It’s a simply question of math.
I realize my views on Europe are much in the minority. The entire world continues to believe that somehow Mario Draghi or Ben Bernanke have a magical button they can hit that will solve the EU Crisis.
Most people believe that magical button is the “print” button. But this completely overlooks the fact that Europe is facing a solvency crisis, not a liquidity crisis. It’s a key difference. In a liquidity crisis, financial firms needs easy money to meet short-term funding needs because interbank lending has dried up.
In a solvency crisis, a bank has far too many assets relative to its equity/ capital base. In this scenario the issue is NOT one of too little liquidity, but one of TOO MUCH Debt relative to actual capital/equity (neither of which can be increased by lending more money to the firm).
Put it this way… Europe’s banks in general are leveraged at 26 to 1. This means that for every €1 they have in equity/ capital, they have €26 in assets (which are in fact loans they’ve made to EU governments, EU businesses, etc.).
When you have this much leverage, if your asset base (all those loans) falls by even 4%, then you’ve erased ALL of your capital/equity. At that point there is NO MONEY to fall back on and you are forced to liquidate your loans at massive losses.
This in turn brings about a crisis of confidence, resulting in people pulling their money out of the bank… which renders the bank even more insolvent.
Thus, in this situation, for the ECB to come along and say, “here Bank XYZ, take €5 billion in debt from us at an interest rate of 3%” accomplishes nothing. It fact it actually increases the bank’s leverage, which was the basic problem to begin with.
There’s a second component here.
Everyone now knows that many EU banks are in serious trouble. So when the ECB came along with its LTRO 1 and LTRO 2 plans (basically providing cheap loans to EU banks to help them meet funding needs), the bond and credit markets took this as an admission of guilt on the part of the banks.
In plain terms, when Bank XYZ stepped up and said to the ECB “please give us some money via the LTRO 2” the markets realized “this bank is in serious trouble… why else would it be asking for help?”
As a result, the bank’s bonds dropped, pushing the cost of meeting its interest payments higher (draining even more of its much needed capital).
So in many ways, asking the ECB for help actually made things worse for the bank from a private sector funding perspective (investors were far less willing to lend money to the bank).
That is precisely what happened after LTRO 1 and LTRO 2. ECB President Mario Draghi knows this, which is why he’s not issued LTRO 3.
With all of this out of the way, let’s look at the actual math regarding Europe today.
The EFSF fund, after the Spanish bailout, has just €65 billion in firepower left. That won’t do anything to help Italy which is on the brink, let alone Slovenia and other smaller EU countries.
The other EU bailout fund, the ESM, has not even been ratified yet (Germany won’t vote on it until September 12).
Moreover, Spain and Italy are supposed to provide 30% of the ESM’s funding. Does anyone see a problem with the idea that nearly €1 out of every €3 meant to prop up the EU will be coming from two bankrupt countries?
In the end, it all boils down to Germany… whose finances are getting worse and worse by the day.
Axel Weber, the former head of Germany’s Central Bank has admitted publicly that Germany’s real debt to GDP ratio is over 200%. However, even if we ignore unfunded liabilities, Germany is just €300+ billion away from hitting an official Debt to GDP ratio of 90%.
We all know what happens to countries when they reach this point.
Moreover, Germany has already made nearly €1 trillion in backstops/ loans to the EU via its Central Bank. Not only does this put Germany’s official Debt to GDP well over 100%, but it means that should these loans go bad (what are the odds given that they were made to the PIIGS?) then Germany will be on the hook for hundreds of billions of Euros’ worth of losses.
Do you really think Germany has the firepower to handle this? It doesn’t. It would most assuredly lose its AAA status and get dragged down with the rest of Europe.
This is simple math, not my opinion. You can argue about magic solutions and hitting “print” all you like, but in the end Europe doesn’t have the capital needed to solve this Crisis. There is truly only one solution: default.
Only a default cleans out the debts, lowers leverage ratios, and brings the EU’s financial house in order.
However, there’s a major problem with the “default” option. Indeed, this is THE “check mate” position for the ECB and Germany. It’s the reason why EVERYONE was so desperate to claim that the second Greek bailout wasn’t a default.
It’s also why the EU has been spending as much money as possible to avoid a default (seriously, they decided to give €300 billion to Spain in just one weekend).
I’ve detailed all of this in a Special Report titled Why You Cannot Just Hit Print which is available to all subscribers of my Private Wealth Advisory newsletter.
I would wager that less than 1 in 100,000 subscribers know about this situation. But I guarantee everyone will find out about it in the coming months when the information I’ve presented in this report comes to pass.
By then Europe will be broken up and investors will have lost their shirts.
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Chief Market Strategist
Phoenix Capital Research