At first blush, the German economy appears to be ailing – at first blush because the stock market, in its omniscient manner, is predicting wondrous developments as it hop-scotches from one all-time high to the next. This relentless optimism has morphed into a breeding ground for projections into outright magnificence. But inconvenient data is getting in the way.
Entries in Europe - Germany (156)
Those close to the epicenter of power, those near Chancellor Merkel, have to toe the line on the euro – it’s far more than just a currency, it’s a sacred concept worth saving no matter what the costs. While the possibility of a small country's exit from the euro has been accepted, the euro itself has been inviolable in those circles. Until now. An insider offered a "Plan B"; and the euro’s life is limited to five years!
Where German industrial companies plan to invest: a slew of losers out there, including Germany. But one country stands out ... and the reasons why!
Austria would fight to maintain bank secrecy, declared uppity Finance Minster Maria Fekter. She is worried. After squashing Cyprus, gutting its offshore financial and money laundering center, and destroying its main resource, the EU has now trained its big guns on Austria and Luxembourg.
There could not possibly be any clouds on the horizon with the Dow and the S&P 500 setting all-time highs, while the German DAX is marching relentlessly towards 8,000 and the Japanese Nikkei is soaring. But just then, a deeply connected representative of the world’s real economy spoils the rosy scenario.
Eurozone countries are falling like dominos. Next: Slovenia. But bailouts – by taxpayers in other countries – keep banks from collapsing, governments from defaulting, and investors from incurring well-deserved losses. In the US, President Obama’s budget, with its new taxes, is causing heart palpitations left and right. But how do countries really stack up?
In March, the ECB-organized Eurozone-wide household-wealth survey results trickled out. But when the Bundesbank refused to publish the German data, insiders leaked the reason: too explosive for the bailout era because Italian households were far wealthier than German households. Shocking! And a red herring. The truth turned out to be far more shocking.
Everyone learned a lesson from the “bail-in” of Cypriot banks: Russians who’d laundered their money there; bondholders who’d thought they’d always get bailed out; Cypriot politicians whose names showed up on lists of loans that had been forgiven; even Finance Minister Sarris. His lesson: when a cesspool of corruption blows up, no one is safe. And German politicians learned a lesson too: that it worked!
The craziness on Wall Street, the reckless for-the-moment-only behavior that led to the Financial Crisis, is back. This time it’s Citigroup that is once again concocting “synthetic” securities, like those that had wreaked havoc five years ago. And once again, it’s using them to shuffle off risks through the filters of Wall Street to people who might never know.
The Stunning Differences in European Costs of Labor: Or Why “Competitiveness” Is A Beggar-Thy-Neighbor Strategy
The ominous term “competiveness” is bandied about as the real issue, the one causing Eurozone countries to sink deeper into their fiasco. To address it, “structural reforms,” or austerity, have been invoked regardless of how much blood might stain the streets. And a core element of these structural reforms is bringing down the cost of labor.
Cyprus didn’t prick the Eurozone bailout bubble, the notion that bank investors who took enormous risks to gain financial rewards would always be made whole by taxpayers. That bubble had already been pricked in February. But it was the first time that the international bailout cabal, the Troika, stuck its needle into it—while Germany quietly bailed out all investors in one of its own rotten banks.
Putzmeister was a paragon of the German Mittelstand—family-owned firms with innovative technologies and high-quality manufacturing that dominate their niches worldwide. But in 2012, it was acquired by a Chinese giant. Now its German CEO reveals just how impossible integration is and how dire not only Europe but the world look to him, particularly China.
Anti-euro movements have been squashed by political establishments across the Eurozone. Then Italy happened. Two anti-austerity parties captured over half the vote and threw the status quo into chaos. It stoked a fire in Germany where Chancellor Merkel’s bailout policies have hit resistance. Now the heat is on to dissolve the “coercive euro association.”
There have been waves of threats by Eurozone politicians to bully people into accepting “whatever it takes” to keep the shaky construct of the monetary union glued together. These threats peaked last year with disorderly default, and when that wasn’t enough, with the collapse of the Eurozone. But now, the ultimate threat has been pronounced: war.
The ECB and the national central banks of the Eurozone set out to collect “micro-level information” on household wealth. A massive bureaucratic undertaking. Surveys went out in 2010. Results are now ready. No one in Europe had ever done a survey on that scale before. And no one might ever do it again. Because, in the era of bailouts, the results are so explosive that the Bundesbank is keeping its report secret—and word has leaked out why.
Euros entered circulation on January 1, 2002. For six years, they grew on trees in southern Europe. But the bubble got pricked. Since then, the monetary union has been in crisis. Almost half of its existence! Until suddenly, its problems were solved. But now confidence in the monetary union is weaker than ever. With a hue of resignation in Germany.
“I’m appalled that two clowns have won,” said the man who'd try to knock German Chancellor Merkel off her perch this year. He was referring to former comedian Beppe Grillo and former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. One of them is “a professional clown who doesn’t mind being called that,” he explained; the other is “a clown with special testosterone boost.”
Bank bailouts have made owners of otherwise worthless bank debt whole through a circuitous process by which taxpayers transferred their money to investors. Even in Greece. Even a bank that had siphoned off $1 billion through fraud and embezzlement. It wasn’t fair. But fairness had nothing to do with it. That’s how bailouts were done. Until now.
Deutsche Bank, long coddled by the German government, is mired in “matters” from Libor rate-rigging to carbon-trading tax-fraud. Now a new “matter” seeped out: the bank had known for years about the impact of commodities speculation on food prices and the havoc it wreaked on people in poor countries. And it lied about it to the German Parliament.
All hopes rest on Germany: its vibrant economy teeming with globalized, ultra-competitive, export-focused companies would drag France and other Eurozone countries out of their economic morass. But then, there’s reality.