Tag Archives: euro

Greek Banks Secured an Additional, Hidden €41 billion Bailout from European taxpayers

 

In 2013 Greek taxpayers borrowed from the rest of Europe’s taxpayers €41 billion to pump into the Greek banks. This is well known. What is not known is that, also in 2013/4, the Greek banks received an additional, well hidden, €41 billion bailout loan from Greek and European citizens. This bailout was never authorised by any Parliament or even discussed in public anywhere in Europe.

This is how it worked: Bank X would lend money to… itself. It would do this by issuing a bond which it did not intend to sell. So, why issue such a phantom bond? Why write an IOU and give it to one’s self? The answer is: In order to hand this phantom bond over to the European Central Bank as collateral in exchange for a cash loan. Normally, of course, the ECB would never accept such a phantom bond as collateral. Accepting it would have been to accept a loan it gave to Bank X as collateral for the said loan. It would have been an assault on the meaning of collateral and a gross violation of the ECB’s rulebook. So, bank X, knowing this, took its phantom bond first to the Greek government and had it guarantee it. With the government’s guarantee stamped on it, the ECB then accepted Bank X’s phantom bond and handed over the cash. Why? Because the Greek taxpayer had, in the meantime, unknowingly provided the collateral for Bank X’s loan.

How extensive was this ‘practice’? Since 2008, European governments have been guaranteeing private bank bond issues to assist them in their desperate quest for ‘liquidity’. The Greek government was no different.[1] Such guarantees were discussed in Parliament and were widely acknowledged as an emergency measure. However, what is startling is what happened in 2013: The heavily indebted Greek government borrowed €41 billion from European taxpayers (secured from the EFSF as part of Greece’s 2012 Second Bailout Agreement) in order to hand it over to Greece’s private banks as a capital infusion that would, in theory, plug their ‘black holes’ once and for all.

Athens, Brussels, Frankfurt and Berlin have been waxing lyrical about the success of this ‘recapitalisation’, proclaiming it as the end of Greece’s banking crisis. Alas, they skillfully neglected to inform us that, during the very same period (and continuing to this day), a second, hidden, rolling (and thus potentially never-ending) bailout (based on government guarantees of fresh phantom bonds) is being extended to the same Greek banks! (See Landon Thomas Jr’s recent article in the New York Times.)

So far, since early 2013, this hidden, second bank bailout has amounted exactly the same value (€41 billion again) as the official, approved by European Parliaments, bailout. This means that, between January 2013 and February 2014, the insolvent Greek state had to add to its liabilities, on behalf of the Greek banks, an astounding €82 billion or 45,6% of GDP![2] Remarkably, this second, hidden bailout was never authorised by any Parliament, nor discussed in any public forum.

The above practice raises two concerns; and the reader can decide which of the two is the most worrying.

First, in an open society, whenever the public assumes responsibility for private debts, it should be properly informed. In a democracy this means that Parliament (or Congress) should debate the assumption of such additional responsibilities. It would appear that in the Eurozone such an important principle has been sacrificed on the altar of the bankers’ interests. Is it thus odd to hear that Europe-wide voters no longer trust European institutions?

Second, the above show that the Greek debt is continuing to rise, not fall. With indebtedness being what it is, who can honestly speak of the Greek economy coming out of its black hole? Rather, it seems that this hole is getting deeper and all this to benefit a small section of society which has already received highly preferential treatment.

For more details and background briefing on the above, read on…

http://yanisvaroufakis.eu/2014/05/11/how-the-greek-banks-secured-an-additional-hidden-e41-billion-bailout-from-european-taxpayers/

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Deflation for Euro region ?

European Central Bank President Mario Draghi hoped never to see this moment: Consumer prices in the euro region have dropped by 0.2 percent, according to December figures just published:

Deflation

Deflation — a sustained period of falling prices that discourages consumers from spending and businesses from investing — threatens to worsen the euro bloc’s economic woes. Draghi spent most of 2014 in denial about the risk, claiming to be upbeat about the ECB’s chances of meeting its 2 percent inflation target over the medium term. Finally, last week, he admitted that the mandate won’t be fulfilled.

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MARIO DRAGHI :: Stability and Prosperity in Monetary Union

Source : http://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/ecb-eurozone-economic-union-by-mario-draghi-2015-1

There is a common misconception that the euro area is a monetary union without a political union. But this reflects a deep misunderstanding of what monetary union means. Monetary union is possible only because of the substantial integration already achieved among European Union countries – and sharing a single currency deepens that integration.

If European monetary union has proved more resilient than many thought, it is only because those who doubted it misjudged this political dimension. They underestimated the ties among its members, how much they had collectively invested, and their willingness to come together to solve common problems when it mattered most.

Yet it is also clear that our monetary union is still incomplete. This was the diagnosis offered two years ago by the so-called “Four Presidents” (the European council president in close collaboration with the presidents of the European Commission, the European Central Bank, and the Eurogroup). And, though important progress has been made in some areas, unfinished business remains in others.

But what does it mean to “complete” a monetary union? Most important, it means having conditions in place that make countries more stable and prosperous than they would be if they were not members. They have to be better off inside than they would be outside.

In other political unions, cohesion is maintained through a strong common identity, but often also through permanent fiscal transfers between richer and poorer regions that even out incomes ex post. In the euro area, such one-way transfers between countries are not foreseen (transfers do exist as part of the EU’s cohesion policy, but are limited in size and are primarily designed to support the “catching-up” process in lower income countries or regions). This means that we need a different approach to ensure that each country is permanently better off inside the euro area.

This implies two main things. First, we have to create the conditions for all countries to thrive independently. All members need to be able to exploit comparative advantages within the Single Market, attract capital, and generate jobs. And they need to have enough flexibility to respond quickly to short-term shocks. This comes down to structural reforms that spur competition, reduce unnecessary red tape, and make labor markets more adaptable.

Until now, whether or not to carry out such reforms has largely been a national prerogative. But in a union such as ours they are a clear common interest. Euro area countries depend on one another for growth. And, more fundamentally, if a lack of structural reforms leads to permanent divergence within the monetary union, this raises the specter of exit – from which all members ultimately suffer.

In the euro area, stability and prosperity anywhere depend on countries thriving everywhere. So there is a strong case for sharing more sovereignty in this area – for building a genuine economic union. This means more than beefing up existing procedures. It means governing together: shifting from coordination to common decision-making, and from rules to institutions.

The second implication of the absence of fiscal transfers is that countries need to invest more in other mechanisms to share the cost of shocks. Even with more flexible economies, internal adjustment will always be slower than it would be if countries had their own exchange rate. Risk-sharing is thus essential to prevent recessions from leaving permanent scars and reinforcing economic divergence.

A key part of the solution is to improve private risk-sharing by deepening financial integration. Indeed, the less public risk-sharing we want, the more private risk-sharing we need. A banking union for the euro area should be catalytic in encouraging deeper integration of the banking sector. But risk-sharing is also about deepening capital markets, especially for equity, which is why we also need to advance quickly with a capital markets union.

Still, we have to acknowledge the vital role of fiscal policies in a monetary union. A single monetary policy focused on price stability in the euro area cannot react to shocks that affect only one country or region. So, to avoid prolonged local slumps, it is critical that national fiscal policies can perform their stabilization role.

To allow national fiscal stabilizers to work, governments must be able to borrow at an affordable cost in times of economic stress. A strong fiscal framework is indispensable to achieve this, and protects countries from contagion. But the crisis experience suggests that, in times of extreme market tensions, even a sound initial fiscal position may not offer absolute protection from spillovers.

This is a further reason why we need economic union: markets would be less likely to react negatively to temporarily higher deficits if they were more confident in future growth prospects. By committing governments to structural reforms, economic union provides the credibility that countries can indeed grow out of debt.

Ultimately, economic convergence among countries cannot be only an entry criterion for monetary union, or a condition that is met some of the time. It has to be a condition that is fulfilled all of the time. And for this reason, to complete monetary union we will ultimately have to deepen our political union further: to lay down its rights and obligations in a renewed institutional order.

Read more at http://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/ecb-eurozone-economic-union-by-mario-draghi-2015-1#wT2uAcWGG5wpMyxM.99′

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The Future Of The Euro Could See Trouble This Week

 

It was almost exactly five years ago that the euro crisis erupted, starting in Greece. Investors who had complacently let all euro-zone countries borrow at uniformly low levels abruptly woke up to the riskiness of an incompetent government borrowing money in a currency which it could not depreciate. There is thus a dismal symmetry in seeing the euro crisis flare up again in the place where it began.

The proximate cause of the latest outbreak of nerves was the decision by the Greek government, now headed by the generally competent Antonis Samaras, to advance the presidential election to later this month.

The presidency is largely ceremonial, but if Mr Samaras cannot win enough votes in parliament for his candidate, Stavros Dimas, a general election will follow. Polls suggest the winner would be Syriza, a populist party led by Alexis Tsipras. Although Mr Tsipras professes that he does not want to leave the euro, he is making promises to voters on public spending and taxes that may make it hard for Greece to stay. Hence the markets’ sudden pessimism.

As it happens, there is a good chance that Mr Dimas, a former EU commissioner, will win the presidential vote at the end of this month (see “Greece’s crisis: Samaras’s gamble”). But the latest Aegean tragicomedy is a timely reminder both of how unreformed the euro zone still is and of the dangers lurking in its politics.

It is true that, ever since the pledge by the European Central Bank’s president, Mario Draghi in July 2012 to “do whatever it takes” to save the euro, fears that the single currency might break up have dissipated. Much has been done to repair the euro’s architecture, ranging from the establishment of a bail-out fund to the start of a banking union. And economic growth across the euro zone is slowly returning, however anaemically, even to Greece and other bailed-out countries.

Read more: http://uk.businessinsider.com/the-future-of-the-euro-could-see-trouble-this-week-2014-12?r=US#ixzz3LwXeBjqZ

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Important week for Euro

The European Central Bank announced some measures to ease monetary policy two weeks ago. The euro had been on a downtrend since May and by these measures the ECB increased its support to the economy.

The result?

Two weeks later, EUR/USD stabilized just above 1.35.

This week’s Eurozone economic calendar will be an important test for the euro because investors will be watching to the data in order to give confirmation on the need for additional easing.

Economists are not expecting major changes in economic activity but after the plunge in investor confidence (ZEW survey), the risk is a big disadvantage of these reports.

The rate of the EUR/USD will depend mostly on Eurozone data because the U.S. economic calendar is busy with Tier 2 economic reports. The Fed needs will probably start talking about normalizing monetary policy in September, when the central bank updates its forecasts and Janet Yellen gives a press conference.

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ECB ready to cut rates and push banks

The European Central Bank is poised to impose negative interest rates on its overnight depositors, seeking to cajole banks into lending instead and to prevent the euro zone falling into Japan-like deflation.

At its meeting on Thursday, ECB policymakers may also launch a loan program for banks with strings attached to make sure the money actually gets out into the euro zone economy.

It will be the first of the “Big Four” central banks – ECB, Bank of England, Bank of Japan and U.S. Federal Reserve – to go the negative interest rate route, essentially charging banks to deposit with it.

Even though the risks are limited of the euro zone entering a spiral of falling prices, slowing growth and consumption, the ECB is increasingly concerned that persistently low inflation and weak bank lending could derail the recovery.

The economy grew just 0.2 percent in the first quarter, and euro zone annual inflation unexpectedly slowed to 0.5 percent in May, official data showed this week, piling additional pressure on the central bank to step in.

“Consensus for action is high so there is a … risk the ECB under-delivers relative to the market’s lofty expectations,” said Andrew Bosomworth, a senior portfolio manager at bond fund Pimco in Munich.

Since ECB President Mario Draghi last month signaled the Governing Council’s readiness to act in June, policymakers have come out in force to discuss the ECB’s toolbox, feeding expectations that a broader stimulus package is in the making.

This is likely to consist of a cut in interest rates, which would push the deposit rate for the first time into negative territory and the offer of longer-term loans linked to further lending. Large-scale asset purchases remain a distant prospect.

Cutting the deposit rate below zero would see the ECB charge banks for parking their excess money at the central bank – a step it hopes will prompt them to lend out the money instead.

Economists in a Reuters poll expected the ECB to cut its main refinancing rate to 0.10 percent from 0.25 percent and the deposit rate to -0.10 percent from zero, on top of launching a refinancing operation aimed at funding firms.

They expect bank lending to rise as a result of such measures, but foresee only a marginal impact on the euro.

The euro has fallen about 4 U.S.-cents against the dollar since the ECB’s May meeting, hitting $1.3586 last Thursday.

http://www.reuters.com/

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Bitcoin new safe heaven ?

The lack of trust in the custodians of fiat money has provided a fertile context for the rise of Bitcoin, the ultimate digital alternative store of value as against mainstream, central bank managed currencies like the US dollar, sterling and the euro.

Ever since advanced market central banks began rolling the printing presses, the warnings from various quarters foretelling the implosion of fiat currencies have been getting louder and louder.

For International Monetary Fund (IMF) CEO Christine Lagarde, the unconventional measures taken by central bankers – such as the Fed’s quantitative easing (QE) and zero interest rate policy (ZIRP) and the ECB’s Long Term Refinancing Operation – have been key to preventing a re-run of the Great Depression.

http://www.economywatch.com/features/can-bitcoins-be-a-global-reserve-currency.07-02.html

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German judges refer ECB’s bond-buying to European Court

Germany’s Constitutional Court will refer a complaint against the European Central Bank’s flagship “unlimited”  bond-buying plan to the European Court, removing the prospect of it curbing the program.

The court said on Friday there was good reason to think the scheme “exceeds the European Central Bank’s monetary policy mandate and thus infringes the powers of the member states, and that it violates the prohibition of monetary financing of the budget”.

The ECB’s Outright Monetary Transactions (OMT) programme, announced by ECB chief Mario Draghi in September 2012 at the height of the sovereign debt crisis, is widely credited with stabilising the euro.

Euro/Usd drop on this news

screenshot.24

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Tomorrow the ECB decision will surely bring some volatility.

None of my tickers are showing much action today. Yen crosses are down modestly but nothing compared to the volatility we’ve seen over the past few days.

FX moves

The euro tried the upside a few times today and will close out the day with some small gains but tomorrow the ECB decision will surely bring some volatility.

Draghi & Co can opt to do nothing or take action in three different ways:

  1. A 10-15 basis point cut in the main refi rate
  2. Switching to unsterilized bond purchases (QE)
  3. Negative deposit rates

The legality of option #2 is questionable. Any of those move would spark euro selling, partially because it implies more future action.

Ten days ago, the market was comfortable with a wait-and-see decision but soft inflation readings have put pressure on the ECB to act.

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