Friday, December 9, 2011

New EU Plan is Much Ado About Nothing


The 'Helicopter Economics Investing Guide' is meant to help educate people on how to make profitable investing choices in the current economic environment. We have coined this term to describe the current monetary and fiscal policies of the U.S. government, which involve unprecedented money printing. This is the official blog of the New York Investing meetup.

Once again the EU has come up with a too-little, too-late solution to deal with its very serious debt crises. Proposals for a tighter fiscal union and the small amount of funds committed will only delay the inevitable default.

Treaties only have meaning if their terms are actually followed. The eurozone already has a treaty that created it. That treaty has very clear fiscal benchmarks that all members must follow. The key benchmark concerning a maximum 3% debt to GDP ratio for an annual budget was almost universally ignored by all member states. Greece was only the most extreme example. It finally admitted to lying about its numbers (it was not "caught in the act" by the central EU head office even though the numbers it submitted were too good to be true). Greece originally reported a projected debt to GDP ratio of 2.0% for 2009. After many revisions, it turned out to be 15.4%. It was not punished for its duplicity or major violation of EU accords; instead it has been offered three bailout packages so far.

The new treaty provisions once again state that the eurozone countries need to have a balanced budget and should not violate the 3% debt to GDP limit. This wasn't enforced the first time and there is no reason to believe that it will be enforced the second time either. This time however the new treaty states that there will be automatic consequences, including possible sanctions. I'm sure they all had a good laugh about those possible sanctions. This is a complete and total joke and should be treated as such.

As for the current amount of money proposed to rescue the over indebted EU countries, it is much too inadequate to be more than a temporary stopgap measure (the only thing the Europeans seem capable of doing). The debt problem for the troubled EU countries -- Greece, Ireland, Italy, Portugal, and Spain -- runs into the trillions. How much is on the table now --  €200billion. The EU will loan this amount to the IMF, which will in turn use it to provide the same amount of aid back to the EU.  Not only is this is a paltry sum, it is disturbing they need to engage in a financial shell game as part of their bailout attempts. Even more absurd is that the ESM (European Stability Mechanism), set up to handle the debt crisis, will be capped at €500 billion. What will happen when they run out of this money and there is still a large amount of debt in danger of defaulting?

The problem with debt crises is that the amount needed to handle them is a moving target. It keeps rising and rising with time because interest rates keep rising and this makes borrowing costs continuously more expensive. Greek one-year bond yields are at 353% today. Even with three rescue packages, they continue to climb toward the stars. Immediately after the announcement of each rescue plan, yields dropped significantly for a short period of time, then they went much higher than they had been before. Expect to see this pattern with the other EU debt crisis countries. The EU is very good at getting its problems under control for a few weeks with its band aid measures.  Expect its current efforts to be another short-term success that turns into a long-term failure.

Disclosure: None

Daryl Montgomery
Author: "Inflation Investing - A Guide for the 2010s"
Organizer, New York Investing meetup

This posting is editorial opinion. There is no intention to endorse the purchase or sale of any security

1 comment:


I think everybody should give up on the euro and start over.