The European Death Spiral

Tuesday, December 13, 2011
By Paul Martin

by Tyler Durden

Recently, we presented and discussed one of the biggest issues for European banks: the urgent need to delever substantially (to the tune of over €2.5 trillion) by selling assets, in order to placate various regulatory entities that banks are solvent, and, far more importantly, the market, which has so far proceeded not to short banks into oblivion only due to the ongoing short selling ban, and to the explicit backstop from the ECB (and, indirectly, the Fed). However, since deleveraging into an deflationary environment will certainly require bank bailouts due to collapsing asset prices, the question is what the impact of bailouts on banks will be. And here Bloomberg’s Yalman Onaran explains all too vividly how not even in ponzinomic finance is there ever a free lunch… even if bought with free money. “If the Southern governments put money in their banks, their sovereign debt will go up, exacerbating their problems,” said Karel Lannoo, chief executive officer of the Centre for European Policy Studies in Brussels. “Then the banks’ losses will rise because they hold the government debt. That’s a vicious cycle. It’s hard to know which one to stabilize first, the sovereign bonds or the banks.” And therein lies the rub, and the problem at the core of it all: when one is dealing with a continent and its insolvent financial system whose banks have underwater assets that amount to the size of the host nation’s GDP, “It’s hard to know which one to stabilize first, the sovereign bonds or the banks.” Recall that killing both birds with one silver bullet is what the failure that is the EFSF was supposed to do, by allowing sovereign debt rolls and fund bank nationalizations at the same time. Now that that hope is gone, all we have is the inevitable “death spiral.”

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