Archive for January, 2012

Fitch Ratings Agency Downgrades Eurozone Countries

January 31st, 2012 Comments off

Following in the wake of a string of downgrades of the Eurozone, including S & P cuttings its rating on France, Fitch has joined in with its own updated list of woes. Italy, Spain, Belgium, Slovenia and Cyprus have had their sovereign debt ratings cut by Fitch, just before the most recent Eurozone emergency leaders summit on the sovereign debt crisis. It seems surreal that the most recent emergency meeting is on the topic of “economic growth,” just as more quarterly results show  negative growth from various Eurozone members.

It is unlikely that the increased rhetoric emanating form the mouths of European politicians that their monetary bloc is just on the cusp of a new wave of economic growth will impress the ratings agencies. The question then is this; who will investors trust? Will it be the ratings agencies, which are falling all over each other in their ratings cuts and negative outlook with respect to the Eurozone, or will they place their bets on European politicians, who so far are batting a big fat zero in all their multitude of prognostications on the trajectory of the global economic crisis? I suspect the answer will not surprise many.



IMF Cuts Global Economic Growth Forecast

January 25th, 2012 Comments off

The International Monetary Fund has another revised global forecast that reflects growing pessimism. In the debt-crisis ravaged Eurozone, the IMF now projects negative growth of minus .5 percent, in effect a double-dip recession. A recession means plummeting tax revenue, rendering the sovereign debt crisis even more  virulent.

While the IMF still projects overall global growth, though at a lower projected 3.3 percent, its latest report states that this strangely optimistic projection is “predicated on the assumption that in the euro area, policymakers intensify efforts to address the crisis.” In other words, the Eurozone must reverse its fiscal austerity, and once again engage in deficit stimulus spending.

What the IMF seems to ignore is that the bond market is increasingly unlikely to lend money to debt-strapped European economies at interest rates that are sustainable. Or, perhaps, the IMF is hoping it will gain a massive cash infusion so it can bail out Eurozone economies, or the European Central Bank will get the hint, and start running its printing press at maximum velocity. But not even the ECB’s printing machine, along with the IMF, can easily sort out this economic and fiscal crisis.




Dire Warning From World Bank on Eurozone Debt Crisis

January 20th, 2012 Comments off

The World Bank has released a report, Global Economic Prospects 2012, which lowers previous forecasts on global economic growth and presents a grim picture of what lies ahead. The World Bank now projects global growth at 2.5 percent, with virtual stall speed for advanced economies. The report makes clear that the repercussions of the Eurozone debt crisis are now worldwide.

Developing economies are still projected to have a higher growth rate than developed economies, but at a slower rate, due to overall global contraction resulting from the sovereign debt crisis in Europe.  In a warning to developing economies, Justin Yifu Lin, the World Bank’s chief economist said, “developing countries need to evaluate their vulnerabilities and prepare for further shocks, while there is still time.”  It should be added that all countries need to be prepared for future shocks, as the Eurozone debt crisis, now rampaging for two years, seems likely to get a lot worse during the course of 2012.




Standard & Poor’s Cuts AAA Credit Rating For France

January 14th, 2012 Comments off

Another wave of credit downgrades has hit the Eurozone. S & P cut the credit worthiness of several European sovereigns, most conspicuously France, which saw its coveted AAA rating reduced to AA plus.  Austria also lost its AAA rating, and Italy was reduced by two notches, now being rated by Standard & Poor’s at BBB plus.

Predictably, French Finance Minister Francois Baroin said “It’s not good news, but it’s not a catastrophe.” A statement of self-contradicting spin that will be unlikely to arouse confidence among sovereign wealth funds and private investors. But perhaps most alarmingly, with Germany now the only Eurozone economy retaining a AAA credit rating, and the German economy having contracted in Q4 of 2011, all these downgrades and somber economic trends undermine the supposed savior of the insolvent Eurozone countries, the so-called European Financial Stability Facility. How will the EFSB sell its bonds to generate capital lend to the fiscally most vulnerable members of the Eurozone? Things are looking increasingly gloomy in Europe, with no resolution for the sovereign debt crisis or economic downturn in sight. And yet, the politicos are still banking on the European Central Bank and its printing press as the savior of last result. What a thin reed to base hope of an economic miracle on.



U.S. Economic Crisis and the 2012 Presidential Election

January 11th, 2012 Comments off

In my last post, I wrote:  With 2012 a presidential election year in America, expect the Obama administration to spin economic data seven ways to Sunday in an effort to make things look more rosy. Thus, an unprecedented reduction in the total size of the American work force is twisted into a lowering of the unemployment rate.” Right on cue, the Bureau of Labor Statistics issued an rose-tinted jobs report, showing a decline in the U.S. unemployment rate while the private sector was creating 200,000 new jobs in the last month.

No doubt, President Barack Obama would like nothing more than to reverse the disastrous employment picture in the United States. But he is caught in a trap, one only partially of his making. The American economic  order he inherited, and which Obama is unable to transform beyond minor cosmetic alternations, is a de-industrialized, financialized monstrosity. No wonder his minions are reduced to creative bookkeeping to show that jobs are in fact being created and an economic recovery is truly underway. The reality is that the percentage of Americans of working age participating in the workforce is at a record low, overall labor wages are stagnant or declining and there are no indications that this is being changed.

And what about Barack Obama’s Republican would-be challengers? GOP frontrunner Mitt Romney may boast of his “business experience,” though in reality the man from Bain Capital is nothing more than a poster child for the domination of financialization over the manufacturing sector in the United States. Other Republicans seeking the GOP presidential nomination such as Newt Gingrich are offering the same old mantra of infinite tax cuts for the mega-wealthy of America and trickle-down economics for everyone else.

Between President Obama and his GOP rivals, I see no one with the transcending vision and leadership skills to undertake the massive economic changes required to restore America’s economic and fiscal health.





Global Economic Crisis 2012

January 3rd, 2012 Comments off

All signs point to 2012 witnessing an acceleration of the negative economic and fiscal metrics that plagued advanced and major emerging economies in 2011. In particular, the Eurozone debt crisis, which dramatically worsened in 2011, shows no sign of abating in 2012. A clear indication of this is that Eurozone cheerleaders President Nicolas Sarkozy of France and Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, in New Year’s messages, warned that things with respect to the Eurozone crisis will be even more dire in 2012.

A sign of how  bad things look in Europe is the latest PMI data on European manufacturing, which was continuing to contract towards the tail end of 2011. This all points to a recession. In fact, there is now a clear consensus among economists that the Eurozone will enter a double-dip recession in 2012, if it in fact has not already done so. Clearly, nations such as Greece, Ireland and Portugal are currently in a recession so deep, it meets the definition of a full-blown economic depression.

And what about the United States? With 2012 a presidential election year in America, expect the Obama administration to spin economic data seven ways to Sunday in an effort to make things look more rosy. Thus, an unprecedented reduction in the total size of the American work force is twisted into a lowering of the unemployment rate.  But such gimmicks will probably become totally inoperative, once the impact of the looming Eurozone recession and banking crisis migrates to American shores.

In 2009, in my book , “Global Economic Forecast 2010-2015: Recession Into Depression,” I forecasted that the massive transfer of private debt into public debt by sovereigns as a synchronized response to the global financial and economic crisis unleashed in 2008 by the collapse of Lehman Brothers would fail to resolve the crisis, and would lay the seeds for an even more virulent global economic crisis by 2012. With a global sovereign debt crisis now an established reality, and the Eurozone teetering while America has had its previous AAA credit rating downgraded by at least one major ratings agency, neither a continuation of failed policies  nor gimmickry by politicians and central banks will bring an end to the global economic crisis in 2012. Instead of a return to economic growth, the most optimistic forecast one could make is stagnation which, at a time of structural mega-deficits and ballooning national debts, is a guarantee  of further long-term economic misery for a great many of the planet’s inhabitants.