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Why the Fed Will Be Powerless to Stop The Real Crash

Stock-Markets / Credit Crisis 2012 Apr 03, 2012 - 08:29 AM GMT

By: Graham_Summers


Best Financial Markets Analysis ArticleOver the last two years, I’ve been caught into believing a Crash was coming several times. In some ways I was right: we got sizable corrections of 15+%. But we never got the REAL CRASH I thought we would because the Fed stepped in.

So what makes this time different?

Several items:

1)   The Crisis coming from Europe will be far, far larger in scope than anything the Fed has dealt with before.

2)   The Fed is now politically toxic and cannot engage in aggressive monetary policy without experiencing severe political backlash (this is an election year).

3)   The Fed’s resources are spent to the point that the only thing the Fed could do would be to announce an ENORMOUS monetary program which would cause a Crisis in of itself.

Let me walk through each of these one at a time.

Regarding #1, we have several facts that we need to remember. They are:

1)   According to the IMF, European banks as a whole are leveraged at 26 to 1 (this data point is based on reported loans… the real leverage levels are likely much, much higher.) These are a Lehman Brothers leverage levels.

2)   The European Banking system is over $46 trillion in size (nearly 3X total EU GDP).

3)   The European Central Bank’s (ECB) balance sheet is now nearly $4 trillion in size (larger than Germany’s economy and roughly 1/3 the size of the ENTIRE EU’s GDP). Aside from the inflationary and systemic risks this poses (the ECB is now leveraged at over 36 to 1).

4)   Over a quarter of the ECB’s balance sheet is PIIGS debt which the ECB will dump any and all losses from onto national Central Banks (read: Germany)

So we’re talking about a banking system that is nearly four times that of the US ($46 trillion vs. $12 trillion) with at least twice the amount of leverage (26 to 1 for the EU vs. 13 to 1 for the US), and a Central Bank that has stuffed its balance sheet with loads of garbage debts, giving it a leverage level of 36 to 1.

And all of this is occurring in a region of 17 different countries none of which have a great history of getting along… at a time when old political tensions are rapidly heating up.

As bad as the above points may be, they don’t even come close to describing the REAL situation in Europe. Case in point, regarding leverage levels, PIMCO’s Co-CIO Mohammad El-Erian (one of the most connected insiders in the financial elite) recently noted that French banks (not Greece or Spain) currently have 1-1.5% capital relative to their assets, putting them at leverage levels of nearly 100-to-1.

And that’s France we’re talking about: one of the alleged key backstops for the EU as a whole.

To be clear, the Fed, indeed, Global Central Banks in general, have never had to deal with a problem the size of the coming EU’s Banking Crisis. There are already signs that bank runs are in progress in the PIIGS and now spreading to France (see El-Erian’s comments in the article above).

I want to stress all of these facts because I am often labeled as being just “doom and gloom” all the time. But I am not in fact doom and gloom. I am a realist. And EU is a colossal mess beyond the scope of anyone’s imagination. The World’s Central Banks cannot possibly hope to contain it. They literally have one of two choices:

1)   Monetize everything (hyperinflation)

2)   Allow the defaults and collapse to happen (mega-deflation)

If they opt for #1, Germany will leave the Euro. End of story. They’ve experienced what comes from rampant monetization before (Weimar) So even the initial impact of a massive coordinated effort to monetize debt would be rendered moot as the Euro currency would enter a free-fall, forcing the US dollar sharply higher which in turn would trigger a 2008 type event at the minimum.

Moreover, we need to consider that the Fed is now so politically toxic that Ben Bernanke is literally going on the campaign trail to attempt to convince the American people that the Fed is an honest and helpful organization. Put another way, there is NO CHANCE the Fed can announce a large-scale monetary policy unless a massive Crisis hits and stocks fall at least 15%.

Finally, regarding my third point… if the Fed were to announce a new policy it would have to be MASSIVE, as in more than $2 trillion in scope. Remember, the $600 billion spent during QE 2 barely bought three months of improved economic data in the US and that was a pre-emptive move by the Fed (the system wasn’t collapsing at the time).

So given that the Fed will only be able to announce a large scale program in reaction to a Crisis, whatever it did  announce would have to be ENORMOUS, a kind of shock and awe, attempt to rein in the markets.

Moreover, it would literally be THE LAST QE the Fed could hope to ever announce as political outrage from the ensuing Dollar collapse and inflationary pressures would likely see the open riots and/or the Fed dismantled (this has happened twice before in the US’s history).

In simple terms, the Fed’s hands are tied until a huge Crisis hits. And then, if the Fed acts it’s going to have to go “all in” with a massive program. If it does, we will still experience a Crisis, as the Dollar would collapse pushing inflation through the roof as well as interest rates (which in turn would destroy the banks as well as the US economy).

In simple terms, this time around, when Europe goes down (and it will) it’s going to be bigger than anything we’ve seen in our lifetimes. And this time around, the world Central Banks are already leveraged to the hilt having spent virtually all of their dry powder propping up the markets for the last four years.

Again, this time it is different. I realize most people believe the Fed can just hit “print” and solve everything, but they’re wrong. The last time the Fed hit “print” food prices hit records and revolutions began spreading in emerging markets. If the Fed does it again, especially in a more aggressive manner as it would have to, we would indeed enter a dark period in the world and the capital markets.

Country GDP
European Union $16 trillion
United States of America $14.5 trillion
China $5.8 trillion
Japan $5.4 trillion
European Central Bank $3.8 trillion
Germany $3.2 trillion
US Federal Reserve $2.8 trillion
France $2.5 trillion
United Kingdom $2.2 trillion


Banking System Total Assets Total Assets Relative to GDP Total Assets Relative to Central Bank Balance Sheet
Europe $46 trillion 287% 1,210%
US $12 trillion 82% 428%

Again, this is not Doom and Gloom, this is reality.

Those investors looking for actionable investment ideas could also consider our Private Wealth Advisory newsletter: a bi-weekly detailed investment advisory service that distills the most important geopolitical, economic, and financial developments in the markets into concise investment strategies for individual investors.

To learn more about Private Wealth Advisory and how it can help you navigate the markets successfully…

Click Here Now!!!

Graham Summers

Chief Market Strategist

Good Investing!

PS. If you’re getting worried about the future of the stock market and have yet to take steps to prepare for the Second Round of the Financial Crisis… I highly suggest you download my FREE Special Report specifying exactly how to prepare for what’s to come.

I call it The Financial Crisis “Round Two” Survival Kit. And its 17 pages contain a wealth of information about portfolio protection, which investments to own and how to take out Catastrophe Insurance on the stock market (this “insurance” paid out triple digit gains in the Autumn of 2008).

Again, this is all 100% FREE. To pick up your copy today, got to and click on FREE REPORTS.

Graham also writes Private Wealth Advisory, a monthly investment advisory focusing on the most lucrative investment opportunities the financial markets have to offer. Graham understands the big picture from both a macro-economic and capital in/outflow perspective. He translates his understanding into finding trends and undervalued investment opportunities months before the markets catch on: the Private Wealth Advisory portfolio has outperformed the S&P 500 three of the last five years, including a 7% return in 2008 vs. a 37% loss for the S&P 500.

Previously, Graham worked as a Senior Financial Analyst covering global markets for several investment firms in the Mid-Atlantic region. He’s lived and performed research in Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and the United States.

© 2012 Copyright Graham Summers - All Rights Reserved
Disclaimer: The above is a matter of opinion provided for general information purposes only and is not intended as investment advice. Information and analysis above are derived from sources and utilising methods believed to be reliable, but we cannot accept responsibility for any losses you may incur as a result of this analysis. Individuals should consult with their personal financial advisors.

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