The Hunt for Eurozone’s Own Lehman Bros That Could Trigger Financial Armageddon
Jul 13, 2011
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.
In all, more than 50 European banks have a combined 92 billion euros ($129 billion) tied up in Greek sovereign debt. Worse, there are 14 banks whose Greek exposure is more than 10%, which suggests that they may not have reserves strong enough to handle a debt default.
Admittedly, 10% doesn’t sound like an especially large number – but if bad debt starts a run on a bank’s deposits, 10% can very quickly grow to 20%, 30%, or more as increasingly fearful depositors scramble to pull out their money.
The other thing to bear in mind is that the 10% figure may not completely account for bad mortgage debt, credit default swaps, currency arbitrage or other “exotic” financial instruments (and we have no way of knowing because these instruments are almost completely unregulated).