The story that could run for an awfully long time!
I rather revealed my newness as a US resident by posting my review of David Kauders’ book The Greatest Crash over 2 days last week, one of them being Thanksgiving Day. Despite that 1,895 people viewed my review which was entitled The end of an era.
A week has now passed since that review. I was curious to see what sorts of headlines had been making the news in the last 7 days. It’s just a random trawl through those items that have captured my attention.
Let’s start with the Financial Times, November 27th,
The eurozone really has only days to avoid collapse
By Wolfgang Münchau
In virtually all the debates about the eurozone I have been engaged in, someone usually makes the point that it is only when things get bad enough, the politicians finally act – eurobond, debt monetisation, quantitative easing, whatever. I am not so sure. The argument ignores the problem of acute collective action.
Last week, the crisis reached a new qualitative stage. With the spectacular flop of the German bond auction and the alarming rise in short-term rates in Spain and Italy, the government bond market across the eurozone has ceased to function.
Wolfgang concludes his article thus,
Italy’s disastrous bond auction on Friday tells us time is running out. The eurozone has 10 days at most.
Then my print copy of The Economist that arrived on the 26th had this lurid cover page,
Unless Germany and the ECB move quickly, the single currency’s collapse is looming
The leader article contains this paragraph,
Past financial crises show that this downward spiral can be arrested only by bold policies to regain market confidence. But Europe’s policymakers seem unable or unwilling to be bold enough. The much-ballyhooed leveraging of the euro-zone rescue fund agreed on in October is going nowhere. Euro-zone leaders have become adept at talking up grand long-term plans to safeguard their currency—more intrusive fiscal supervision, new treaties to advance political integration. But they offer almost no ideas for containing today’s conflagration.
and a few paragraphs later, this,
This cannot go on for much longer. Without a dramatic change of heart by the ECB and by European leaders, the single currency could break up within weeks. Any number of events, from the failure of a big bank to the collapse of a government to more dud bond auctions, could cause its demise. In the last week of January, Italy must refinance more than €30 billion ($40 billion) of bonds. If the markets balk, and the ECB refuses to blink, the world’s third-biggest sovereign borrower could be pushed into default.
Then on Sunday, 27th, MISH’s Trend Analysis blogsite reveals,
ICAP Plc, the world’s largest inter-dealer broker (one that carries out transactions for financial institutions rather than private individuals), is now Testing Trades In Greek Drachma Against Dollar, Euro
ICAP Plc is preparing its electronic trading platforms for Greece’s potential exit from the euro and a return to the drachma, senior executives at the inter-dealer broker said Sunday.
ICAP is the latest firm to disclose such preparations, joining the growing ranks of banks, governments and other key players in the global financial system whose officials are worried enough about the stability of the common currency to be making contingency plans for a possible break-up.
Investors sent Europe’s politicians a painful message last week whenGermany had a seriously disappointing government bond auction. It was unable to sell more than a third of the benchmark 10-year bonds it had sought to auction off on Nov. 23, and interest rates on 30-year German debt rose from 2.61 percent to 2.83 percent. The message? Germany is no longer a safe haven.
Ultimately, an integrated currency area may remain in Europe, albeit with fewer countries and more fiscal centralization. The Germans will force the weaker countries out of the euro area or, more likely, Germany and some others will leave the euro to form their own currency. The euro zone could be expanded again later, but only after much deeper political, economic and fiscal integration.
Tragedy awaits. European politicians are likely to stall until markets force a chaotic end upon them. Let’s hope they are planning quietly to keep disorder from turning into chaos.
Finally, on the 29th the BBC News website carried details of the Autumn Statement made by British Chancellor, George Osborne, to Parliament.
Osborne confirms pay and jobs pain as growth slows
Chancellor George Osborne has said public sector pay rises will be capped at 1% for two years, as he lowered growth forecasts for the UK economy.
The number of public sector jobs set to be lost by 2017 has also been revised up from 400,000 to 710,000.
Borrowing and unemployment are set to be higher than forecast and spending cuts to carry on to 2017, he admitted.
Just look at that figure of public sector job losses – 710,000!
Well that’s more than enough from me but it does surely endorse the opening views that David Kauders expounded in his book, as carried in my review, and reproduced here,
Starting with the first sentence, David sets out the core problem;
This book argues that it is impossible to expand the financial system much further.
expanding this a few paragraphs later,
This is the financial system limit: lack of new borrowing plus excessive weight of debt obligations from past borrowing combine to slow economies down. This is the barrier whichever way policy makers turn. It is like the lid on a boiling kettle. Enough steam can lift it for a while but it always snaps back into place. The financial system limit is a roadblock preventing growth.
A few pages later in this opening chapter ‘The roadblock preventing growth‘ this limit is explained thus,
Policy contradictions also show us that the financial system has reached a roadblock. The glaring conflict between bailout and austerity is at the core. Each bailout or stimulus requires creation of more credit, leading to false financial speculation, and for a short while markets recover their poise. The threat of inflation returns. Later, bad debts rise, the markets tumble again and a new crisis emerges. Austerity, the alternative policy, cuts spending thereby cutting the immediate level of economic activity and bringing economic decline more quickly than the stimulus alternative. Whichever way they turn, the authorities are damned.
You can understand why I called this Post a ‘footnote’ not an endnote.