Skip to main content

European Union Financial System Might Be Even Worse Off


The media tend to focus on the credit crisis too much on just the US and maybe the UK. Even the secondary focus was largely on how China would figure in being a catalyst for recovery. There are pockets of the world that are facing the crisis with more devastation, and urgency for help. In a sense for them, its should be called a debt crisis rather than a credit crisis. We are talking of Eastern Europe, Western Europe, Russia and Ukraine... hey, basically the EU. Most of what's written below was taken from The Telegraph, UK.

In much of Western Europe, things are nearing boiling point. Austria's finance minister Josef Pröll made frantic efforts last week to put together a €150bn rescue for the ex-Soviet bloc. Well he might. His banks have lent €230bn to the region, equal to 70pc of Austria's GDP.

"A failure rate of 10pc would lead to the collapse of the Austrian financial sector," reported Der Standard in Vienna. Unfortunately, that is about to happen.

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) says bad debts will top 10pc and may reach 20pc. The Vienna press said Bank Austria and its Italian owner Unicredit face a "monetary Stalingrad" in the East. Mr Pröll tried to drum up support for his rescue package from EU finance ministers in Brussels last week. The idea was scotched by Germany's Peer Steinbrück. Not our problem, he said. We'll see about that.

Eastern Europe has borrowed $1.7 trillion abroad, much on short-term maturities. It must repay – or roll over – $400bn this year, equal to a third of the region's GDP. Good luck. The credit window has slammed shut.

Not even Russia can easily cover the $500bn dollar debts of its oligarchs while oil remains near $33 a barrel. The budget is based on Urals crude at $95. Russia has bled 36pc of its foreign reserves since August defending the rouble.

In Poland, 60pc of mortgages are in Swiss francs. The zloty has just halved against the franc. Hungary, the Balkans, the Baltics, and Ukraine are all suffering variants of this story. As an act of collective folly – by lenders and borrowers – it matches America's sub-prime debacle. There is a crucial difference, however. European banks are on the hook for both. US banks are not.

Almost all Eastern bloc debts are owed to West Europe, especially Austrian, Swedish, Greek, Italian, and Belgian banks. En plus, Europeans account for an astonishing 74pc of the entire $4.9 trillion portfolio of loans to emerging markets. They are five times more exposed to this latest bust than American or Japanese banks, and they are 50pc more leveraged (IMF data).

Spain is up to its neck in Latin America, which has belatedly joined the slump (Mexico's car output fell 51pc in January, and Brazil lost 650,000 jobs in one month). Britain and Switzerland are up to their necks in Asia.

Whether it takes months, or just weeks, the world is going to discover that Europe's financial system is sunk, and that there is no EU Federal Reserve yet ready to act as a lender of last resort or to flood the markets with emergency stimulus. The European Central Bank already needs to cut rates to zero and then purchase bonds and Pfandbriefe on a huge scale. It is constrained by geopolitics – a German-Dutch veto – and the Maastricht Treaty.

It is East Europe that is blowing up right now. Erik Berglof, EBRD's chief economist, said that the region may need €400bn in help to cover loans and prop up the credit system. Europe's governments are making matters worse. Some are pressuring their banks to pull back, undercutting subsidiaries in East Europe. Athens has ordered Greek banks to pull out of the Balkans.

The sums needed are beyond the limits of the IMF, which has already bailed out Hungary, Ukraine, Latvia, Belarus, Iceland, and Pakistan – and Turkey next – and is fast exhausting its own $200bn (€155bn) reserve. We are nearing the point where the IMF may have to print money for the world, using arcane powers to issue Special Drawing Rights. Its $16bn rescue of Ukraine has unravelled. The country – facing a 12pc contraction in GDP after the collapse of steel prices – is hurtling towards default, leaving Unicredit, Raffeisen and ING in the lurch. Pakistan wants another $7.6bn. Latvia's central bank governor has declared his economy "clinically dead" after it shrank 10.5pc in the fourth quarter. Protesters have smashed the treasury and stormed parliament.

In almost every way, this is much worse than the Asian financial crisis in the late 1990s, as indicated by the table below. There are accidents waiting to happen across the region, but the EU institutions don't have any framework for dealing with this. The day they decide not to save one of these one countries will be the trigger for a massive crisis with contagion spreading into the EU. The governments and ECB cannot risk NOT saving any one country or banking institution, but that strategy is drawing almost all the reserves and ammunition these institutions have.

[eastern europe economy]


Europe is already in deeper trouble than the ECB or EU leaders ever expected. Germany contracted at an annual rate of 8.4pc in the fourth quarter. Germany will have shrunk by nearly 9pc before the end of this year. This is the sort of level that stokes popular revolt. The implications are obvious. Berlin is not going to rescue Ireland, Spain, Greece and Portugal as the collapse of their credit bubbles leads to rising defaults, or rescue Italy by accepting plans for EU "union bonds" should the debt markets take fright at the rocketing trajectory of Italy's public debt (hitting 112pc of GDP next year, just revised up from 101pc – big change), or rescue Austria from its Habsburg adventurism.

Hungary’s forint fell to an all-time low in recent days, and Poland’s zloty slumped to the lowest in five years on plunging industrial output. Half of all loans to the private sector in Poland are in foreign currencies so borrowers face a severe debt shock after the 40pc fall of the zloty against the euro since August.

There are contagion worries for Western banks that have lent $1.74 trillion (£1.22bn) to the ex-Soviet bloc -- split between $1 trillion in foreign loans and $700bn in local currency debt through subsidiaries. Austria’s banks are the most exposed with the share of risk-weighted assets tied to the region reaching 54pc for Raffeisen and 38pc for Erste Bank. The exposure of Germany’s Bayern Bank is 48pc, Italy’s UniCredit is 45pc, and Swedbank is 29pc.

The region needs to roll over $400bn in foreign debts this year, equivalent to a third of total GDP, raising concerns that it may need a massive rescue programme from the International Monetary Fund and the European institutions.

p/s photos: Elva Hsiao


Comments

Jasonred79 said…
"pockets"?

China is approaching Social Unrest due to unemployment.

US is in turmoil.

EU is on the brink of collapse.

Japan is in a deep recession, and it's the exports which are killing their businesses, not credit crunch.

What "pockets" of problems?

It's more like pockets of countries which are holding out well. SE Asia is still going strong, and so is India, but I'm not sure how long these export driven economies can handle a collapse of the world's 3-4 largest economies...
see said…
This crisis continuing to roil is beginning to look hilarious. Sorry, black humour here, European countries going bankrupt? they make latin american banana republics look respectable. Germany may not want to hand a helping hand but it will come back to bite her, maybe via German banks exposure in those countries or others ways.
solomon said…
Nursery ryhme," The more we get together, together, together. The merrier we will be". It seemed that the financial crisis now does not reflect the sentiment shown in the ryhme.

While greed had taken the hearts of those who had today crisis, this is some of the cleansing process doing their parts now. Most of those investors dislike the nationalizing of banks and so forth, are shorting the market causing them to bad enough....the actual corporate profits may not reflect the worst of all til now. What are they going to do next? To create more financial blackholes and see the failure of countries??

Barter trade may work??
Kuih said…
S Dali
With the EU at the lifeline now, suprisingly the Yen move up still. do u think it is wise to put in another 1/3 of fund in the market when it hit 97? or wait for the bad news to unfold first?
thanks.
Salvatore_Dali said…
kuih,

yes, i think its ok to put 1/3 funds in now... but try to have some gold exposure as well.
Beginner said…
Hi

I read a good article recently on Aussie land.

http://business.theage.com.au/business/dont-mention-the-debt-20090219-8c6e.html

What's ur view on Malaysia or south east asia position regarding to total debt, consumer debt, and etc.

Thanks in advance.

Popular posts from this blog

My Master, A National Treasure

REPOST:  Its been more than two years since I posted on my sifu. This is probably the most significant posting I had done thus far that does not involve business or politics. My circle of close friends and business colleagues have benefited significantly from his treatment.


My Master, Dr. Law Chin Han (from my iPhone)

Where shall I start? OK, just based on real life experiences of those who are close to me. The entire Tong family (Bukit Kiara Properties) absolutely swear that he is the master of masters when it comes to acupuncture (and dentistry as well). To me, you can probably find many great dentists, but to find a real Master in acupuncture, thats a whole different ballgame.


I am not big aficionado of Chinese medicine or acupuncture initially. I guess you have to go through the whole shebang to appreciate the real life changing effects from a master.


My business partner and very close friend went to him after 15 years of persistent gout problem, he will get his heavy attacks at least…

PUC - An Assessment

PUC has tried to reinvent itself following the untimely passing of its founder last year. His younger brother, who was highly successful in his own right, was running Pictureworks in a number of countries in Asia.

The Shares Price Rise & Possible Catalysts

Share price has broken its all time high comfortably. The rise has been steady and not at all volatile, accompanied by steady volume, which would indicate longer term investors and some funds already accumulating nd not selling back to the market.


Potential Catalyst #1

The just launched Presto app. Tried it and went to the briefing. Its a game changer for PUC for sure. They have already indicated that the e-wallet will be launched only in 1Q2018. Now what is Presto, why Presto. Its very much like Lazada or eBay or Alibaba. Lazada is a platform for retailers to sell, full stop. eBay is more for the personal one man operations. Alibaba is more for wholesalers and distributors.

Presto links retailers/f&b/services originators with en…

How Long Will The Bull Lasts For Malaysia

Are we in a bull run? Of course we are. Not to labour the point but I highlighted the start of the bull run back in January this year... and got a lot of naysayers but never mind:






























p/s: needless to say, this is Jing Tian ... beautiful face and a certain kind of freshness in her looks and acting career thus far



http://malaysiafinance.blogspot.my/2016/12/bank-negara-may-have-switched-on-bull.html


I would like to extend my prediction that the bull run for Bursa stocks should continue to run well till the end of the year. What we are seeing for the past 3 weeks was a general lull where volume suddenly shrunk but the general trend is still intact. My reasons for saying so:

a) the overall equity markets globally will be supported by a benign recovery complemented by a timid approach to raising rates by most central banks

b) thanks to a drastic bear run for most commodities, and to a lesser extent some oil & gas players, the undertone for "cost of materials" have been weak and has pr…