan advocated by some, much of that would be covered by the sale of state assets and the change in repayment terms for private debtholders.

Eurozone countries and the International Monetary Fund would then need to lend an additional €30bn-€35bn on top of the €110bn already promised as part of the bail-out programme agreed last year. Officials warned, however, that almost every element of the new package faced significant opposition from at least one of the governments and institutions involved in the current negotiations and a deal could still unravel.

In the latest setback, the Greek government failed on Friday to win cross-party agreement on the new austerity measures, which European Union lenders have insisted is a prerequisite to another bail-out. In addition, the European Central Bank remains opposed to any restructuring of Greek debt that could be considered a “credit event” – a change in terms that could technically be ruled a default. One senior European official involved in the talks, however, said ECB objections could be overcome if the rescheduling was structured properly.

Despite the hurdles, pressure is building to have a deal done within three weeks because of an IMF threat to withhold its portion of June’s €12bn bail-out payment unless Athens can show it can meet all its financing requirements for the next 12 months.

And the latest set of very timely observations from TF Market’s Peter Tchir:

You can lead a Trojan Horse to water but you can’t make him drink

Restructuring in one form or another seems imminent rather than years away
Well, it seems as though this week’s news flow has spurred the mainstream media into action. Everywhere you look there are stories about the Greek credit crisis. It is encouraging to see that more of them now agree with my view that a restructuring would occur sooner rather than later. Only a month ago, almost every article and every piece of official street research made it clear that a restructuring was at least a year off, if not longer. I demonstrated why I thought that opinion was wrong, and although I haven’t been proven correct yet, I am no longer in a tiny minority. Restructuring (reprofiling or default or whatever you want to call it) will not be easy, but I remain convinced that it is the best outcome for Greece and in the long run will be the best outcome for Europe even with the short term pain it will cause.

Read the rest of this entry »

Death Spiral of EU Crisis?

leave a comment »

from The Daily Bell
Posted Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Crisis-talk in Brussels is hardly new. What’s different today is the palpable sense of failure and confusion communicated, even by the most fervent advocates of the EU. It is easy to dismiss this reaction as merely a symptom of the bitter conflict and rivalry unleashed by the crisis of the Eurozone, with Greece, Ireland and Portugal having to be bailed out with huge injections of cash to keep their governments solvent. However, the current problems confronting the integrity of the EU are not confined to the domain of economics; the organisation is also threatened by a political and cultural crisis. – Spiked

Dominant Social Theme:
Just give us a little more time. Say, can we ban these nasty bond markets? Why do they exist anyway?

Free-Market Analysis:
Frank Furedi of the alternative web newspaper Spiked has written an insightful article on the breakdown of confidence among the EU’s chattering classes. He has the idea that Eurocrats are so out of touch with average Europeans that they have run out of ideas of how to protect the union from its onrushing Armageddon. His larger point, though he doesn’t use our vocabulary, is that a fundamental dominant social theme (internationalism forever) is beginning to crumble.

This is a cause for happiness in our view. Let the EU crumble and the Anglo-American elites will have received a significant setback. Combine a failure of the EU with failure in Afghanistan (see other story, this issue) and it becomes clear that Money Power is less dominant in this century than in the last. Of course, we have been arguing this possibility for years.

This group of authoritarian socialists IS out of touch. They would disdainfully require countries to vote again and again when the votes were not in the best interest of the EU Leviathan. They would gladly hold whole populations hostage for the sins of a handful of elites, while ignoring the EU’s own fiscal lapses, ones that are so bad an auditor has refused to sign off on EU finances for a decade or more.

Lately, there seems to have been a pullback in EU elite ambitions, a cessation of confidence in the idea that Eurocrats could slam their collective, Orwellian boot endlessly in the face of a resentful populace. Talk of massive abrogation of civil rights has seemingly been muted for the moment. Putting all EU citizens into one large one database in order to spy on them more effectively has seemingly been shelved for the time being. Building an EU Army to help NATO with its job of oppression around the world has quieted.

Generally, we’re getting the sense that the Eurocrats are beginning to believe that the financial crisis is a bridge too far. Gone are the proclamations of confidence issuing from the lips of Sarkozy, Merkel and Trichet. The Camp of Confidence seems to have fallen mute. Furedi captures it well.

The new buzzword in Brussels: ‘Crisis’ The EU is beset with problems, but it is so cut off from the electorate that it lacks the popular legitimacy to solve them. During a recent visit to Brussels, I was struck by the uninhibited use of the word ‘crisis’ by people who closely watch or inhabit the institutions of the European Union.

With the Greek economy in a state of disintegration, European leaders know that there is no alternative but to restructure Greece’s debt. They may use the euphemism of ‘re-profiling debt’ to avoid acknowledging the scale of the problem, but the spectre of insolvent nations haunts Europe. Just a few weeks after pouring billions of euros into bailing out Portugal, it is evident that the medicine is not working and that the Eurozone is in big trouble. Inevitably, there is talk of reorganising Europe’s monetary union as more and more people have lost faith in the existing bailout strategy.

Opposition to this strategy has led to the growth of euroscepticism throughout the more prosperous regions of Europe. A recent opinion poll in Germany showed that 30 per cent of the respondents wanted an ‘independent Germany’, without the euro. That is why last week, the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, stated that people in countries like Greece, Portugal and Spain should not have more holidays, work less or retire earlier than Germans. One Portuguese journalist described this gesture as ‘feeding the populist monster that is growing in the Europe of the euro’. But this monster is not about to disappear.

Read the rest of this entry »

Ireland sells out its people to UK and German Bankers

leave a comment »

by Tyler Durden
Posted originally November 21, 2010

AND SO THE CAN HAS BEEN KICKED DOWN THE ROAD ONE MORE TIME as Ireland’s Brian Lenihan has just sold out his country to the IMF, the ECB and the Fed for a few extra years of puppet control. RTE reports that EU Finance Ministers are due to hold a conference call later this evening during which Ireland is expected to make a formal request for a financial rescue package. What is not discussed is how the Irish people, now likely furious at being manipulated over a lost cause will express their anger over being the latest sheep used to bail out Europe’s ever more insolvent banking system. They can at least sleep soundly, that they won’t be the last. After today’s rescue of Ireland, the vigilantes will focus their undivided attention on Portugal and Spain – perhaps these two countries will be a little less timid when it comes to rescuing Germany’s banking oligarchy.

From RTÉ:
EU Finance Ministers are due to hold a conference call later this evening during which Ireland is expected to make a formal request for a financial rescue package. An EU source said the request would be approved during the call.

It follows confirmation by Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan that he would be recommending to the Cabinet this afternoon that an application be made to the European Union and the International Monetary Fund. Speaking on RTÉ’s This Week, Mr Lenihan said he will propose the application to this afternoon’s meeting of the Cabinet.

The Minister confirmed that discussions with the agencies had concluded yesterday evening. Ireland will now be formally applying for a rescue programme and formal negotiations will begin. He confirmed that the amount of money involved amounted to ‘tens of billions’ of euros but denied suggestions it would be as much as €70 or €80bn.

He suggested most of the money would be used to cover the Government deficit for the next few years, while most of the money assigned to the banks would be from what he called a ‘demonstration of firepower‘ that would only be drawn down if required.

Lenihan seems to realize that allegations of his treacherous nature are about to kick into high gear, accompanied by violent demonstrations, riots and strikes. The Minister said he had not misled the country over the past week nor did any of his Cabinet colleagues intend to mislead people. He said it would the height of irresponsibility to have a General Election now, and that the priorities for the country were having the four-year plan and Budget in place.

Mr Lenihan said no concrete figure had been arrived at and that figure would be the subject of negotiations. Of course it would be “highly irresponsible” to hold an election just after the Minister of Finance has been exposed to be the latest puppet in the global banker arsenal. After all, the people may actually let him know how they feel about betrayal.

One thing that apparently was not discusses was the imminent austerity that would grip the country far over and above what the country would do on its own theatrical ways. After all, Ireland has just ceded complete sovereign control over to the tyrranical trio of Jean Claude Trichet, Dominique Strauss-Khan and Ben Bernanke. Welcome to the club.