Tag Archives: Euro

The EU’s other Periphery, by Frank Lee

The EU has not been a blessing for the Balkan and Southeastern European countries. From Frank Lee at off-guardian.org:

We’ll start with the 10 per capita poorest countries in the whole of Europe. In rank order:

  1. Moldova – GDP US$2560
  2. Ukraine – GDP US$3560
  3. Kosovo – GDP US$3990
  4. Albania – US$4450
  5. Bosnia and Herzegovina – GDP US$4769
  6. Republic of Macedonia – GDP US$5150
  7. Serbia – GDP US$5820
  8. Montenegro – GDP US$7320
  9. Bulgaria – GDP US$7620
  10. Romania – GDP US$9420

Average per capita income in Europe as a whole is US$37,317 (2018 figures).

What is noticeable is that most of these states are situated in either the Balkans or South-Eastern Europe. But that is not the end of the story.

Portugal, the poorest country in western Europe with GDP standing at US$238billion, is just pipped by the Czech Republic (now Czechia which is actually in the centre of Europe) as the star performer of the East whose national income stands at US$ 240,105.million.

Thus, in terms of per capita income the Czech Republic is the sole representative of the ex-Soviet states in Europe. This geopolitical and economic cleavage could hardly be starker. These two Euro-zones replicate the division of North and South between the US/Canada and central and Latin America.

Much of the attention to European development – or the lack of it – has been preoccupied with the gap between the West and South of Europe. This present schism is attributable to tried, tested, and failed economic strategies promulgated by the various institutions of globalization: the IMF, WB, WTO and so forth.

The single currency, the euro, became legal tender on 1 January 1999 and was adopted by most of the countries in the Euro area. But this proved to be the undoing of the political economy of the South.

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Europe is Dying on a Cross of Gold, by Tom Luongo

Are investors and speculators edging towards the exits on Europe? From Tom Luongo at tomluongo.me:

Gold is calling out the insanity of the European Union. It is also calling out the insanity of the global economy. But really it’s all about the euro at this point.

Since breaking through the post-Brexit high of $1375 per ounce, gold has pushed higher. Yes, it’s been volatile. Yes, the forces of control keep trying to stuff gold back inside the box, as it were.

And they keep failing.

Last week’s price action was impressive, even if the close was less than stellar. In the world of financial commentary everyone is looking for proximate causes for spikes and dips.

But most of that is simply noise. I don’t care why gold touched $1450 last week, only that it did.

Because a bull market that shakes off a number of big intra-week corrections to then blast to a new near-term high is a healthy one; one climbing the proverbial wall of worry.

And what’s important here is that this is not an anti-dollar trade. It is an anti-euro one. The U.S. Dollar Index has fully shaken off all attempts by the Fed to talk it down, trading at 97.6, and threatening a back-to-back monthly reversal at 97.8.

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The Tragedy Of The Euro, by Alasdair Macleod

The euro’s failure at inception wasn’t a certainty, but now it is. From Alasdair Macleod at goldmoney.com:

After two decades, the euro’s minders look set to drive the Eurozone into deep trouble. December was the last month of the ECB’s monthly purchases of government debt. A softening global economy will increase government deficits unexpectedly. The consequence will be a new cycle of sharply rising bond yields for the weakest Eurozone members, and systemically destabilising losses in the bond portfolios owned by Eurozone banks

The blame-game

It’s the twentieth anniversary of the euro’s existence, and far from being celebrated it is being blamed for many, if not all of the Eurozone’s ills.

However, the euro cannot be blamed for the monetary and policy failures of the ECB, national central banks and politicians. It is just a fiat currency, like all the others, only with a different provenance. All fiat currencies owe their function as a medium of exchange from the faith its users have in it. But unlike other currencies in their respective jurisdictions, the euro has become a talisman for monetary and economic failures in the European Union.

Recognise that, and we have a chance of understanding why the Eurozone has its troubles and why there are mounting risks of a new Eurozone systemic crisis. These troubles will not be resolved by replacing the euro with one of its founding components, or, indeed, a whole new fiat-money construct. It is here to stay, because it is not in the users’ interest to ditch it.

As is so often the case, the motivation for blaming the euro for some or all the Eurozone’s troubles is to shift responsibility from the real culprits, which are the institutions that created and manage it. This article briefly summarises the key points in the history of the euro project and notes how the mistakes of the past are being repeated without the safety-net of the ECB’s asset purchases.

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The Distortions of Doom Part 2: The Fatal Flaws of Reserve Currencies, by Charles Hugh Smith

Why reserve currencies come and go. From Charles Hugh Smith at oftwomind.com:

Part 1

The way forward is to replace the entire system of reserve currencies with a transparent free-for-all of all kinds of currencies.
Over the years, I’ve endeavored to illuminate the arcane dynamics of global currencies by discussing Triffin’s Paradox, which explains the conflicting dual roles of national currencies that also act as global reserve currencies, i.e. currencies that other nations use for global payments, loans and foreign exchange reserves.
The four currencies that are considered global are the US dollar (USD), the euro, the Japanese yen and China’s RMB (yuan). The percentage of use in each of the three categories of demand for the reserve currencies–payments, loans and foreign exchange reserves–are displayed below.
Many observers don’t seem to grasp that demand for reserve currencies extend beyond payments. Many of those heralding the demise of the USD as a reserve currency note the rise of alternative payment platforms as evidence of the USD’s impending collapse.
But it’s not so simple. Currencies are also in demand because loans were denominated in that currency, so interest and principal payments must also be paid in that currency. There is also demand for the currency to be held as foreign exchange reserves–the equivalent of cash to settle trade imbalances and back the domestic currency.
Notice the minor role played by the yen and yuan, despite the size of the economies of Japan and China. There’s a reason for this that’s at the core of Triffin’s Paradox: any nation seeking to issue a reserve currency must export its currency in size by running large, permanent trade deficits (or an equivalent mechanism for exporting currency in size).
The reason why the yen and yuan are minor players is neither nation runs much of a trade deficit, and neither exports its currency in size via loans or other currency emittance mechanisms.
Triffin’s Paradox is the tension between a currency’s domestic role and its global role. The nation’s issuing central bank prioritizes domestic concerns–bolstering employment, tamping down (or generating) inflation, supporting the private banking system, etc.–but the rate of interest, etc. set by the issuing central bank has enormous impacts on nations using the currency for payments, loans and reserves.
No currency can serve two masters at the same time. If the issuing central bank raises interest rates for domestic reasons, the increase in rates may be ruinous to offshore borrowers who must convert weakening home currencies into the strengthening reserve currency to make interest payments.
Higher yields strengthen reserve currencies and weaken emerging market currencies. This increases the costs of servicing loans denominated in reserve currencies.
The question for any wannabe reserve currency is: how do you export enough currency into the global system to support the demand for payments, loans and reserves? If the issuing nation runs a trade surplus or modest deficit, trade doesn’t export enough currency into the global financial system to meet the demands placed on a reserve currency.
The alternative mechanism is debt. If the issuing central bank issues lines of credit to banks, then institutions can make loans denominated in the reserve currency to offshore borrowers.
The EU banks have issued loans in euros, and the fatal consequence of this is now becoming clear. Emerging market borrowers will be forced to default as their currencies weaken against the euro and the USD, driving the costs of servicing their debt denominated in euros and USD higher.
Loans denominated in USD and euros will bring the periphery crisis home to the core’s banking sectors as these loans default. It was all fun and games when the USD was weakening thanks to the Fed’a ZIRP (zero interest rate policy), because it became progressively cheaper to service loans in USD as USD weakened and emerging market currencies strengthened.
Now that dynamic has reversed: every click higher in U.S. yields vis a vis other currencies will only push the USD higher.
The system of reserve currencies is dysfunctional for everyone, creating and incentivizing fatal imbalances in trade, yields and debt. Some look to a basket of currencies (SDRs) as the solution, but all this does is tighten the coherence of a system that’s already dangerously hyper-coherent, i.e. highly susceptible to contagion.
There is no perfect reserve currency. Even gold has its limitations. As a result, the best available solution is a world of multiple currencies, some of which are not borrowed into existence, i.e. gold and bitcoin. Given a transparent range of options, nations, borrowers and lenders could choose whatever mix of currencies best suited them.
Some years ago I proposed using bitcoin as a reserve currency: Could Bitcoin (or equivalent) Become a Global Reserve Currency? (November 7, 2013)
The way forward isn’t to replace the USD with another dysfunctional reserve currency– the way forward is to replace the entire system of reserve currencies with a transparent free-for-all of all kinds of currencies.

Twilight of the Euro? by Hans-Werner Sinn

The euro has not been a success, and it’s probably just a matter of time before Europe puts it out of its misery. From Hans-Werner Sinn at project-syndicate.org:

Twenty years after the formal creation of the euro, few can honestly say that the single currency has been a success. After fueling a massive credit bubble in Southern Europe in its first decade, it gave rise to an array of complex monetary-policy and transfer schemes in its second – and more trouble is looming as it enters its third.

MUNICH – In May 1998, irrevocable conversion rates for the currencies that would be merged into the euro were implemented. In a sense, this makes the single currency just over 20 years old. The first decade of its life had the feeling of a party, particularly in Southern Europe; but the second decade brought the inevitable hangover. Now, as we enter the third decade, the prevailing mood seems to be one of increasing political radicalization.

The original party was a cornucopia of cheap credit, which capital markets happily issued to the countries of Southern Europe under the protection of the euro. For a while, these countries finally had enough money to increase public-sector salaries and pensions, as well as spur private consumption and investment.

But the credit flooding into these countries created inflationary bubbles, which burst when the 2008 financial crisis in the United States spread to Europe. As capital markets refused to extend further credit, Southern Europe’s previously halfway-competitive but now overpriced economies soon ran into serious trouble.

The Southern Europeans’ response was to start printing what they could no longer borrow. Aided by the European Central Bank – which loosened its collateral policy for refinancing credits and increased its tolerance for emergency liquidity assistance and credits under the Agreement on Net Financial Assets – they drew hundreds of billions of euros out of the monetary system through so-called Target overdrafts. And from 2010 onward, they were the recipients of EU fiscal rescue packages.

But, because financial markets viewed these rescue packages as insufficient, the ECB, in 2012, issued a promise to cover unlimited member-state government bonds under its “outright monetary transactions” program, turning them into de facto euro bonds. Finally, in 2015, the ECB launched its quantitative-easing program, whereby member states’ central banks bought €2.4 billion ($2.8 billion) worth of securities, including €2 billion of government bonds. Accordingly, the eurozone’s monetary base grew dramatically, from €1.2 trillion to over €3 trillion.

To continue reading: Twilight of the Euro?

ECB Chief Economist: OK, I Get it, the Euro Doesn’t Work, by Wolf Richter

From Wolf Richter at wolfstreet.com:

The ECB started its €60-billion-a-month QE bonanza earlier this year and was expected to run it through September 2016, but already the Big Money is clamoring for more. Shook up by what’s happening in China, the ECB said it might accommodate them.

Now Standard and Poor’s warned or recommended – whichever – that the ECB could double the size of the QE program, to €2.4 trillion and extend it “until mid-2018.” That the Big Money is clamoring for more is no surprise: despite the ECB’s QE and negative deposit rates, stock prices have plunged, with the German DAX down 23% in six months.

So here comes Peter Praet, ECB Executive Board Member and Chief Economist, with an amazing presentation at the BVI Asset Management conference in Germany, showing one devastating chart after another on how the euro has failed the Eurozone economy.

Optimism, when published by economists, is usually designed to hype what needs to be hyped at the moment. This is universal. But in the Eurozone, even economists are dialing back their optimism. In the chart below, Praet shows how expectations of economic growth for five years ahead have dropped over the 15 years that the euro has been around:

To continue reading: The Euro Doesn’t Work