11 July 2013

Gloom and doom view of the European economy

Excerpts from a column in The Telegraph:
Europe’s debt-crisis strategy is near collapse. The long-awaited recovery has failed to take wing. Debt ratios across southern Europe are rising at an accelerating pace. Political consent for extreme austerity is breaking down in almost every EMU crisis state. And now the US Federal Reserve has inflicted a full-blown credit shock for good measure...

A leaked report from the European Commission confirms that Greece will miss its austerity targets yet again by a wide margin. It alleges that Greece lacks the “willingness and capacity” to collect taxes. In fact, Athens is missing targets because the economy is still in freefall and that is because of austerity overkill...

Standard & Poor’s did not say this outright when it downgraded [Italy] to near-junk BBB on Tuesday. But if you read between the lines, it is close to saying the game is up for Italy...

Spain’s crisis has a new twist. The ruling Partido Popular is caught in a slush-fund scandal of such gravity that it cannot plausibly brazen out the allegations any longer, let alone rally the nation behind another year of scorched-earth cuts. El Mundo says a “pre-revolutionary” mood is taking hold...

Like Greece before it, Portugal is chasing its tail in a downward spiral. Economic contraction of 3pc a year is eroding the tax base, causing Lisbon to miss deficit targets... The Portuguese press is already reporting that the European Commission is working secretly on a second bail-out, an admission that the wheels are coming off the original €78bn EU-IMF troika rescue. This is a political minefield. Any fresh rescue would require a vote in the German Bundestag, certain to demand ferocious conditions if this occurs before the elections...

All this is happening just as tapering talk by the Fed sends shockwaves through credit markets, pushing up borrowing costs by 70 basis points across Europe. Spanish 10-year yields are back to 4.8pc. These are higher than they look, since Spain is already in deflation once tax distortions are stripped out. Real interest rates are soaring...

The ECB needs to turn on the monetary spigot full blast – like the Bank of Japan – to head off a slide into deflation trap and enveloping disaster by next year. This is not going to happen. 
More at the link for those interested, or potentially affected by this.   A final reminder that the column represents the viewpoint of one financial columnist.  I wonder if all this will lead to a recovery of the price of gold as an alternative to currencies.


  1. These are hard problems. Almost all of Eurozone is in the red, and the austerity measures have barely made a dent. So little in fact that right wing economists still refuse to call it austerity.


  2. I'd like to point out that Italy, Greece and Portugal all hold substantial gold reserves. If their economic situations get much worse, they may have to dump of that reserve which would effectively destroy the gold market. Many analysts see that approaching which is one of the reasons why gold prices have been falling recently.
    The other reason is that for the last decade we have been in a gold bubble which is on the verge of collapsing. Gold costs about $400/oz to mine within the US (there's a great NPR Planet Money podcast about it here: http://www.npr.org/blogs/money/2011/11/11/142254535/the-friday-podcast-boom-town) and a lot less in countries with cheaper labor. The spike in prices was due mainly to economic uncertainty coupled with popular perception that gold was a stable commodity. It can be when it sells for near its production costs which has historically been the case but at $1800/oz (near peak) it was clearly overpriced.

    That coupled with fear-mongering talk-show hosts like Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck becoming spokesmen for Goldline and you have all the ingredients for a nice unstable bubble.

    I should also point out that gold is an awful replacement for modern currency. (another great planet money about that here: http://www.npr.org/blogs/money/2011/04/27/135604828/why-we-left-the-gold-standard)

    According to Crisis Theory, the problem is an inherent part of the system, not the currency. Keynes and Marx disagreed on what should be done about that.

  3. It's worth noting that the Telegraph (a British hard-conservative paper) is notoriously anti-Europe. I read it for a couple of years in the late nineties and never saw one positive story on anything European.


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