Best of the Week
Most Popular
1.RED ALERT: Paris Terror Attacks - What to Expect Next - STRATFOR
2.Paris Terror Attacks, Death Pangs of a Dying Religion, and Impact on BrExit EU Referendum - Nadeem_Walayat
3.Paris Terror Attacks, Islamic State Attempting to Spark Civil War in France - Nadeem_Walayat
4.Three Shocking Charts That Prove Gold Price Rally Is Coming - Sean Brodrick
5.Stock Market Nifty-Fifty Becomes Fab-Five; Return of the 'Four Horseman' - Mike_Shedlock
6.Africa Population Explosion - Why Europe's Migrant Crisis is Going to Get A Lot Worse - Video - Nadeem_Walayat
7.Gold Mining Stocks May Be The Buy Of The Century - Jeff_Berwick
8.Grandmaster Putin Beats Uncle Sam at His Own Game - Mike_Whitney
9.BRICS? No, CRISIS - Raymond_Matison
10.UK Housing Market Affordability, House Prices Momentum and Trend Forecast - Nadeem_Walayat
Last 5 days
Vauxhall Zafira B Fire Danger Recall - What to Do Video - 26th Nov 15
Triggers In US Dollar Collapse - 26th Nov 15
Apple Stock is a 10-Year Short - Bear Market Environment - 26th Nov 15
U.S. Federal Reserve Rate Hike - 26th Nov 15
George Osborne's War on Buy to Let Sector Trending Towards Doomsday - 26th Nov 15
Will Turkey Drag NATO into War With Russia in Syria? - 25th Nov 15
George Osborne’s Autumn Statement and Spending Review Full Text - 25th Nov 15
Will Fresh QE From ECB Boost Gold? - 25th Nov 15
Sheffield, Yorkshire and Humberside House Prices Forecast 2016-2018 - 25th Nov 15
Investors Watch Out For The Auto Industry… - 24th Nov 15
BEA Revises 3rd Quarter 2015 US GDP Economic Growth Upward to 2.07% - 24th Nov 15
Stock Market Supports Are Being Broken - 24th Nov 15
Is Gold Price on the Verge of a Breakout? - 24th Nov 15
Fed’s Tarullo: U.S. Interest Rates Liftoff Should Wait for Signs of Inflation - 24th Nov 15
Silver Price, COT, US Dollar Updates and More - 24th Nov 15
UK Regional House Prices Analysis - Video - 23rd Nov 15
Crude Oil Swinging For The Fences - A 20 to 1 Option Play - 23rd Nov 15
US Dollar, CRB, Oil, Gas, Copper and Gold - The Chartology of Deflation - 23rd Nov 15
UK Regional House Prices, Cheapest and Most Expensive Property Markets - 23rd Nov 15
Stock Market Rally Losing Momentum? - 23rd Nov 15
Will Gold Price Drop Below $1000 Soon? - 23rd Nov 15
Gold and Silver Sector Big Green Light and Low Risk Entry Setup... - 23rd Nov 15
Limits to Economic Growth - Challenge and Choices - 22nd Nov 15
Long Dollar Trade and Current Copper Price Below Cost of Production - 22nd Nov 15
UK Housing Market House Prices Affordability Crisis - Video - 21st Nov 15
The Fed Has Set the Stage for a Stock Market Crash - 21st Nov 15
Stock Market Primary V Wave Continues - 21st Nov 15
Gold And Silver - Value Of Knowing The Trend - 21st Nov 15
UK Footsie Bulls Set To Foot The Bill - 21st Nov 15
UK Housing Market Affordability, House Prices Momentum and Trend Forecast - 21st Nov 15
GDX Gold Miners’ Strong Q3 Results - 20th Nov 15
End of Schengen, Stock Market’s Technical Strength Grows - 20th Nov 15
Justice for All and The Curious Case of Zambia - 20th Nov 15
Paris, Sharm el-Sheikh, and the Resurrection of Old Europe - 20th Nov 15
Silver Prices and The Management of Perception - 20th Nov 15
Stock Market Nifty-Fifty Becomes Fab-Five; Return of the 'Four Horseman' - 20th Nov 15
Waiting for Goldot Again - 20th Nov 15
Michael Curran Goes Down-Market Shopping for Gold Stock Winners - 20th Nov 15
Why Isn’t This Incredibly Bearish Bond Market Development Making the News? - 19th Nov 15
SPX Appears to have Stopped its Rally - 19th Nov 15
The Great Fall Of China Started At Least 4 Years Ago - 19th Nov 15
Using Elliott Waves: As Simple As A-B-C - 19th Nov 15
Has Deflation Been Ddefeated? - 19th Nov 15
Dow Jones Stock Market Index is Not Going to Crash - 19th Nov 15

Free Instant Analysis

Free Instant Technical Analysis

Market Oracle FREE Newsletter

Reasons to Get Excited About Japanese Stocks

Europe on the Edge of Abyss, U.S. Housing Market In the Abyss

Economics / Credit Crisis 2011 May 31, 2011 - 02:37 AM GMT

By: Mike_Shedlock


Best Financial Markets Analysis ArticleRobert Samuelson on Real Clear Politics says Europe at the Abyss

It has come to this. A year after rescuing Greece from default, Europe is staring into the abyss. The bailout has proved insufficient. Greece needs more money, and it can't borrow from private markets where it faces interest rates as high as 25 percent. There is no easy escape.

What's called a "debt crisis" is increasingly a political and social crisis. Already, unemployment is 14.1 percent in Greece, 14.7 percent in Ireland, 11.1 percent in Portugal and 20.7 percent in Spain.

Some causes of Europe's plight are well-known: the harsh recession following the 2008-2009 financial crisis; aging populations coupled with costly welfare states. But there's also another less recognized culprit: the euro, the single currency now used by 17 countries.

Launched in 1999, it aimed to foster economic and political unity. For a while, it seemed to succeed. In the euro's first decade, jobs in countries using the common currency increased by 16 million.

It was a mirage. For starters, the euro fostered a credit bubble that led to booms in housing, borrowing and consumer spending. But one policy didn't fit all: Interest rates suited to Germany and France were too low for "periphery" countries (Greece, Ireland, Portugal and Spain).

Money poured into the periphery countries. There was a huge compression of interest rates. In 1997, rates on 10-year Greek government bonds averaged 9.8 percent compared to 5.7 percent for similar German bonds. By 2003, Greek bonds fetched 4.3 percent, just above the 4.1 percent of German bonds.

"The markets failed. All this would not have occurred if banks in Germany and France had not lent so much," says economist Desmond Lachman of the American Enterprise Institute. "It was like the U.S. housing market." Both American and European banks went overboard in relaxing credit standards.

"Markets Failed" Says Desmond Lachman

Few economic statement make my hair stand straight up more than that bit of complete nonsense from Lachman. The markets did not fail. Bureaucrats who dreamed up the Euro failed.

Those bureaucrats devised a currency union with nothing more than suggestions on fiscal controls. Making matters far worse, countries in the Euro-Zone have widely differing political philosophies and policies.

That currency union was not brought about by the market. The free market would never have done such a silly thing.

Every major currency union in history without a political and fiscal union has failed. There is a nice Table of Monetary Unions on the site Euro Know that shows just that.

Bureaucrats, not the free market knew better. Bureaucrats, not the free market failed.

Not Different This Time

Potential problem were recognized well in advance by many. In February 1995 The Independent wrote a misguided editorial Why we say Yes to a single currency.

The rationale of The Independent was "It's different this time".

The economic arguments that, on balance, Britain will be better off inside the currency union than outside are persuasive. The discipline of a permanently fixed exchange rate would significantly reduce the risk of a return to high inflation and create greater certainty for companies and investors. There would also be lower transaction costs. There is no doubt that a successful single currency would strengthen Europe's position on the global economic stage.

The opponents of the single currency do not agree. They argue that the experience of the ERM and events since Black Wednesday show that to be locked into a single currency is damaging. Exchange rates, they point out, can act as important "shock absorbers" in times of unexpected crisis. These are powerful arguments. They are most powerful when applied to some EU members - notably Spain, Portugal and Greece - whose less developed economies would make the exigencies of a single currency regime punishing, unpopular and potentially disastrous.

But this is not the condition of Britain today. In 1992 the needs of the British economy were at odds with the priorities of the Bundesbank. They were trying to control inflation, we needed to get out of recession. By contrast, in 1999 six or seven countries will find themselves at the same stage in the cycle, with very similar economic priorities. So things are likely to be different.

Points of Failure Predicted In Advance

Things were not different were they?

Ironically, in that 1995 article, The Independent pointed out the exact points of failure: Spain, Portugal and Greece.

Tony Dolphin, Chief Economist of AMP Asset Management, wrote a response to that article less than a week later. Please consider, European monetary union: the benefits, the problems and the traveller's tale

The potential benefits of European monetary union are questionable, the potential costs could be very serious. A successful monetary union requires that the economies joining it are broadly the same, especially in regard to their response to external and internal inflation shocks. This is not the case in Europe. Take two examples: oil and housing.

The effect of a sustained, steep rise in the oil price will be very different in Germany, which is highly dependent on imported oil and gas; in France, where nuclear power is used to generate a high proportion of energy needs; and in the UK, where the North Sea sector of the economy would actually benefit. Imagine trying to set an appropriate, anti-inflationary interest rate policy for a monetary union including these three economies should the oil price double.

The housing sectors of European economies also differ, with the UK's high level of home ownership financed by variable rate mortgages not being found elsewhere. It is easy to envisage a situation where the interest rate policy of a European monetary union was entirely inappropriate for the housing sector of the UK economy.

These and other structural differences between European economies will not disappear over the next four years, nor at any time in the foreseeable future. Until they do, the economic argument against European monetary union is powerful, and far more clear cut than the political arguments for or against.

Yours faithfully,
Tony Dolphin
Chief Economist
AMP Asset Management

Failure of the "One Size Fits Germany Policy"

I have no idea what Tony Dolphin is doing today but put him in the class of those who can say "I told you so." Here is the key paragraph:

"It is easy to envisage a situation where the interest rate policy of a European monetary union was entirely inappropriate for the housing sector of the UK economy."

The UK did not adopt the Euro but Spain did. Interest rates in Germany were not appropriate for Spain. The result was a Spanish housing bubble of epic proportion that has now collapsed.

One interest rate policy simply does not work. For further discussion, please see ECB's "One Size Fits Germany" Policy; Rate Hikes to Stress PIIGS

Compounding Spain's misery, Trichet has embarked on a rate-hiking campaign at the worst possible time, with Spanish unemployment in excess of 20%, and youth unemployment near 40%.

Housing Market Nonsense

Note that Lachman also blames US banks for the housing bubble.

"It was like the U.S. housing market." Both American and European banks went overboard in relaxing credit standards.

That too is nonsense in that it does not place the blame where it belongs, on the Fed. The Fed held interest rates too low, too long. Money was too loose, banks lent.

Blaming banks for lending when real interest rates are hugely negative is tantamount to placing a bottle of vodka in front of an alcoholic, telling the alcoholic it is the best vodka in the whole world, then blaming the alcoholic for what happens next.

Fed is the Problem

Not only did the Fed hold interest rates too low, too long, the Greenspan Fed endorsed derivatives, subprime loans, and adjustable rate mortgages. Meanwhile Bush was praising the "Ownership Society" and Barney Frank was in the back pocket of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Ben Bernanke was totally clueless, in complete denial about the bubble, going so far as to say home prices were "based on fundamentals".

None what has transpired has had remotely anything to do with the failure of the free markets. We have a failure of regulation, not a failure to regulate. Lachman, like Bernanke, really needs to get a clue.

You cannot fix a problem until you understand what the problem is. Unfortunately, politicians and economists in both the US and Europe are still in denial. Statements by those blaming markets instead of politicians and the Fed, do not help.


The biggest failure of regulation was the very creation of the the Fed. That should be be obvious but the sad state of affairs in regards to economic understanding says I need to spell it out.

Those screaming about the free market need to answer this question: Could the free market possibly have done any worse the serial bubble-blowing moral-hazard policies of the Fed?

By Mike "Mish" Shedlock Click Here To Scroll Thru My Recent Post List

Mike Shedlock / Mish is a registered investment advisor representative for SitkaPacific Capital Management . Sitka Pacific is an asset management firm whose goal is strong performance and low volatility, regardless of market direction.

Visit Sitka Pacific's Account Management Page to learn more about wealth management and capital preservation strategies of Sitka Pacific.

I do weekly podcasts every Thursday on HoweStreet and a brief 7 minute segment on Saturday on CKNW AM 980 in Vancouver.

When not writing about stocks or the economy I spends a great deal of time on photography and in the garden. I have over 80 magazine and book cover credits. Some of my Wisconsin and gardening images can be seen at .

© 2011 Mike Shedlock, All Rights Reserved.

© 2005-2015 - The Market Oracle is a FREE Daily Financial Markets Analysis & Forecasting online publication.

Post Comment

Only logged in users are allowed to post comments. Register/ Log in

Biggest Debt Bomb in History