Ramy Saadeh writes: The World is on the brink of a cataclysmic spiral that could make the Greek crisis look like a walk in the park. Interestingly, markets still seem very hushed about the emerging risks ahead; the final bell hasn’t rung yet, can this be it?
The trigger of the dreadful events could come as soon as the 23rd of November 2011, as the “Super Committee”, who is expected to set forth a long awaited plan to cut spending by $1.2 Trillion over 10 years. The “Super Deal” is that no agreement has been reached yet, and consequently no plan will be delivered by the deadline. Well, quoting Jon Stewart in his show, the “Super Committee” did act on one thing “pushing forward with a bill to allow the sauce on pizza to be considered a vegetable in school lunches”; this is the closest thing to an agreement.
The amount of the US total public debt outstanding has breached the $15 Trillions, to be more specific it reached $15,033,607,255,920.32. The height of a stack of 1,000,000,000,000 (one trillion) one dollar bills measures 67,866 miles. The US debt is actually a two time back and forth trip to the moon.
The US Debt to GDP ratio hit 98.9% and still on its way up, a study lead by Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff reviewing 200 years of economic data from 44 nations has reached a warning conclusion for the US: “Almost without exception, countries that are as highly indebted as the United States grow at sub-par rates”. When that ratio exceeds 90 percent, the nations' economies barely grow, and can even contract (for an average of -0.1%). Briefly, the US has reached a level where they have limited their ability to grow their way out of the debt problem, and could no longer continue debt-financing their growth.
With limited ability for the US to further boost growth, a failure of the “Super Committee” will only exacerbate the situation since the White House has agreed at the start of August to forgo an automatic tax increase and spending cuts if no debt-reduction law is enacted, very likely the tax cuts enacted under George W. Bush will be allowed to expire. The consequences of those cuts and tax hikes would result in contraction of the GDP by 1.7 percent in 2012, according to JPMorgan chief U.S. economist Michael Feroli, razing the US growth into downturn.
A slump in the US is the last thing needed in today’s markets; the Euro-zone is already flirting with recession and, quoting the new head of the ECB Mario Draghi, “Europe might be entering Mild recession by year end”. We are witnessing a meltdown in Europe, and as long as no treaty changes for the role of the ECB comes to light, things will not get any better. The previous nibbling of the ECB to purchase the troubled countries debt has shown that the central bank’s action were more toxic than tonic for the markets.
A deeper look in the Euro zone will only signal more alarms. Italy is struggling under a serious yoke of external debt without the ability of rolling it over in the private market. The EFSF had spent more than
€ 100Million buying up its own debt. Interestingly, until lately, an increase in Spanish and Italian yields coupled a decrease in German yields; but currently the couple broke up to have a surge in the distressed countries yields, while bunds yields remained stagnant at their lows signaling a complete avoidance of EUR-denominated assets. In addition, European banks (mainly the French ones) are becoming more hesitant to lend each other forcing the ECB to announce additional US dollar liquidity; this is quietly developing a liquidity crisis that could blow at any time. If French bank took a hit, the rating of France will not be spared, as a result the whole EFSF and rescue efforts will be served as Turkey for thanksgiving.
Conclusion: We have an environment of panic and fear, if the prevailing problems came to light, things would change quickly. It would be good not to forget the big sell off which happened in August due to a political impasse that triggered market turmoil. In this respect, we find ourselves at a crossroads; either US congress reach an agreement and EU nations agree upon an alternative treaty that gives the ECB more autonomy and power, which in my view could be promising, or we delve back into another financial abyss, only this time deeper.
© 2011 Copyright Ramy Saadeh - All Rights Reserved
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