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Euro currency could collapse and trigger another Great Depression, IMF warns for the first time

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End of the Euro?: The IMF warns that one country leaving the single currency could force its entire collapse

By Hugo Duncan
PUBLISHED: 12:45 EST, 17 April 2012
UPDATED: 04:28 EST, 18 April 2012

The eurozone could break up and trigger a global economic slump to rival the Great Depression, the IMF warned last night.

In its World Economic Outlook report, the International Monetary Fund said the collapse of the crisis-torn single currency could not be ruled out.

It was the first time the Washington-based institution has accepted the prospect of the eurozone splitting up and follows fears over the health of the Spanish economy.

The IMF predicted a return to recession in the eurozone this year but upgraded its growth forecasts for Britain.

However, it warned that the world remains at risk of collapsing into a slump that would rival the Great Depression – with ‘acute risks in Europe’ the major threat.

‘Things have quietened down but there is a very uneasy calm,’ said IMF chief economist Olivier Blanchard. ‘I have a feeling that at any moment things could get very bad again.’

Speaking at the launch of the half-yearly report in Washington, Mr Blanchard said there was ‘no plan’ in place to deal with a country leaving the euro.

However Greece is widely expected to default on its crippling debts and quit the doomed single currency.

‘If such an event occurs, it is possible that other euro area economies would come under severe pressure as well, with a full-blown panic in financial markets,’ the IMF report said.

‘Under these circumstances, a break-up of the euro area could not be ruled out. This could cause major political shocks that could aggravate economic stress to levels well above those after the Lehman collapse.’

U.S. investment bank Lehman Brothers imploded in September 2008 – plunging the world economy into the worst recession since the 1930s. The IMF said that although ‘the outlook for the global economy is slowly improving again’ it is ‘still very fragile’.

It warned of the ‘possibility that several adverse shocks could interact to produce a major slump reminiscent of the 1930s’.

The IMF forecast growth of 0.8 per cent in Britain this year – more than the 0.6 per cent it predicted in January, but less than last September’s target of 1.6 per cent. Its 2013 forecast was unchanged at  2 per cent.

Asked about the IMF’s comments on the eurozone, a Downing Street spokesman said: ‘The eurozone still needs to get its house in order. Those issues still exist and no doubt will be a focus of discussions at the coming meeting of the IMF towards the end of the week, which the Chancellor will be attending.’

The IMF said Britain will outperform Germany and France this year – their economies are expected to grow by just 0.6 per cent and 0.5 per cent respectively.

The Italian and Spanish economies are forecast to decline by 1.9 per cent and 1.8 per cent, while a slump of 4.7 per cent is expected in Greece following a 6.9 per cent drop in 2011.

But the report warned that output in the eurozone could fall by 3.5 per cent over the next two years if the debt crisis escalates.

This would knock 2 per cent off the world economy, said the IMF, while a 50 per cent rise in the oil price would lower output by a further 1.25 per cent.

In the absence of such ‘shocks’ the global economy is expected to grow by 3.5 per cent this year, down from 3.9 per cent in 2011, with the U.S., Canada and Japan leading the way in the developed world.

‘Because of the problems in Europe, activity will continue to disappoint in the advanced economies as a group, expanding by only about 1.5 per cent in 2012 and by 2 per cent in 2013,’ said the report.

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This Is Europe’s Scariest Chart

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Submitted by Tyler Durden on 01/30/2012

Surging Greek and Portuguese bond yields? Plunging Italian bank stocks? The projected GDP of the Eurozone? In the grand scheme of things, while certainly disturbing, none of these data points actually tell us much about the secular shift within European society, and certainly are nothing that couldn’t be fixed if the ECB were to gamble with hyperinflation and print an inordinate amount of fiat units diluting the capital base even further. No: the one chart that truly captures the latent fear behind the scenes in Europe is that showing youth unemployment in the continent’s troubled countries (and frankly everywhere else). Because the last thing Europe needs is a discontented, disenfranchised, and devoid of hope youth roving the streets with nothing to do, easily susceptible to extremist and xenophobic tendencies: after all, it must be “someone’s” fault that there are no job opportunities for anyone. Below we present the youth (16-24) unemployment in three select European countries (and the general Eurozone as a reference point).

Some may be surprised to learn that while Portugal, and Greece, are quite bad, at 30.7% and 46.6% respectively, it is Spain where the youth unemployment pain is most acute: at 51.4%, more than half of the youth eligible for work does not have a job!

Because the real question is if there is no hope for tomorrow, what is the opportunity cost of doing something stupid and quite irrational today?

ZeroHedge

Felix Zulauf On The Key To 2012 And The Coming Banking Bust

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Cullen Roche, Pragmatic Capitalism | Jan. 14, 2012, 10:24 PM

The 2012 Barrons Roundtable came out this morning and the discussion is always interesting.

I have tended to veer towards the comments of Felix Zulauf since he’s the global macro master at the table. That said, here are some of his macro thoughts.

I think he’s a bit dramatic, but given that he’s one of the few roundtable members who has been able to connect the dots (for the most part) his comments are always worth considering (see past performance from Roundtable members here):

Zulauf: Europe is going to be key this year for the markets and the economy. China is slowing; the emerging world is slowing, and the U.S. is barely above water, constrained by its structural problems. I have called the euro a misconstruction since its birth. The problem is a difference in competitiveness among European countries, and you can’t solve it by lending money to the less competitive countries. You have to deflate wages and prices in the south, and inflate the north. But given Germany’s history, it will never inflate.

The members of the euro zone agreed in December that each country could have a structural deficit of no more than half a percent of GDP. If a deficit goes above 3% of GDP, the country will be sanctioned. This agreement now has to be ratified in all countries. But when you agree to such a prescription and you are uncompetitive, your currency is overvalued by 30%, you can’t devalue, and your nominal interest rates are too high, that is a recipe for a depression. It is a death sentence. Several countries won’t ratify the contract, and the next day their markets will be repriced accordingly. They will exit the euro, and the turmoil will go to the next level. Greece is bust in either case. If you can devalue your currency by 40% or 50% in that situation, at least you will have the chance to see the sun again and recover.

Zulauf: The banking system goes bust. Assume Greece won’t repay anything, or at most 10% of its total debt. It is not just the government but the private sector that is bust. That means banks in other countries will be in trouble, which means they will be nationalized. Governments won’t have the money to pay for this, so they will assume even more debt. That is the chain of events I expect in 2012, and if you believe it won’t affect the U.S. you are dreaming. The estimated notional value of the over-the-counter fixed-income-derivatives market in Europe is estimated to be about 60 trillion euros. There are many links to the U.S. banking system, although we don’t yet know who is positioned how. If one country exits the euro, all hell will break loose.

Zulauf: Every European country will be in recession in 2012, and probably in 2013.

Source: Barrons

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IMF Chief Lagarde: Give Me More Money And China More Power

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Ben Walsh

On Thursday, the head of the International Monetary Fund, Christine Lagarde, urged members to approve an agreement reached last year that would double the funds available to the global organization and give currently under-represented nations like China increased voting power, Reuters reported.

If approved, the plan would make China the international lender’s third-largest member of the IMF:

The IMF said Lagarde “called on members to use their best efforts to make the 2010 reform package effective before the 2012 annual meetings.” The meetings take place in Tokyo in mid-October.

An IMF staff paper said “efforts to meet the 2012 deadline should not be spared.”

As of December 12, just 53 countries, holding 36 percent of total IMF quotas, had approved the increases. Approval by members holding about 70 percent of quotas is needed to implement the changes. Some countries require their legislatures to authorize the changes.

Lagarde’s push for approval of the measures comes as the Euro-zone crisis underscored the shift in global economic power away from traditional post-war leaders and and popular opposition to the government in China appeared to demonstrate the internal challenges faced by the world’s fastest growing large economy.

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The Euro Is Going To See A MASSIVE Drop In Value In The Next Four Months

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Simone Foxman

Nomura Global FX analysts are expecting a huge depreciation in the value of the euro against the dollar in the next four months, according to an investor note out yesterday.

They argue that one euro will fall to just $1.20 within the next four months, compared to a current value around $1.34. What’s more, they think this estimate has downside risks.

Their analysis is predicated on a baseline scenario that EU leaders will put stop-gap measures in place in the near-term but will ultimately have to adopt large-scale QE to stave of the crisis in the medium term.

From their investor note:

In our central case, in which the ECB will be forced into a delayed and reactive large-scale QE, risk assets could trade better over  time (assuming that the QE amount is sufficient). But it is likely to be seen as a change in the ECB reaction function, and hence we think EUR/USD would trade lower in the medium term. AUD, CAD and EM FX should perform quite well in this scenario.

This forecast takes into account their prediction that the Fed will announce new easing measures early in the year.

We also expect ECB QE and  although the immediate effect upon announcement of such measures may well be  EUR bullish, large-scale monetization is likely to weigh negatively on the EUR in the medium term, hence providing an offsetting force to any USD negativity related to Fed QE3.

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Cowen’s Sean Pignatell On Why Peripheral Sovereign Debt Is ‘Completely Uninvestable’

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This may be in Germany’s future.

by Simone Foxman

Sean Pignatell of Cowen International just put out a new note calling peripheral European debt “completely uninvestable” and predicting the end of the eurozone unless the European Central Bank makes a commitment to “unconditional and unlimited” intervention in the sovereign bond market.

That’s because it is now impossible to hedge both currency and sovereign credit risk.

A combination of policy that allowed Greece to default (even “selectively”) and bond yields surpassing 3% mean that investors are no longer able to hedge the sovereign credit risk of the PIIGS. Even France, Pignatell writes, is nearing the end of that rope.

But now it’s even impossible to hedge currency risk. Here’s why:

The real answer is that it never could be but, until very recently, it didn’t need to be. And here we have to go back to that pivotal moment when Merkel and Sarkozy openly called Papandreou’s bluff and turned his ill-advised political manoeuvre (the bail-out referendum) into a vote on remaining in the Eurozone. One bad decision compounded by a catastrophic one. Pandora’s Box was opened and there will be no coming back from that one.

So, in one move we went from a position whereby currency risk for individual countries in the Eurozone could be hedged via Euros, to needing to be hedged in currencies that, as yet, do not exist.

With the very fabric of the euro monetary union in flux, there is only one solution that would avoid catastrophe:

Markets will continue to be volatile, and Eurozone sovereign spreads will have good days as well as bad. However, until the ECB fully commits, both unconditionally and without limit, then these bond spreads will continue to rise.

The mechanism by which others get sucked into the periphery is not dissimilar to a black hole; as the periphery’s problems grow, so does its pulling power, drawing more countries into its vortex, in turn increasing its force. Eventually, without a break up of the Eurozone, even Germany would get sucked in.

Source

Obama’s Team Is In ‘Morbid Fear’ Of A Eurozone Meltdown

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by Zeke Miller

In public, President Barack Obama has kept his cool about Europe, rarely speaking out on the subject other than to encourage his counterparts across the Atlantic to act swiftly to stave off catastrophe. But privately, the FT’s Richard McGregor reports, Obama is in “morbid fear” of the crisis spreading the United States:

But behind the scenes, within both the administration and Mr Obama’s campaign team in Chicago, there is a morbid fear about a eurozone meltdown and its flow-on impact on the US economy and the president’s re-election chances.

“The thing that matters the most in determining the health of the US economy and job creation is what happens in Europe,” says a senior administration official.

Obama has slowly sharpened his language on the subject in recent days, calling for even faster coordinated action on the part of Europe, though he lacks the leverage to force an agreement. A U.S. bailout is off the table, amid opposition from Democrats and Republicans alike, and the independent Fed can only do so much or risk a public backlash.

In the meantime, Obama remains focused on the what he can control — extending the payroll tax cut and unemployment benefits — said White House Press Secretary Jay Carney on Tuesday. But even those won’t be enough to keep the economy going if another crisis hits, which would likely scuttle the president’s reelection chances.

Read more at FT >

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Brace Yourselves

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Erik Swarts, Market Anthropology

“Tell me how this ends,” U.S. General David Petraeus asked memorably of the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

Political leaders and economists in the euro zone are searching frantically for answers to the same question as a bond market rout of European sovereign debt accelerates, putting the future of the single currency in jeopardy.

Until a few weeks ago, the most likely outcome appeared to be that the 17-nation currency area would muddle through. The euro zone would bail out a few highly indebted small peripheral states, patch up its rickety fiscal governance and avoid either a break-up or a major shift toward federal integration.

That was then. Now it seems that without a radical game-changing initiative within weeks, the crisis may no longer be controllable. – Tighter euro zone gains ground as debt crisis exit, Reuters

Here is an update of the SPX Meridian Market Theory chart that I have been following throughout the year. In my last update – I was opportunistic in the mindset that the charts may have been pointing towards an approaching long-term low. And while we found a low a few weeks later, I now find myself reinterpreting (in light of what I have found in the charts and the data from Europe and Asia) what the most recent rejection may mean towards the market going forward.

You may say I am becoming more concerned as the market has double and tripled dipped the same positive news out of Europe.

Near term, in either case – bull or bear, I find the market precariously placed at the top of the range and likely to fall back swiftly over the balance of the month.

Charts & More – The Money Game

Market Anthropology

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