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Euro in Freefall as European Monetary Union Faces Collapse

Currencies / Euro Mar 07, 2009 - 05:26 PM GMT

By: Money_and_Markets

Currencies

Diamond Rated - Best Financial Markets Analysis ArticleBryan Rich writes: The biggest victim of the global housing and credit bubble may be the euro — the single currency of 16 European nations. Having just celebrated its 10th birthday in a free-fall, the euro is being exposed for all of its structural weaknesses.

The euro is managed with a common monetary policy. But a fractured fiscal and political structure has left it without a full toolbox to fight hard times. And this chink in the armor is threatening to make the euro's life-span short.


The EU just celebrated its 10th birthday. But with the euro taking a header, there's not much for members to cheer about.
The EU just celebrated its 10th birthday. But with the euro taking a header, there's not much for members to cheer about.

The U.S., China, the UK, Japan, and Australia have made aggressive, downward adjustments in interest rates. Some have boosted their money supply to fight the economic crisis and have formulated specific fiscal stimulus plans to inject growth into their economies.

Meanwhile, members of the European Union's monetary system (the single currency) are left frozen in a rigid, inflexible and arguably faulty regime.

But lack of flexibility is not even the most dangerous problem the euro member countries are facing. Even more dangerous to the euro's future existence is the death-spiraling plunge of neighboring eastern and central European “non-euro” countries.

The New Iron Curtain …

For the outliers in emerging Europe, many of whom are ex-communist economies, the impenetrable curtain is membership into the European Union's monetary system, the euro. Most importantly, membership in the common currency gives these countries refuge from speculators launching attacks on their currencies.

Exports for many emerging European countries have come to a screeching halt.
Exports for many emerging European countries have come to a screeching halt.

Keep in mind that it's hard enough for even the most powerful countries in the world to sustain through the biggest economic downturn since World War II. But economies that are highly dependent upon exports and foreign direct investment — both of which have dried up — plus debt obligations that increase in value by the day, have even more obstacles to overcome.

You see, when companies and consumers in these small “periphery” European countries borrowed money, they borrowed in euros and Swiss francs, not their local currencies. In fact, the level of borrowing in foreign currencies by countries like Latvia represents as much as 90 percent of the bank loans made in that country.

And why not … After all, euro-denominated loans were cheaper and interest rates were more stable. What's more, these periphery countries assumed that they would be joining their rich neighbors in the euro in the near future.

That's why I see two black clouds threatening the euro's survival …

Black Cloud #1 Pressures from Non-Euro Countries

When the economic engine of your economy stalls (i.e. global demand for your exports evaporates) and the fragility of your financial system is glaring, investors flee and speculators wage an attack on your currency.

And this is precisely what's taking place in the currency markets right now …

Emerging market economies in Europe have been hammered, driving DOWN the value of their currencies and driving UP the value of the foreign-currency denominated debt that consumers and institutions in these countries are holding.

When a currency devalues, foreign-currency denominated debts become more and more expensive. For a perspective on how much these debts are escalating, here is an indication of the sharp decline these at-risk currencies have made.

Hungarian Foriant vs. U.S. dollar (HUF/USD), Daily

Source: Bloomberg

So how does this affect Europe as a whole and more specifically the future of the euro?

The aggressive lending practices in the global, credit-led boom were just that — aggressive. Now, add into the equation:

  • The slowing (if not collapsing) economies in this emerging European region,
  • Plus the increasingly unstable political environments,
  • Plus the currency-driven debt inflation …

… and the likely outcome is indeed bleak.

So how much are the rich, Western European banks, that made these loans to emerging Europe, on the hook for?

It's in the $3.6 trillion range. And add to that, European banks on whole have debt levels that dwarf every other developed market country, even that of the United States.

Black Cloud #2 — Vulnerability of the Euro Concept

Aside from the pressures being cooked up on the periphery, the euro member countries are in trouble for all of the reasons Milton Friedman, one of the most influential economists of the 20th century, cited prior to the euro's inception 10 years ago.

I'll paraphrase four of Friedman's statements and follow each with what is going on now:

  • A one-size fits all monetary policy doesn't give the member countries the flexibility needed to stimulate their economies.

    The European Central Bank has been behind the curve on lowering interest rates because of mandated benchmarks on inflation and without attention to growth.

  • A fractured fiscal policy forced to adhere to rigid EU rules doesn't enable member governments to navigate their country-specific problems, such as deficit spending and public works projects.

    France, Spain, Malta, Greece and Ireland have disregarded the EU's Stability and Growth Pact by running excessive deficits.

  • Nationalism will emerge. Healthier countries will not see fit to spend their hard earned money to bail out their less responsible neighbors.

    Hungary has walked into the latest EU summit, hat-in-hand, asking for a mere 190 billion euros; Germany has rejected the notion of big spending to bail-out countries, and German citizens are in protectionist mode.

  • A common currency can act as handcuffs in perilous times. Exchange rates can be used as a tool to revalue debt and improve competitiveness of one's economy.

Under the euro, weak member countries are helpless. Italy has a history of competitive devaluations of the lira during sour times. Now, in the euro regime, its economy is left flapping in the wind.

Milton Friedman predicted that the euro would collapse within 10 years of its inception.
Milton Friedman predicted that the euro would collapse within 10 years of its inception.

As Jack has written in past Money and Markets columns, Milton Friedman saw the vulnerability of this concept coming and predicted the euro's demise within a decade.

Today, the most challenging issue facing the euro might be addressed in this statement:

“Political unity can pave the way for monetary unity. Monetary unity imposed under unfavorable conditions will prove a barrier to the achievement of political unity.”

Germany, the core of the euro and the rich uncle to its euro-member partners, appears increasingly intolerant of the less responsible, less viable partners. Could they make an unexpected departure from the currency union?

Is the next target for the euro the 2000 lows?

Euro vs. U.S. dollar, Weekly

Source: Bloomberg

In late 2000, just short of two years following its launch, the euro hit an all-time low of 0.8230 — off 30 percent from its January 1999 opening level.

The chart above suggests the euro could soon revisit that level. And with the events unfolding as I've laid out today, it could be sooner rather than later.

Regards,

Bryan Rich

This investment news is brought to you by Money and Markets . Money and Markets is a free daily investment newsletter from Martin D. Weiss and Weiss Research analysts offering the latest investing news and financial insights for the stock market, including tips and advice on investing in gold, energy and oil. Dr. Weiss is a leader in the fields of investing, interest rates, financial safety and economic forecasting. To view archives or subscribe, visit http://www.moneyandmarkets.com .

Money and Markets Archive

© 2005-2019 http://www.MarketOracle.co.uk - The Market Oracle is a FREE Daily Financial Markets Analysis & Forecasting online publication.


Comments

chan
08 Mar 09, 12:50
slurs in the armour

I would like to know who edits your contributors' articles for offensive semi racist puns. One Bryan Rich seems to like the sound of the slogan, "racist slur" in the armour. Rightfully, should you comment on White Europeans, it should be "HONKI" in the armour, or if in the case of African economics, it should be the "N-WORD in the armour. RIGHT?


TraderJoe
08 Mar 09, 15:59
"chink in the armor" ????

?????

There is NO racist overtone in the phrase "chink in the armor" as used above ! NONE !

Chan, your lack of english is truly appalling so clearly english is not your first language, perhaps more study is in order.

Best

TJ.


Greyballs
08 Mar 09, 20:18
Chink in the Armour

The term Chink in the Armours goes way back beyond when this slur was used to describe some of Asian descent. Be glad however Mr. Chan, you have a forum to express your self with only your peers to respond.


Dictionary
08 Mar 09, 23:20
Chink in the armor definition

A vulnerable area, as in Putting things off to the last minute is the chink in Pat's armor and is bound to get her in trouble one day. This term relies on chink in the sense of "a crack or gap," a meaning dating from about 1400 and used figuratively since the mid-1600s.

http://www.answers.com/topic/chink-in-one-s-armor

Main Entry: Achilles heel

Part of Speech: noun

Definition: vulnerable point

Synonyms: chink in the armor, damaging weakness, defect, failing, flaw, foible, frailty, handicap, heel of Achilles, susceptibility, tender spot, vulnerability, weak link, weak spot, weakness

http://thesaurus.reference.com/browse/chink%20in%20the%20armor

1. An opening in a suit of armor, barrier, etc. where one can break through.

2. see: samurai

1. Dude, there's a chink in the armor!

2. Dude, there's a Chink in the armor!

http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Chink%20in%20the%20Armor

Example from Chinese newspaper - Taipei Times

Chink discovered in staph’s armor

TAIWANESE CONTRIBUTION: A three-person team from the Academia Sinica has been instrumental in finding a vulnerability in ‘Staphylococcus aureus’ bacteria

By Meggie Lu

STAFF REPORTER

Tuesday, Feb 10, 2009, Page 2

Bacteria get harder to treat as they build resistance to antibiotics, but while some scientists have tried to combat this by developing stronger antibiotics, a group of scientists — including US experts and Academia Sinica Vice President Andrew Wang (王惠均) and two other Academia Sinica researchers — have taken a different approach by attempting to weaken bacteria’s defenses.

http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/taiwan/archives/2009/02/10/2003435719

Associated Press - Fallen oil prices a chink in Sarah Palin's armor

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin's first two years in office have been called a time of milk and honey, when the resource-rich state was flush with wealth from record oil prices.

The second half of her term isn't looking so rosy as Palin faces her first major financial challenge as governor.

The rapid decline of oil prices has left the state in a looming budget crisis and a late-entrant in the national recession. And that could have political repercussions for the former Republican vice presidential hopeful, who has signaled an interest in a 2012 presidential run but must stay visible in the Lower 48 to be successful.

http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5hBcK6_ry9tOBOZCPVyWf2JuLrKQQD96DG5DG1


np
13 Mar 09, 20:00
Euro... doesn't make sense any more..

It just doesn't make sense any more.

When the Euro goes up they say it’s bad for Euro “cause eurozone becomes less competitive”. When the Euro goes down they're telling us it’s the end of this currency.

Guys, make up your mind....


Ube
19 Mar 09, 16:54
Euro Collapse

Seems Brian just sealed his stamp.. lol

infotainment like CNBC.. nothing more.


Bri
24 Apr 09, 01:09
"chink in the armour"

TraderJoe:

I don't care if you think "chink in the armor" has no racist overtone. The fact that the word, "chink" is in the phrase can be considered racially sensitive to those of Asian heritage.

I fully understand what Chan is trying to say. Just because you do not agree with him, doesn't give you the right to criticize his English.


Nadeem_Walayat
24 Apr 09, 07:37
Comments

Comments closed for this article.


Euro Crisis
06 Feb 10, 23:42
Euro Crisis

If Greece was to default on her debt the banks of the country will collapse immediately. At that event their will be no way for the government to save the depositors of the banks since will not be able to print or borrow money. The implications to the credit markets for such an event will be enormous since no bank will want to lend to any bank in Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Spain and maybe others. Since this will be the first time since the crisis began in 2007 that depositors lost money it will cause a panic and it is very likely that there will be an immediate run on the banks of Portugal, Italy, Spain and Ireland at a time when the countries themselves are unable to raise capital. It will cause a Euro collapse


dan
18 Feb 10, 04:54
euro crisis

If Greece was to default on her debt the banks of the country will collapse immediately. At that event their will be no way for the government to save the depositors of the banks since will not be able to print or borrow money. The implications to the credit markets for such an event will be enormous since no bank will want to lend to any bank in Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Spain and maybe others. Since this will be the first time since the crisis began in 2007 that depositors lost money it will cause a panic and it is very likely that there will be an immediate run on the banks of Portugal, Italy, Spain and Ireland at a time when the countries themselves are unable to raise capital. It will cause a Euro collapse


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