Thursday, March 29, 2012

More Debt Problems in Europe


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.

While stocks weakened in the U.S. on Thursday because of disappointing economic data, they were down in Europe on the resurfacing of the debt crisis issues.

The head of sovereign ratings at S&P, Moritz Kraemer, speaking at an event at the London School of Economics said that another restructuring of Greek debt is likely, with the bailout partners such as the IMF having to take a hit the next time around. Speaking at the same event, the IMF mission chief to Greece acknowledged it would take at least a decade to fix Greece's finances. His prediction may be optimistic considering the situation in Greece is volatile and its economy is in free fall. 

Greece is of course not the only problem child in the eurozone. Portugal, Ireland, Spain and Italy also need some sort of fix. The Eurozone has attempted to put together a firewall to prevent these countries from collapsing into the same debt crisis that engulfed Greece. There are now plans to extend the ceiling of the rescue aid package to 940 billion euros ($1.25 trillion). This money is used to buy up bonds from the debt-challenged countries in order to keep their interest rates down.

The funds do not solve the underlying problem however — all of these countries are living beyond their means and until they drastically cut their expenses they will require a continual stream of rescue money. German central banker, Jens Weidmann, recognized as such when he stated, “Just like the ‘Tower of Babel,’ the ‘Wall of Money’ will never reach heaven. If we continue to make it higher and higher, we will, in fact, run into more worldly constraints".

The program has been effective in the short term however. Portuguese 10-year bond yields were at 17.39% on January 30th, but were trading at 11.52% on March 29th (still too high for Portugal to remain afloat in the long term). Italian 10-year bonds had a yearly high yield of 7.46%, but traded at 5.29% today and Spanish 10-years were as high as 6.72%, but recently went for 5.47%. The eurozone's goal is to keep these rates below 6% — the level at which Greece got into trouble.

The rescue funds should run out by 2013 and more money will have to be added to the mix. Whether or not this will be the point when additional money is not forthcoming remains to be seen, but there will be such a point. The amount of assistance Ben Bernanke is willing to provide may impact the timing. As reported by Zero Hedge, the  U.S. Fed already holds some European sovereign debt. It could easily buy more. Once again, the end will be the same unless you believe that a debt crisis can be solved by taking on more debt or by printing more and more money. At least some of the more responsible authorities are beginning to admit that this isn't possible.

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:


Europe is in the mists of the greatest ecomomic crisis since the 1930'S.