Cracks Multiply In Europe

7 May

From Business Spectator:

Global share markets plunged overnight as panicked investors worried that the eurozone could fragment as a result of the escalating European financial crisis.

The European banking system is under huge strain* as banks are increasingly reluctant to lend to each other. The European banks are worried about how much other banks have lent to the weaker eurozone countries – the so-called PIIGS (Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece and Spain) – and the catastrophic losses that could ensue if any of these countries defaulted on their debt.

At the same time, there’s been a flight of capital out of the eurozone as investors have worried the common currency might crumble as a result of the problems in the vulnerable economies of the PIIGS (Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece and Spain).

The huge question mark over the eurozone’s survival is causing the euro to plummet. Increasingly, market analysts are predicting that the currency, which broke through the $US1.30 earlier this week for the first tine since April 2009, is set to hit parity with the US dollar.

There is an increasing consensus that the $US145 billion European Union-IMF rescue package for Greece is not sufficient to solve Greece’s basic problem – that it is simply unable to service its colossal debts. There are also questions as to whether Greece will be able to implement the punitive austerity measures it is being forced to adopt in exchange for the bailout.

At the same time, there are increasing signs that even if it bails out Greece, Germany will not be prepared to write the huge cheques required to help other vulnerable PIIGS.

German taxpayers are already outraged at having to pick up a large chunk of the cost of the Greek bail-out, and Germany’s largest opposition party, the centre-left SPD, has said that it will not vote in favour of the bill.

Predictions that the cascading PIIGS debt crisis will cause the eurozone to collapse are becoming more widespread.

* That the European banking system is “under huge strain” and is beginning to freeze up (again) has profound implications for our economy. Why?

As explained in this post a few days ago, even the heads of our major banks quietly admit that our banking system has an “achilles heel” – it is desperately dependent on the international wholesale capital markets for funding.  If/when the banking system abroad seizes up again, our banks will be in deep trouble.

Watch out for the emergency reinstalment of the government’s Bank Guarantee, hoping to again prop up international confidence in our banks so that they can continue to attract funding in a second credit crunch.

Watch out also for higher interest rates charged by the banks – irrespective of the RBA cash rate – due to their having to pay ever higher interest rates in order to get that international funding in the first place.

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