Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Waiting for Lehman

This is an adapted version of a post which appeared in my Strategic Planning Group. Adapted how? Well, the full argument is reprinted below—but the ugly money-grubbing stuff about what to do and what investment opportunities are good have been cut. After all, readers of the free version of my blog aren’t interested in such base dealings, right? GL

In Samuel Beckett’s play Waiting for Godot, the four main characters wait in vain—Godot never arrives.

In the financial markets, the same thing is happening now—we are all waiting for Lehman: That sudden bankruptcy-crisis-calamity which sets off a whole series of credit events, which in turn causes massive sell-offs, plunging markets, collapsing confidence, and ultimately—just like the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers did back in 2008—shoves the entire global financial edifice right up to the very edge of the cliff.

To the edge—and perhaps this time over it.

We have good reason to be waiting for Lehman—our current situation is simple and stark: Sovereign nations and individual citizens are over-indebted—to the point where they cannot pay back what they owe. We all know that this overindebtedness at the sovereign and individual level is going to end, and end badly: Worse than 2008.

So along with everyone else, I’ve been waiting for Lehman—and fruitlessly trying to guess which will be the Lehman-like event this time around. Will it be the bankruptcy of Dexia? BofA? UniCredit or SocGen or one of the Spanish banks? Will it be a war in the Middle East? Bad producer index numbers from China? A fart by a day-trader in Uzbekistan?

When will Lehman arrive!?!?

But lately, my thinking has changed: Like the characters in Godot, I think that we’re waiting in vain. The Lehman-like event will never arrive because it won’t be allowed to arrive. So this miserable slog we are going through will continue—indefinitely. (Yeah, I know: Sucks to be us.)

My thinking is based on two assumptions: One, that the central banks and government financial authorities and regulators around the globe are absolutely terrified of a repeat of a Lehman-type bankruptcy or trigger event. And two, that those self-same central banksters and government drones will do absolutely anything to prevent another Lehman-like credit event from setting off another cascade of consequences.

And when I say “absolutely anything”, I’m not using hyperbole: Fuck principles, fuck the law, fuck legal constraints, fuck even basic long-term economic and fiscal health—or sanity. The clowns running the circus were so freaked out by the effects of the 2008 Lehman bankruptcy and the domino-effect that it triggered, that they will not let it happen again—ever. Come what may.

Hence, this endless Waiting for Lehman: This endless slog of ad hoc solutions and fiscal half-measures that brings us only tension and misery—and erodes our economy even further.

But this certainty that the bureaucrats in Washington and the eurocrats in Brussels and Frankfurt will do absolutely anything to avoid a Lehman-like event adds something key to the equation:

Predictability.

Since we know how the central banks and economic leadership will react—that is, if we start from the assumption that the political/economic leadership will do absolutely anything to prevent a major credit event from taking place—then we can predict what they will do in the three main areas of weakness:
  • Sovereign debt and the possibility of default.
  • Financial sector weakness and the possibility of insolvency.
  • Geopolitical crisis and the possibility of another Oil Shock.
What follows is a discussion of those three areas of weakness—and what the central banks and economic leadership will do about each of them.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Germany Will NEVER Leave the Eurozone—Because It Can’t

There’s No Upside, Only Downside


Late last week, there was a spike in random speculation that the German government was preparing to exit the eurozone—and that in fact, the Germans had gone so far as to print new Deutsche mark bills and mint new Deutsche mark coins.

Several alternative news sites, including Zero Hedge and others, gave serious credence to this rumor—enough credence that the euro took a hit against the dollar and gold.

But at the end of the day, it was just random speculation from one Dr. Philippa Malmgren, who was interviewed by a Swedish newspaper as saying “My impression is that the German Government sent us a number of signals that, from their perspective there is no other solution [than for them to leave the euro].”

This random speculation—coupled with last year’s random speculation from Hartgeld.com, a German fringe site that claimed with absolute certainty that on May 12, 2010, the Germans would for sure go back to the Deutsche mark, having already printed and minted the new bills and coins—gave the Malmgren nonsense some legs.

The fact of the rumor is no big deal—there are always rumors.

The fact that the financial community took such nonsense so seriously points to the big deal in this situation—the underlying worry that a lot of market participants are fearing: What if the Germans all of a sudden cry, “Fuckit!”, and let slip the bonds of the eurozone?

Can they leave the eurozone?