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eurozone debt crisis

MF Global Bankruptcy Exposes Vulnerability of U.S. Banks to Eurozone Debt Crisis

The bankruptcy of MF Global Holdings (NYSE: MF) was a distressing signal to investors that it is possible for U.S. financial institutions to fall victim to the Eurozone debt crisis.

MF Global filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy Monday after credit downgrades led to margin calls on some of the $6.3 billion in Eurozone sovereign debt the bank held. The position was five-times MF Global's equity.

Although the major U.S. banks have less exposure relative to available capital, their many tendrils in Europe - particularly to European banks - will inevitably drag them into any financial meltdown in the Eurozone.

Even the U.S. banks' estimated direct exposure to the troubled European nations of Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece and Spain (PIIGS) is disturbingly high - equal to nearly 5% of total U.S. banking assets, according to the Congressional Research Service (CRS).

And according to the Bank for International Settlements (BIS), U.S. banks actually increased their exposure to PIIGS debt by 20% over the first six months of 2011.

But the greatest risk is the multiple links most large U.S. banks have to their European counterparts - many of which hold a great deal of PIIGS debt.

"Given that U.S. banks have an estimated loan exposure to German and Frenchbanks in excess of $1.2 trillion and direct exposure to the PIIGS valued at $641billion, a collapse of a major European bank could produce similar problems inU.S. institutions," a CRS research report said earlier this month.

Of course, the major banks say their exposure to the Eurozone debt crisis is much lower because they've bought credit-default swaps (CDS) to hedge their positions. Credit-default swaps are essentially insurance policies that pay off in the event of a default.

Unfortunately, this same strategy was one of the root causes of the 2008 financial crisis involving American International Group (NYSE: AIG) and Lehman Bros.

"Risk isn't going to evaporate through these trades," Frederick Cannon, director of research at investment bank Keefe, Bruyette & Woods Inc., told Bloomberg News. "The big problem with all these gross exposures is counterparty risk. When the CDS is triggered due to default, will those counterparties be standing? If everybody is buying from each other, who's ultimately going to pay for the losses?"

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Spain's Economic Crisis Shows the Eurozone Can't Escape its Debt Trap

Fresh evidence of Spain's deepening economic crisis has revived fears about that nation's ability to dig out of its sovereign debt problems, and illustrates why the Eurozone debt crisis is likely to drag on for years.

Spain's gross domestic product (GDP) was flat in the third quarter, the country's central bank said yesterday (Monday). That follows anemic growth of 0.4% in the first quarter and 0.2% in the second quarter.

Even more troubling is the nation's unemployment rate, which rose to 22.6% in September - the highest in the Eurozone.

As one of the PIIGS (Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece and Spain), Spain has been trying to wrestle down its high sovereign debt with austerity measures. Unfortunately, those measures are driving the Spanish economy toward recession, which is making it impossible for the government to hit its budget deficit reduction targets.

"It will be very difficult to meet the deficit goals without additional austerity, which might push the economy back into recession," Ben May, a European economist atCapital EconomicsinLondon, told Bloomberg News. May thinks Spanish unemployment could go as high as 25%.

Each of the PIIGS faces the same cycle of futility - economy-killing austerity measures that erode the nations' ability to cope with their debt issues, necessitating even deeper austerity measures.

But without the economic growth to create the wealth to cope with the budget deficits, the Eurozone debt crisis will gobble the PIIGS up one by one.

Like Greece

In Greece's case, its faltering economy led to a series of bailouts from the European Commission (EC), the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the European Central Bank (ECB), to avoid default.

But the Greek economy is among the Eurozone's smallest. If the other PIIGS, particularly Italy and Spain, descend to where Greece has fallen, there won't be enough money to rescue them.

"Unless European economies outgrow their deficits, the chance of rolling bailouts working is slim to none," said Money Morning Capital Wave Strategist Shah Gilani.

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Does the Eurozone Have Its Own Lehman Bros?

Does the Eurozone have its own American International Group Inc. (NYSE: AIG), or worse, its own Lehman Bros. when it comes to Greece?

I believe it does.

Why else would the European Union have bent over backwards to "save" a member nation that: A) Accounts for 2.01% of the EU by trade volume; and B) Would essentially be like letting Montana go out of business - no offense to Montanans or Montana!

More to the point, if things really were under control, why would European Central Bank President Jean-Claude Trichet say that risk signals for financial stability in the euro area are flashing "red" as he did following a meeting of the European Systemic Risk Board in Frankfurt?

The short answer: Because he knows what the European banks are desperately trying to hide from the rest of the world - that there are still enormous risks and they're even more concentrated now than they were in 2008 at the start of the financial crisis.

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European Debt Crisis: How to Profit No Matter What Happens

Since the European debt crisis first emerged in early 2010, it has dominated headlines, roiled the world financial markets, and has kept investors in a perpetual state of alert as they wait for the next shoe to drop.

But let me share with you a little-known secret: Investors who understand where the "fault lines" are forming in this Eurozone debacle can transform the biggest sovereign-debt crisis in years into a major profit opportunity.

Let me explain...


For the one investment that will let you profit from the EU debt crisis, please read on..