Global Markets Archives - Page 8 of 55 - Money Morning - Only the News You Can Profit From
The Gloss is Coming Off the Eurozone
Europe, Europe, Europe…
I know, you're sick of hearing about problems in the Eurozone.
But the problem with Europe is that it won't go away. And if it does go away, we'll have even bigger problems. What a mess.
Of course, I'm talking about the Euro-currency zone and the European Union, not Europe itself.
I love Europe. I love every country in Europe. I love the different cultures. I love the different languages. I love the different societal models. I love the history of Europe.
And no doubt all the Europeans love all the same things about their Europe – except maybe some of their history.
But even more than loving Europe, Europeans love their own countries. Why? Because they have different cultures, languages, societal models, and differing views of their history. Vive la différence!
So, whose bright idea was it to gloss over (with shiny promises and, later, a shiny new currency) thousands of years of differences and shove all Europeans into a funnel in the hopes that they'd all come out the other end as one homogeneous mass of humanity?
Oh, that would be the bankers and financiers who wanted a United States of Europe so that the free flow of goods and services payable with a common currency would make everyone better off, and make themselves better, better off, by a lot of betters.
And now, what a surprise! There are differences all across Europe about, well, Europe and what it has become and where it has to go to get out of the mess it's created for itself.
How that's going to end is playing out right before our eyes.
The Fate of the Eurozone Hangs on Sunday's French Elections
It now looks as though Nicolas Sarkozy's days are numbered. In the balance lies the fate of the Eurozone itself.
It appears Socialist Francois Hollande will win the French election runoff on Sunday and that June's legislative elections will give the Socialists a powerful position in France's parliament.
Added to these developments is the good chance that both the major existing parties in Greece's parliament, which had jointly agreed to the bailout deal, will be voted out of office on Sunday as well and replaced by a motley set of far-lefties.
So while the Eurozone has been quiet this week, the calm is deceptive with the elections on Sunday.
Meanwhile, most of the worry in the Eurozone centers on Spain – which is quite foolish.
Spain recently elected a center-right government with a large majority, which is clearing up the mess left by its predecessors. The country does have a 25% unemployment rate, but that's a function of Spanish labor law and excessive welfare payments, both of which the current government is addressing.
Spain's budget deficit is also smaller than France's, as is its debt level. In fact, Spain's debt and deficit burdens are lower than both Britain and the United States. Spain is not the issue.
Considerable Danger in the Eurozone
As for Greece, it is a shambles.
The truth is it should have been chucked out of the Eurozone two years ago, when it was first revealed that its governments had been consistently lying about its budget numbers.
Had that happened, the new drachma would have sunk to about a third of its former value, and Greek living standards would have reduced by half, all without anything but market forces to be blamed.
Now hundreds of billions of euros have been poured into the country, and its ungrateful electorate is determined to elect every nut-job it can rake up. The whole Greek rescue project has been a complete waste of time and money, and should be ended forthwith.
Fortunately, throwing Greece out of the Eurozone will not destroy the euro – after all, nobody was relying on the strength of the Greek economy in their calculations of the euro's value.
However, France is a different matter entirely.
Unlike Greece, if France gets into serious trouble, the remaining "solid" euro economies led by Germany are not big enough to save it.
And, led by Hollande, France looks to be in considerable danger.
Why the Eurozone Debt Crisis Never Really Went Away
How many times have we been told the Eurozone debt crisis is resolved, only to have it turn up again like a bad penny?
Last year's string of good news/ bad news on the Eurozone debt crisis had the markets going up and down like a yo-yo until the routine grew so tiresome that most people stopped paying attention.
But while the crisis faded into the background, it never really went way.
Remedies that were sold as solutions haven't solved a thing.
The celebrated bailouts of countries like Portugal, Ireland, and especially Greece have served mainly to postpone real solutions that would be far more painful.
"The Eurozone politicians in their infinite wisdom have concluded that it is easier to prolong the agony than to take their medicine," said Money Morning Chief Investment strategist Keith Fitz-Gerald.
In fact, the Eurozone debt crisis is getting worse.
Collective debt among the 17 member nations is on the rise, having increased from 85.3% of GDP (gross domestic product) in 2010 to 87.2% last year. That's the highest level in the history of the Eurozone.
Unemployment in the Eurozone rose in March to 10.9%, up from 10.8% in February and 9.9% a year ago. Manufacturing also declined last month, as new orders fell for the 11th month in a row.
And the austerity imposed on the troubled PIIGS (Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece and Spain) to bring their budget deficits and debts under control have actually made the situation worse.
"It's done no good at all," Fitz-Gerald said of the Eurozone's efforts to deal with the debt crisis. "It's an absolute travesty."
The steep and sudden cuts in spending are pushing most of Europe back into a recession, which will eventually be felt here at home.
The Secret System that Blew Another Hole in the Euro
This may sound arcane and boring, but I promise you it's not.
What I've learned will blow yet another hole in the already shaky euro.
It begins with Bernd Schunemann, a law professor at the Ludwig-Maximilian University in Munich. He has sued the German Bundesbank over its participation in the Eurozone "Target-2" settlements system.
Now I'll be the first to admit that yes, my eyes do glaze over when thinking about settlements systems-and I used to be a merchant banker.
But looking at the details of the case I had something of a banker's moment of clarity.
I realized that Schunemann was claiming that the settlements system had saddled German taxpayers with a potential liability of 615 billion euros, over $800 billion, in exposure to Greece, Italy, Spain and Portugal.
After all, who would have to bail out the Bundesbank if it became insolvent?
What's more, when you un-glaze your eyes and look closely, the risk is entirely unnecessary. It is yet another huge botch-up job by the EU bureaucrats.
Here's what I mean…
The Euro and the Target-2 Settlement System
The Target-2 settlement system was introduced in 2007, as a replacement for Target (Trans-European Automated Real-time Gross Settlement Express Transfer System).
The first Target was the large-scale payments system between central banks that had been introduced with the euro in 1999.
Under the system, when a Greek makes a large euro payment to a German, his Greek bank makes a payment to the Greek central bank, which in turn makes a payment to the Bundesbank. Once it reaches the German central bank, it pays the German bank, which pays the German.
For ordinary trade transactions, that's all fine and good. Greek exports to Germany are balanced with German exports to Greece.
If, however, there's a big trade imbalance between the two countries, then gradually an imbalance grows up between the central banks. As it develops, the Bank of Greece ends up owing the Bundesbank more and more money.
Even more serious is when Greek citizens rush to get their money out of Greek banks and put it in German banks. Every million euros Greek citizens remove from their banks is a million euros by which the Bundesbank increases its exposure to the Bank of Greece.
You can see how this could be big problem-especially since that's the arrangement all around the Eurozone.
Investing in the “New China” with this Telecom Market Stock
How would you like to get in on the ground floor of the telecom market in a country I've dubbed the "New China"?
It's a country that boasts:
- 6% annual GDP growth before, after and during and the global economic meltdown.
- The fourth largest population on the planet. It is also one of the youngest (median age is 28).
- A centuries-long social and economic connection to China and every strategic Southeast Asian economy.
- Foreign Direct Investment that has grown exponentially in the teeth of the global crisis.
- A bigger economy than the Netherlands or Turkey.
I'm talking about Indonesia.
It's a place usually found in the back of the mind of most Western investors. It only crops up if there is an earthquake, a tsunami or political unrest in a far flung province.
But the truth is, Indonesia is nestled in one of the most strategic locations on the emerging market map. It neighbors India, Malaysia, Australia and Thailand.
It also has long historical and economic ties to China.
About 3%-4% of the population is Chinese/Indonesian, and they represent a powerful but quiet voice in the Indonesian economy. That influence, which was buried for many years, is now a highly prized asset.
Investing in the "New China"
From the 1970s until recently, Chinese influence in Indonesian society was largely muted by Indonesian politicians. The Chinese language wasn't taught in schools and Chinese history was stricken from textbooks.
But things are changing rapidly.
Why Wall Street Can't Escape the Eurozone
Despite all of its best hopes, Wall Street will never escape what's happening in the Eurozone.
The 1 trillion euro ($1.3 trillion) slush fund created to keep the chaos at bay is not big enough. And it never was.
Spanish banks are now up to their proverbial eyeballs in debt and the austerity everybody thinks is working so great in Greece will eventually push Spain over the edge.
Spanish unemployment is already at 23% and climbing while the official Spanish government projections call for an economic contraction of 1.7% this year. Spain appears to be falling into its second recession in three years.
I'm not trying to ruin your day with this. But ignore what is going on in Spain at your own risk.
Or else you could go buy a bridge from the parade of Spanish officials being trotted out to assure the world that the markets somehow have it all wrong.
But the truth is they don't.
EU banks are more vulnerable now than they were at the beginning of this crisis and risks are tremendously concentrated rather than diffused.
You will hear more about this in the weeks to come as the mainstream media begins to focus on what I am sharing with you today.
The Tyranny of Numbers in the Eurozone
Here is the cold hard truth about the Eurozone.
One of the Telltale Signs Behind Risky Stocks
Short-term corporate thinking has been blamed for many of America's economic ills.
With little foresight beyond next year, management sometimes closes down plants and fudges accounting to make this year's earnings look better and boost the stock price.
Often, it is simply because management is excessively rewarded by short-term incentives such as stock options.
While investors might benefit from these shenanigans in the short-run, a new study points out the long-term effects are frequently negative.
A new Harvard Business School study entitled "Short-termism, Investor Clientele and Firm Risk" has shown that short-termism is bad for investors increasing their risks without any corresponding increase in returns.
In other words, risk and the short-term thinking usually go hand in hand.
Breaking Down the Conference Call
The study used a very interesting method to find out which companies are short-term oriented or more risky.
France May be the Domino that Causes the Euro to Collapse
Commentators are wringing their hands again, worried the troubles in Spain could cause the whole euro project to collapse.
As a result, all eyes are now on Spanish 10-year debt yields, which went above 6% last week as the threat of euro-chaos returned.
But it's not Spain the markets should be worried about.
The reality is that Spain is not in too bad a shape and that a rescue would be affordable for the European Central Bank even if it was needed.
The real tottering European domino to worry about is France.
After all, it would be impossible for the remaining solvent members of the EU to bail out France if it began to fall.
The larger reality is that France's fiscal position is considerably worse than Spain's.
The country's debt-to-GDP ratio was 85% at the end of 2011, while Spain's was only 66%. What's more, France's public spending is 56% of GDP, according to the Heritage Foundation, compared to Spain's 45% of GDP.
Spain's current government has also instituted a stiff austerity program, mostly comprised of cuts in public spending, which will reduce its deficit below France's by 2013.
Meanwhile, France's austerity has so far consisted almost entirely of tax increases on the rich -not actual spending cuts.
Investing in Emerging Markets: Is it Time to Invest In Thailand?
There is a good reason investors have been clamoring to invest in emerging markets.
With the West spinning its wheels, the truth is there's a good deal of money to be made in these markets in 2012.
One emerging market I like is Thailand.